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Can you eat cicadas? Wine-pairing and recipes for incoming broods

Can you eat cicadas? Wine-pairing and recipes for incoming broods

One person’s pest may be another person’s repast. The trillions of cicadas that will blanket wooded areas of central Illinois later this month are not only edible, but the insects are high in protein and low in fat.

But what do they taste like? What is the best way to cook them? What wine pairs well with them?

We looked around the internet and also found some Peoria-area culinary experts to weigh in:

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Can you eat cicadas?

Yes. Cicadas are related to such aquatic arthropods as crayfish, lobsters and shrimp, retired chef Jim Warner wrote in an article with Ohio State University. “If you’ve ever eaten those,” he wrote, “you’re just one step away from trying cicadas.”

What does cicada taste like?

Warner said they have a nutty flavor and a pleasant crunch when sautéed in olive oil. He recommended topping leafy greens with crispy sautéed cicadas and dressing the result with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and black pepper.

How do you prepare cicadas?

Dianna Wara of Washington is quite possibly one of the Peoria area’s leading authorities on food preparation.

A competitive cook for three decades, Wara’s skills have won her a family trip to the Super Bowl, and she seems to never leave an Illinois State Fair without a bagful of awards. She does not believe she would take the step from eating shellfish to eating their land-bound cousins. However, if confronted with the prospect of preparing a cicada-based meal for competition or for her family, she said she would grill them.

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“There are mesh screens you can put veggies on so they don’t fall through the slats of the grill,” she added. “I’d probably use one of those for cicadas. I’d probably do a nice barbecue rub and serve them with baked potatoes.”

Author Scott Frothingham in his 2013 book “Cooking with Cicadas” invited readers to reaffirm their place at the top of the food chain by turning the insects into snacks, entrees, or desserts like Caramel Cicada Crunch. The book features cicada recipes for cuisines ranging from Mexican to North African to Italian.

What wine goes best with cicada? Upen Patel, owner of Discount Liquor in East Peoria suggests a sauvignon blanc (left) or a pinot grigio.

What wine goes best with cicada? Upen Patel, owner of Discount Liquor in East Peoria suggests a sauvignon blanc (left) or a pinot grigio.

What wine should you serve with cicadas?

Proper beverage selection is as important for cicada-based dishes as it is for beef, pork, poultry or fish. Because of the cicada’s reported similarity in taste to shellfish, Upen Patel, owner of Discount Liquor in East Peoria, recommended a dry white wine such as a sauvignon blanc or a pinot grigio.

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“Those are white wines that aren’t sweet, but they’re grapey,” he said. “They complement the sweetness of shrimp and kind of offset the fishy taste.”

How do you gather cicadas?

Cicadas are at the most tender when they have just molted their outer shells, according to Warner. In a May 2021 article, an assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University recommended looking for cicadas before their adult exoskeletons have hardened.

Cicada hunters should look for pale white insects and should not harvest them in areas with a history of industrial use. Warner cautioned against looking for cicadas near older homes to decrease the risk of lead absorption from chipped paint. He also said that cicadas caught near well-manicured yards have the potential to absorb lawn chemicals or pesticides.

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Can you freeze cicadas?

To prepare cicadas for cooking, Warner suggested blanching them in boiling water for one minute, putting them into a Ziploc bag, and freezing them.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Can you eat cicadas? Cooking and eating the insects

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