Young and Hungry

Cicadas Brought in From New Jersey for D.C. Insect Tasting

There was one problem with the Dutch Embassy's cicada tasting, held yesterday in honor of the District's cicada swarm: D.C.'s cicadas never really appeared. So instead, the embassy brought them in from New Jersey.

The Brood II cicadas were sourced by University of Maryland entomology professor Michael Raupp. "By the time this event took place, the cicadas in Maryland and northern Virginia had been out for several weeks," Raupp says. "By this time, the females were mostly depleted of their eggs.  They’re rather hollow, and there’s not much meat on them. Because the cicadas emerge later further north, I traveled further north to find plump, juicy cicadas so they would be delicious for the event. They have a delicate nutty flavor."

Ambassador Rudolf Bekink touted the event as an opportunity to explore "alternative food sources." Insects, he explained, could provide an environmentally friendly, highly nutritious alternative to mass farming. More than 1,900 species of insects currently feed around 2 billion people worldwide, said professor Marcel Dicke, head of the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Bugs are particularly common in countries like Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia.

And cicadas, as it turns out, don't taste too bad. Echoing Raupp's description, some diners described them as "nutty"; others compared them to seafood.

Once they molt, cicadas have juicy, tender bodies. Daniella Martin, host of a cooking series on GirlMeetsBug.com, prepared the Jersey cicadas with garlic, oil, salt, and some additional seasoning. Blanched asparagus was then stir-fried in and combined with an aioli dipping sauce. The cicadas, along with additional mealworm munchies, were served as canapes for the party of about 50 people. (Looking for more recipes? Check out City Paper's recommended cicada dishes from local chefs.)

"This is something that societies have been surviving off of," says Martin, noting that a serving of grasshoppers has more calories than a serving of ground beef.

But adventurous eaters looking to acquire their cicadas locally will have to wait. According to Raupp, we're not going to be able to munch on locally sourced cicadas until 2021, when Brood X returns.

Pictures via the Embassy's Flickr account, Cicada map via Cicadainfo.com

...