Worms for Meals

Many people are squeamish at the sight of a worm, to ask them to put a worm into their mouths is in tandem of handling a severe physical and psychological punishment to them. However, we have been unknowingly tucking in worms as additives in flour, source, salad dressing, or jelly for decades.

A cup of roasted worms.

In colloquial daily language, the word worm is generally referring to various small living creatures including insect larvae, insects, earthworms, centipedes, millipedes and other crawlies. This article only focuses on edible insect larvae and caterpillar, including milk worm and silk worm.

Similar to many other ancient foods that have fallen out of favor from the mass, worm eating is not something new. The earliest finding of worm eating can be traced back to Bronze age. Many cultures around the world continue to enjoy taking worm as part of their staple food.

Think milk worm-laced Mexican tequila, or the extra savory tacos with meocuiles (butterfly caterpillar) or chinicuiles (moth caterpillar). In Asia, street vendors specialize in serving up bags of roasted, fried, steamed larvae or caterpillars are fairly common. In Africa, the Mopani worm of the Emperor moth is highly valued by the ingenious people of southern Africa. When in the season, collecting Mopani worms from the wild mopane trees is a community activity. In South America, beetle larvae, especially those of scarab or longhorn beetles are much appreciated on a plate. Similarly, bamboo larvae and sago larvae are as highly valued in Thailand and neighboring countries.

Why should we eat worms?
First of all, worms can taste heavenly. There are many varieties of larvae, pupae, caterpillars that are recommended as food. The Canadian night crawler is said to taste like bacon. A plate of sweet and sour roasted silkworms tastes just like a plate of sweet and sour roasted chicken. A bag of fried milkworms is as crunchy and savory as a bag of chips minus the guilt.

Secondly, they are protein-packed. From a pound to pound, larvae of some species can yield as high as 8 times more protein than beef.  They are also loaded with minerals such as iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium and vitamin B-complex.

Thirdly, we are giving a helping hand to Mother Nature. Livestock farming for meat is exhausting the environment in lands, feeds, and fresh water. In addition, livestock farming, especially cattle farming is found to be a major contributor to environmental pollution. A study carried out by the University of Oxford concluded that a daily 100g meat-loaded diets produced 7.2kg of the undesirable carbon dioxide compare to 3.8kg of CO2 emission by vegetarian or fish-heavy diets. The less red meat we eat, the better it is for the environment. Juicy, tasty, buttery worms can fill in some of the gap craved by meat eaters as the alternate food choice.

Fourthly, worms are inexpensive super foods. Insects tend to be prolific breeder producing hundreds of eggs with incubation periods of mere weeks and cost little to feed. As a result, they are very affordable nutrient-packed foods that are currently mostly fed to your favorite pets or garden birds.

Jumping on the worm wagon

The only thing that is preventing the urban folks from eating more worms is the psychological “ew” factor and the only way to overcome that is to start eating. For beginners, mealworms are a good choice. They tasted mildly nutty and they are easily available alive or in dried form. Most fish bait shops or pet shops carry them. If not, plenty of online stores are selling them. And you can easily keep them alive in a plastic container with cornmeal, oatmeal, apple, or suitable leaves until you are ready to cook them.

If gourmet food is your style, a search online may just list a restaurant not far from your neighborhood featuring worms and other critters on the menu.  It is not advisable to just go out and randomly pick up any critter or worm and pop it into your mouth as some are poisonous, pesticide-contaminated, or may trigger an allergic reaction. It is up to the due diligence of the readers to research and source for reliable edible worms.

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