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Source: Deep-fried Grasshoppers in sweetened soy-sauce

Honestly, they taste better than they look! Those crispy legs in particular. But then, you will never know until you try them.  Read through and see why you should and how you can eat grasshoppers.

There are about 80 species of grasshoppers that are edible and are readily available in some parts of the world including Mexico, Ghana, Thailand, Nigeria and so many other regions. Consumption of this novel food has increased over the years especially in Africa, mostly due to increased cost of alternative sources of protein. Grasshoppers are not only a source of food, they are a source of income among other insects as it was projected by the New Nutrition Business that the edible-insect industry will be worth more than 230 million pounds ($360 million) within the next five years, that’s big business. And With the population size increasing and 70% of land already utilized, grasshopper eating has to be more than just an idea in order to feed 9 billion souls.

Edible species of grasshoppers

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Conocephalus discolor                    Chorthippus parallelus  

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Chorthippus brunneus                      Tettigonia viridissima

WHY GRASSHOPPERS?

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, protein and other nutritional deficiencies are typically more widespread in disadvantaged segments of society and during times of social conflict and natural disaster. Grasshopper farming could be a solution to that.  Because of their nutritional composition, accessibility, simple rearing techniques and quick growth rates, Grasshoppers can offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to counter nutritional insecurity by providing emergency food and by improving livelihoods and the quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people [1]

Nutritional Value (its all about the PROTEIN): With the exclusion of Giant Water Beetle and Caterpillars, Grasshoppers are known to have the highest protein content compared to other insects, with 20.6g Protein, 6.1g Fat, 35.2g of Calcium and 5.0g Iron in every 100g [2].

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Source: Beef vs. Grasshoppers

Looking at the above illustration, the amount of fat (18g) in 100g of beef triples that of 100g of grasshopper fat (6.1g). So, this is definitely an alternative source of protein for people that require low fat intake. It also entails higher amount of iron and calcium compared to beef.

Sustainability: Talking about sustainability, what else should be considered. It was stated by the United Nations report released in 2006 that, among other adverse impacts, livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. On the contrary side, grasshopper farming is ‘CLEAN’. It requires less water, land and emits less greenhouse gases. With industrialization, emissions from grasshopper farming could be reduced to 75 per cent less than chicken farming and water use to half as much [3].

Zoonotic diseases? Not a problem: With grasshoppers, you don’t have to worry about the H5N1 E.coli bacteria or Taeniasis (Tapeworm Infection) from beef or pork and other zoonotic diseases. But NOTE! Not all grasshoppers are edible, some are poisonous like the (Eastern Lubber Grasshopper).

How do we go about eating Grasshoppers?
The first time I tried eating grasshoppers was during my first year in undergrad. I met a couple of students from North-eastern Nigeria where grasshoppers are available in abundance. As I walked in to the dorm, I encountered this disgusting smell which got stronger as I approached the kitchen. to my surprise, the smell was coming from a pot of grasshopper being boiled by my friends. At that point, I never saw myself as a grasshopper eater in the future…like never. But later in the day when they were all fried, spiced and ready to be eaten, I took a bold step and tried one.  OMG! it tasted so good, like Doritos or any other spicy chips, Even better.  So yes, it’s okay to be disgusted at first but when you try one, it’s going to be worth it.

Well, Grasshoppers on their own are not eaten as a main dish but they serve as snacks, appetizers, toppings, and ingredients of a main dish. Here are some common grasshopper dishes:

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Greetings from Mexico; Grasshopper filled tacos

Grasshopper filled tacos are becoming very common in Mexico. The picture above shows a grasshopper stir fry with garlic, served with Avocado, cheese and tomato sauce. Detailed recipe of grasshopper filled tacos is available here.

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Salted Crispy Grasshopper

This is the most common grasshopper dish in Nigeria and its eaten as a snack. I have tried this and trust me it tastes so GOOOOD…. And its very easy to make. Here is my personal recipe: Take out grasshopper wings, Parboil with onions, ginger and garlic (ignore the smell at this point), Drain and deep-fry until it turns golden brown, Sprinkle salt, chili powder and black pepper while still hot.

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Grasshopper stir-fry with steamed VEGGIES!

Grasshopper are stir-fried and served with veggies of your choice, including green salad. Recipe is available here.

But, even with these mouthwatering dishes, eating grasshoppers can’t be characterized to be conventional. There are variety of reasons for this which varies among people and communities.
“It is disgusting! they are tiny little things…. it’s not fair. This is ill treatment and inhumane…Tufiakwa! (meaning God Forbid)”.  This was a response I got from a Ghanaian student. A couple of reasons can be extracted from that response including the Yuck/Ick Factor and ethical reasons.

In some parts of the world, grasshoppers are very expensive. In Mexico, grasshoppers cost more than pork and chicken [4]. The major problem comes from harvesting as it was estimated that 350,000 tons of grasshoppers live on Mexican crops but only a few hundred tons are collected for food annually [5].

Lastly, grasshoppers are seasonal, they are usually not available all year round. And on top of that, they tend to be picky on where they want to be so they are not available everywhere. Other challenges include availability of other alternatives (chicken, beef, pork) in abundance which makes grasshoppers kind of invisible.

Summarizing it all, Grasshoppers are delicious. Just ignore the yuck factor and give it a try because they are good for you and the environment. Grasshopper farming should be encouraged all over the world because that will solve the issue of availability and high cost. And with the rate at which sustainability issues are occurring in the world, don’t wait until there is only 1 piece of beef/chicken left or no more land to utilize. Do it today, do it now and take a step towards a sustainable future.