I’m less squeamish than I used to be - I mean, now I can cook liver and chop up the odd kidney for a stew, at least. But there are some things I said I’d never eat. Like insects.
Yep, I can’t watch the Bush Tucker challenge on I’m A Celebrity unless I’m peeking out, safely, from behind a cushion.
So you can imagine my joy when a couple of protein bars made from crickets ended up on my kitchen worktop. YAY.
The thing is, elsewhere in the world, eating insects is really no big deal. In South East Asia they fry up crickets along with grasshoppers, beetles and cockroaches and sell them at market stalls. And apparently they’re good for us, too. High in protein and a good source of vitamins and calcium. Yes, really.
The crickets in my protein bars, the Crobar website tells me, “are roasted at 110 °C (230 °F) for two hours, before they are ground into fine flour. Before grinding, they are being inspected for any defects. After grinding, microbial testing is carried out, before the cricket flour is packed and stored.” Mmm, sounds delicious.
Apart from being made into protein bars like these, cricket flour is also used as a protein-rich, naturally gluten-free flour to make cakes, pancakes and crackers with. Am I making you hungry yet?
I asked Christine Spliid, founder of Crobar, about whether this growing trend for eating bugs could really take off in the west.
“Crickets are the food of the future,” she says. “Vendors in South East Asian markets have served up fried crickets to locals for generations.”
And health-wise, they’re pretty nutrient-dense, according to Christine.
“Cricket flour is 65 per cent protein - more per calorie than beef and with half the fat. It contains all 9 essential amino acids as well as vitamin B12 and is a rich source of iron, magnesium and zinc.” And there are environmental reasons to eat crickets, too. “Best of all,” she adds, “this food can save the planet from the damage caused by animal husbandry: CO2 emissions and water usage is just a fraction of that of meat produced per pound.” Crickets contain three times more iron than beef and require twelve times less feed than cattle. Not to mention they take up a lot less space.
Christine adds that crickets are now a “major trend in the US” at least partly because Angelina Jolie has apparently said that her kids eat crickets “like Doritos”.
Well, if the Jolie-Pitt kids can do it, so can I (especially if they’re disguised as a healthy energy bar and don’t still have their legs on).
I peeled open the wrapper and took a bite. Crunchy bits. Although that’s probably the chia seeds. Chewy. That’s the dates. Texture-wise, if you offered someone a bite, they’d never know they were eating cricket flour. It was just like eating any other healthy date and nut snack. But there’s a different flavour there - a nutty, earthy taste that doesn’t come from any of the ingredients on the pack. That’s the cricket flour.
It was fine. Would I eat them again? Probably. For the health benefits and environmental reasons, as well as the fact that it actually tasted really good. And if you’re reading this from behind a cushion, then I don’t blame you, really. But as we look for more nutrient dense and environmentally-friendly ways to satisfy our appetites, maybe don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
What do you reckon? Would you eat cricket flour bars?
[PHOTO CREDITS: JO ROMERO]