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This May, when the soil hits 64 degrees, billions of cicadas will emerge from the ground in 15 states from Georgia to New York and over to the Mississippi River. After spending 17 years underground, the Brood X cicada nymphs will crawl out of the ground, molt into adults and mate, all in a four week period. The mass emergence is thought to overpower predators and result in better species survival. For humans, like University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp, it offers a chance to enjoy rare delicacies like cicada cookies and tacos. He says newly-molted cicadas taste buttery and pair well with red wine.

(5-12-21) In a Columbus Dispatch story today, Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” , said the insects have a bold flavor.

“They’re earthy, loomi (sour). They’ve been living in the ground for 17 years — kind of like the taste of the forest floor. It’s a strong taste, but not in a bad way. It stands up to the big flavors of garlic and ginger.”

Zimmer’s manual advises that early morning is the best time to catch the bugs emerging and to:

“simply go outside with a brown paper bag and start scooping them in.”

Jenna Jadin Ph.D., who was a graduate student at the University of Maryland in 2004 , created “Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas.” It includes everything from stir fry to tacos to banana bread, the cookbook also helps make entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, something more readers might swallow.

Entomophagy is the technical term for eating insects. Humans have harvested the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of certain insect species from forests or other suitable habitats to eat for thousands of years. This practice is still common in many tropical countries where certain insect species grow to large sizes, and they are abundant and relatively easy to harvest year round. Insects as food are an excellent source of proteins, vitamins, fats, and essential minerals. There is a strong case in favor of mass rearing insects for food as this practice is probably less environmentally damaging than other forms of protein production. For example clearing tropical rain forests and farming cattle for meat is highly damaging. In comparison to cattle, insects are five times more efficient at converting food into edible tissue, and when considering this together with their high reproductive rates and quick developmental times, the food conversion efficiency of insects maybe 20 times that of cattle.

The best cicadas for cooking are those that have newly hatched, because their shells will be softer, according to Jadin.

From the University of Maryland – ‘Cicada-licous’ Cooking

Shanghai Cicadas
Ingredients:

  • 30 cicada grubs
  • 2 Tbsp anise seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups rice wine
  • additional water and rice wine
  • 8 cloves garlic, mashed
  • Celery and turnip greens to garnish
  • Oil for deep-frying

Directions:

  1. Boil the cicadas and anise in salted rice wine for five minutes, then remove the cicadas.
  2. Sauté the mashed garlic, adding enough of equal parts water and rice wine to make a thick paste.
  3. Deep-fry the cicadas, then skewer them with bamboo picks. Arrange them on a plate with the turnip greens, celery and garlic paste to look like cicadas climbing out of a mud pie into green foliage.

Yield:

4 appetizer-size servings 

Borrowed from: WVU Magazine, Summer 1999 


Maryland Cicadas
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning 
  • 2 Tbsp salt 
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can beer (optional)
  • 8 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 large sweet onions, cut in wedges
  • 2 pounds lean smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 8 ears fresh corn, broken in half
  • 4 pounds large cicadas 

Directions:

  1. In an 8-quart pot, bring Old Bay, salt, water and beer to a boil. Add potatoes and onions; cook over high heat for 8 minutes.
  2. Add smoked sausage to potatoes and onions; continue to cook on high for 5 minutes. Add corn to pot; continue to boil for 7 minutes. Add cicadas, cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain cooking liquid. Pour contents of pot into several large bowls, shallow pails or mound on a paper-covered picnic table. Sprinkle with additional Old Bay if desired.

Yield:

8 servings


Chocolate Covered Cicadas
Ingredients: 

  • 8 one-ounce squares of good-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 30 cicadas

Directions:

  1. Roast teneral cicadas—newly hatched grubs—for 15 minutes at 225F.
  2. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Dip insects in chocolate, place on wax paper and refrigerate until hardened.

Yield: 

30 cicadas