Thursday, April 10, 2008
MIDLAND, Mich. — Tired of the same old lunch? How about a helping of hot, crunchy mealworm fried rice?
"They mostly taste like rice, but they also taste kind of like a pizza crust," said Alex Svenson, 7, after munching the mixture alongside other children at Cafe Insecta at Dow Gardens, a botanical garden in Midland.
Dow Gardens Staff Entomologist Elly Maxwell planned the event and cooked bug goodies as part of the gardens' spring break exhibit featuring thousands of live butterflies.
"I was just looking for new ideas to make butterflies more interesting," Maxwell said.
Maxwell offered a brief presentation on bugs as food before inviting children to try "chocolate chirp" cookies, made with house crickets, and mealworm fried rice, made with rice, soy sauce, egg, garlic, mealworms and giant mealworms.
The mealworms wriggled in a plastic bag on the table next to the pot of fried rice.
Maxwell said all the insects are "food grade" and safe to eat.
In some cultures people consider insects a delicacy. Maxwell noted that bugs and bug parts often accidentally make it into products eaten every day, from cereal to chocolate. The government sets acceptable levels of bug bits in food, she said.
Most of the youths at the event tried the cookies, but many were more skittish about the rice.
"I don't like them; I don't want to get sick," said Luke Sampson, 5, of the mealworms.
But Luke said he's not a picky eater and that he liked the cookies.