If you haven’t heard, the East Coast is about to be overrun by alien creatures who’ve been buried in the ground, hibernating for the last 17 years. BROOD II is upon us!
But wait, don't lock yourself in that bunker full of kiddie pools half filled with Raid just yet. It turns out that you can actually eat these suckers -- which people do, all around the world. Cicadas're chock-full of protein with minimal carbs (hellooo, swimsuit season!), and they’re local, seasonal, and eco-friendly. Entomophagists -- those who eat insects, but were totally, TOTALLY cool in high school, anyway, so don't even ask -- argue that they’re one of the most sustainable and healthiest food sources on the planet, and that we should all start eating them on the reg. So, look upon this not as a zombie-apocalypse, doomsday-type scenario, but as a chance to expand your palate and score a TON of free food right in your backyard, next to that bunker filled with Raid.
Of course, you’ll need some guidance on the best ways to catch, kill, and cook 'em... and what wines to pair them with, so we chatted with a few bug-eating experts and one NYC chef who cooks with insects (and made a cicada-fueled recipe JUST FOR US), to get all the info:
Image via ggallice's Flickr
Step 1: Catch your prey
Prepare yourself with multiple large plastic bags and wait for the swarm. When the nymphs (that’s bug-speak for “baby cicadas”) first emerge and shed their exoskeletons, they'll be as helpless as a bunch of... well, baby bugs. They’ll also be all-white and kind of squishy, but don’t let that scare you. Seize the opportunity to be a predator and scoop up as many as you can. Early morning -- when they’re cold and drowsy from staying up all night watching the third season of Gilmore Girls -- is best for catching these guys.
For entomophagists, these little alienoids are actually the creme de la creme of cicada bites: since their exoskeletons haven't yet hardened, they’re soft and require minimal cooking. Cicadas at this stage are also purported to have been one of Aristotle’s fave foods, so if you eat them, just be warned that Eurymedon the hierophant will likely denounce you for not holding the gods in honor.
Image via PuyoDead's Flickr
Step 2: Snag some adults
Wait a few short hours after the nymphs have emerged from their husks, and you’ll notice that they’re rapidly maturing before your very eyes, like Robin Williams in Jack. But don't waste time pondering the meaning of your own life and the swift passage of time -- you only have a short window to snatch these teneral adults up before they beat their wings and fly into a tree, out of reach.
Pro tip: females are better catches than males... because their abdomens are full of eggs. Wait, that’s not as gross as it sounds! It just means that lady-cicadas will be more plump and delicious for eating. (Males tend to shrink during cooking. INSERT CLASSIC GUY VS. GIRL CICADA STAND-UP COMEDY HERE.) As it’s super difficult to tell guys from girls, you should gather a little more than you think you might need.
Image via dmitrybarsky's Flickr
Step 3: Death.
Now comes the hard part. Or the fun part, depending on how comfortable you are with BUG MURDER! The simplest and most humane method: freezing them to death. Stuff your plastic bags o' bugs into the freezer, or even a large cooler filled with ice, and the buggies will fall into a peaceful, eternal sleep... just in time for you to chop them up and devour them, while cackling madly to yourself.
Image via istolethetv's Flickr
Step 4: Get cookin’
Cicadas are often compared to shellfish, since they’re in the same family (Jeopardy answer: what are arthropods? ALSO: DO NOT EAT THESE IF YOU'RE ALLERGIC TO SHELLFISH.), so just think of the lil’ guys as “shrimp of the land” and cook thusly. Just give them a little rinse; there's no need to de-wing or de-leg, unless those bits freak you out. In which case, you do realize you're eating cicadas, right?
Dave Gracer, a Colbert Report-appearing entomophagy expert who sources insects for people to cook with, advises staying away from sauteing the bugs, which makes them taste like “a cross between leather and plastic”. His favorite method is to season 'em up with salt and spices, toss with some olive oil, and bake them until they’re nice and crunchy. You can sprinkle them over salads (cicada croutons), mix them into pastas, or just pop them in your mouth like cicadacorn, which will now become a thing. Note: Gracer recommends a nice Chardonnay or wheat beer, if you're doing cicada & booze pairings. Which will also now become a thing.
don't you dare call me Aaron Sorkin, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History, will be deep-frying and stuffing them into cicada sandos, as one would with fish or crab. He also likes to roast up a batch, then top them with spices -- or powdered sugar, if you have a sweet tooth. Seriously. These are all things he does.
For dessert, you could make like Missouri ice cream shop Sparky's and boil them, drench them in chocolate, and stir them into your favorite flavor of ice cream.
Regina Galvanduque, co-founder of traditional Mexican restaurant Antojeria La Popular in New York (where one can order their specialty: a cricket-topped tostada), finds cicadas not dissimilar to the grasshoppers that are eaten every day in her home country. She’s crafted up a recipe just for us that's a version of her grandmother’s “green rice”, traditionally prepared with grasshoppers, though cicadas can easily substitute. So stop making that lame coq au vin and listen up:
Arroz Verde a la Mexicana con Chapulines
(Mexican Green Rice with Grasshoppers)
Ingredients (serves 8)
Can be cooked similarly to the grasshoppers, which is to boil them first, then toast them in a pan or bake them with salt and lime.
Top rice with avocado, cooked cicadas, and diced queso fresco. Have incredibly sexy dinner party!