Insects creeping on to a menu near you

Article by Simply You


Have your cake and insects too with the latest creepy-crawly, sustainable food trend.

If you’re too scared to eat a whole tarantula, a cake made with cricket flour could be a good place to get your taste buds used to a new flavour. The nutty-tasting ground insect meal is a protein-filled, sustainable addition to baked goods, smoothies and more. According to three New Zealand-based edible insect companies, everyone will be eating bugs in the near future. These companies have a passion for the environment and hope to change our perceptions on eating insects – after all, 80 per cent of the world is already doing it.

The statistics are compelling – crickets contain almost three times the protein of chicken, as well as many other nutrients and vitamins, and are less resource-intensive to farm than beef. Grasshoppers have an even higher protein count.

Emily Vriens of Live Longer, which imports organic cricket flour from Canada, says: “We find many people who are averse to eating meat for ethical reasons are turning to cricket flour to get their protein and vitamin B12 intake, because of our supplier’s ethical and humane farming practices. It is also the world’s most sustainable form of farmed protein, using less water, feed, energy and land than other proteins.”

“Cricket flour has a nutty and earthy taste, which brings a great depth of flavour to dessert dishes and baking,” says Vriens. “It complements ginger extremely well, and also dried fruit or coffee.”

A recipe section on the brand’s website highlights ways to include the flour in smoothies, pancakes and more.“Cricket flour has a nutty and earthy taste, which brings a great depth of flavour to dessert dishes and baking,” says Vriens. “It complements ginger extremely well, and also dried fruit or coffee.”

Christchurch-based Rebecca De Prospo and Peter Randrup of Anteater supply restaurants and high-end food producers with cricket flour, locusts and lemongrass ants, which they harvest themselves.

The company’s ants are served at Roots in Lyttelton and at pop-up ‘Gatherings’ events held by chef Alex Davies in Christchurch. The Mexico chain has just started serving Anteater cricket flour tortillas and insects are the main feature at an upcoming four-course dinner at Dunedin’s Vault 21.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received from the restaurant industry,” says De Prospo. “Our chef clients realise what a fantastic range of flavours and textures they have been missing out on and are eager to pass these innovative dishes on to their customers.”

Rising chefs are also using Anteater’s products. Finn Boyle, a student at Otago Polytechnic’s Food Design Institute, created a coffee ice cream using caramelised baby locusts from Otago Locusts and Anteater’s lemongrass ants, all on a cricket-flour cone. “Insects can be an extremely sustainable source of food, especially compared to conventional animal sources. They have the potential to change the world’s food systems if embraced on a large scale,” says Boyle.

Crawlers has been importing insect-based foods for three years, and was the first supplier to bring them into the country. The company’s impressive online selection includes chocolate-covered scorpions, mealworm lollipops and cricket pasta. Owners Daniel Craig and Matthew Genefaas also create framed artworks which incorporate insects.

“Our aim when we started Crawlers was to create an insect-inspired brand that was on trend, high quality and not tacky,” says Craig. “Edible insects were the next step. The market is definitely growing. Initially we offered quirky, chocolate-coated insects plus other ‘natural’, uncoated insects. This was to generate awareness and remove the scare factor. Since then, we have developed and introduced more health-focused foods and supplements, such as cricket, locust and silkworm flour, cricket-powered protein bars and cricket pasta and more are being added all the time.”

Words: Fiona Ralph