Eating Grasshoppers, Locusts, Crickets, & Katydids

Grasshoppers and crickets have been a source of nutrition for humanity all over the world for much of history, and you can learn how to cook them.

| June 2019


Grasshoppers and crickets and their relatives have played an important role in the history of human nutrition. Because they are universally distributed and easy to catch, they are among the most common insects used for human food. Roasting and sauteing are frequently used methods of cooking, after first removing the wings and small legs. Because they have a mild flavor, they adapt well to local preferences for seasoning. Seasonings such as onion, garlic, cayenne, hot pepper, or soy sauce may be added. Candied grasshoppers, known as inago, are a favorite cocktail snack in Japan.

Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious (i.e., living in flocks) and migratory. They form bands as nymphs and swarms as adults—both of which can travel great distances as a plague, laying waste to the countryside like Sherman through Georgia.



Among grasshoppers, there are 10 families, and these represent about 60 percent of the edible resource among Orthoptera worldwide. Grasshoppers are the most-eaten type of insect because of their wide distribution, many and diverse species, and the ease of harvesting them. They come in all colors, often having to do with their habitat, from green to brown to gray to pink and yellow and all shades in between. Most turn an attractive red when they are boiled or fried, which has led to their being promoted in Thailand as “sky prawns.” As kids in the Pacific Northwest, we would chase the big three-inch grasshoppers that had a noisy clacking flight; remove their legs, wings, and head; and boil them in pumpkin pie spice like we did crawdads. They have a mild flavor that takes seasoning well and are good wilderness fare simply roasted over a fire. We dressed them the same way, boiled them in salt water, and strung them in garlands in the smokehouse when we were smoking smelt, and they were delicious. Once crunchy dry, they kept for a year in a sealed jar.

Although grasshoppers were used extensively as food by Native American tribes in western North America, little is known about which species were preferred—if there was a preference. A smallscale way of harvesting the insects was for a number of people to form a large circle around a large bed of coals and then drive them toward the fire, where at least some would lose their wings, drop, and be roasted. As there are usually several species of range grasshoppers present at any one time and location, probably any roasted grasshopper was fair game.



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