‘If you can't beat them, you might as well eat them' Insects on the menu at Schuylkill Valley Library

Item photo by Shea Singley Cooking up some edible insects.
Item photo by Shea Singley Lisa Sanchez explains that red is often a sign of poisonous in nature.

“I like to think of it as, if you can’t beat them, you might as well eat them,” said Lisa Sanchez, Lancaster County Park Naturalist, to a full pavilion at Schuylkill Valley Community Library during the “Edible Insects” program on June 24.

Seated at the tables, the children and their chaperones were given a crash course on what classified an animal as an insect. Sanchez asked the group which set would weigh more if all the animals on the planet were gathered up and so were all of the insects. Shouting out “insects,” the group was correct. The same was asked then compared to people which is how Sanchez came up with her motto about eating them since they can’t be beat.

“I came all the way up here today to teach you a bit about edible insects,” she said. “And not only to teach you a little bit about edible insect, but to also cook a few for you.”

Since the program was not that far after lunch time, Sanchez assured the group that those hungry would have a chance for a snack shortly.

Sanchez used a powerpoint to introduce the group to the various edible insects and pointed out the ones that should not be eaten such as ladybugs and other red colored insects as red is often a color associated with poisonous in the wild.

“You don’t want to eat an insect that’s already dead. You wouldn’t want to be next,” she cautioned.

Among the edible insects that were talked about during the program were cockroaches, mealworms, ants, bees and crickets. With each, Sanchez explained how to go about cooking them and what they tasted like such as ants having a nutty flavor and stinkbugs tasting like cilantro.

“So I like to take a taco shell and a whole bunch of crickets and add some stinkbugs,” Sanchez said.

And then for dessert there is the option of some baby termites or cicadas.

“It has a nice creamy custard like taste. Baby termites make for a great dessert. It’s kinda like a doughnut and it’s better for you,” she said, and later talked about cicadas. “It’s the best thing to roast over a fire. Better than a marshmallow. So take that cicada, spear it with a stick and let it roast and toast over the fire like a marshmallow.”

Apparently insects are better for people than they sound. Sanchez explained that insects are low in fat and high in protein and in fact are the reason that most of our foods have protein in them. It is also not uncommon for people to eat insects as a treat or as a common meal.

“In every other country people eat insects intentionally every day,” she told the group.

In fact, most of our food has insect parts in it which is okay according to regulations.

“In that jar of honey, take a close look. You might find honeybee legs. You might even find a wing,” she said. “If it weren’t for insects, chocolate would have no protein. Every 100 grams of chocolate has 56 insect parts in it.”

After asking who in the audience had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, Sanchez continued, “Every peanut butter and jelly sandwich has 86 insect parts in it. And you all have been eating those insects your entire life.”

At the end of the presentation, it was time for some cooking. The children gathered around the cooking area as they were charged with the special task of making sure the snack stayed in the pot. On the menu for the afternoon were crickets and mealworms. When cooked, mealworms act like popcorn as they dry up and a big part of cooking crickets is getting them back in the pot.

“No ten second rule when it comes to insects,” Sanchez told the group as they eagerly waited for a cricket to jump out so they could grab it and put it back.

Edible Insects was one of the many programs this summer at Schuylkill Valley Community Library. For more information on upcoming events, visit www.berks.lib.pa.us/svcl.

See videos from the program at www.tout.com/hamburgitem and follow The Item on Twitter @hamburgitem.

About the Author

Shea Singley

Shea Singley is the editor of The Hamburg Area Item. She grew up in Berks County and spent three years at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she double majored in Creative Writing and English before transferring to Kutztown University where she majored in Professional Writing. Shea graduated from Kutztown University in 2012 and during that time completed an internship in the publication department of a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. She joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in March of 2013 and had enjoyed getting the chance to explore the Hamburg area and meet the readers. Reach the author at ssingley@berksmontnews.com or follow Shea on Twitter: @hamburgitem.