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Why are people eating Brood X cicadas?

On social media, a recent trend involves trading locust-based recipes.

Why are people eating Brood X cicadas?
[Image: hadkhanong_Thailand/iStock]
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If you can’t beat them, eat them.

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Let us explain: Everybody’s buzzing about Brood X, a generation of millions of cicadas that have been burrowed in the earth for 17 years and are due to emerge by the swarm later this month, all up and down the eastern coast. While the sudden arrival of countless flying insects—which have red eyes and up to an inch and a half in body length—might seem alarming, it’s also kind of tasty.

On social media, a recent trend involves trading locust-based recipes ranging from cicada scampi, to cicada gumbo, to chocolate-covered cicada. As Andrew Zimmern, creator of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, told USA Today, the insects have “the taste of the forest floor . . . It stands up to the big flavors of garlic and ginger.” They’re also low-carb, gluten-free, and packed with 60%-65% protein. All killer, no filler.

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In doing so, American cooks are joining much of the rest of the world, which already embraces insects as a protein-rich superfood. Humans have a long history of eating bugs for sustenance, from crickets to ants to grasshoppers—a concept that’s enjoyed a recent revival in the sustainability community as consumers search for meat alternatives. In particular, the more socially conscious Gen Z has shown a greater appetite for plant-based protein, and some companies are betting that bugs will be the next tofu: A 2019 report from Barclays predicts the insect protein industry will be worth $8 billion by 2030.

But let’s get back to the swarm—lucky for you!—that’s going to make procuring the key ingredient for your cicada dish blissfully easy. As USA Today notes, according to the cookbook Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas, mornings are the best time to forage: “Simply go outside with a brown paper bag and start scooping them in.” If you’re squeamish, prepare yourself. Here’s the amuse-bouche: