Edible insects

By Mia Vad, curious journalist at Naturkraft

EUGH! Maybe that's your very first thought when I say that you can easily eat insects? If so, you’re probably the only one. Many of us are used to swatting beetles and other insects away if they come near us, but there are actually many advantages to considering the small creepy crawlies for your evening meal. You can even collect most insects in the Danish nature – it doesn't get much easier than this! Learn more about edible insects here.   

Which insects can you eat?

There are several kinds of edible insects in Denmark. Perhaps you can remember when the Danish Michelin restaurant Noma started serving ants to their guests? They were orange ants, which apparently taste of orange – even though they are black and resemble the ants you can find in forests. Jes Aagaard, nature guide at the Danish Nature Agency, has even told Berlingske’s readers that he takes great pleasure in eating raw spiders.

 

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You can eat these insects: 

  • Orange ants 
  • Yellow meadow ants 
  • Woodlice 
  • Mealworms 
  • Spiders 
  • Grasshoppers 

What do insects taste like? 

The first time I tasted insects was mealworms from a mealworm farm in Denmark. It took a lot to overcome my fears, but as soon as I put the worms on my tongue I realised that there was nothing to be afraid of. They actually tasted delicious! They were well seasoned and it was almost like eating crisps because they were cunchy in a nice way. Mealworms have a quite a strong taste, and that’s because they have a high level of umami. The umami taste is one of the five basic tastes that humans can detect, and is also characteristic of several mushrooms.

Tips for cooking insects 

You can toast them in a pan before sprinkling them over a salad or eat as a topping on crispbread. You can also toast woodlice in a pan with e.g. garlic and chilli, and eat them as a snack.

If you want to find some ants, you can leave a bottle containing the last dregs of your fizzy drink close to an anthill. This makes it easy to collect the ants because they crawl into the bottle. However, before eating insects, it is important to either put them in the freezer for 24 hours or heat-treat them at a temperature above 75 degrees.

Four good reasons to eat insects 

You might find it difficult to imagine replacing your meatballs with larvae and grasshoppers, but it's worth considering because there are many advantages to eating insects.  

For the climate and environment:  

The production of insects is much more climate and environmentally friendly than the production of all the other animals we eat. They don't require much food, water or space. Producing insects also emits far less CO2 emissions. When we produce 1 kg of beef, 165 kg of CO2is emitted, but in the production of 1 kg of insects, only 13 kg of CO2is emitted.  

For your health:  :

Just like the meat you might normally eat, insects have a high protein content,  important fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, insects also contain fibre that is good for your gut and immune system, and which provides a good sense of satiety.  

For animal welfare:  :

Insects are 'slaughtered' by freezing them. This means that they go into hibernation and only later die – in other words, they suffer no anxiety or stress in connection with their slaughter. In addition, the natural behaviour of insects is to live close together in dark places, so they will therefore thrive in the environment in which many farm animals are bred today.  

For the taste:  :

Insects are delicious! Our ancestors were happy to eat them, and today it is only due to social heritage that we associate insects with something non-edible.   

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Edible things in nature  

Nature is a veritable pantry! Insects are just one of many different things in Danish nature that you can collect and eat freely. You can find everything from mushrooms and plants to flowers and berries – it offers endless possibilities. However, remember to check carefully what types are edible, as poisonous plants also grow in the Danish nature. Ask an expert if in doubt, but don't be afraid to embark on a gastronomic adventure in Danish nature. If you’ve been successful in making wild nature in your garden, you might be able to find your next dinner there.

Have fun!

Sources: Museum of Natural History, Din Insekt Butik, Videnskab.dk, Nina Askov (Buglady.dk), biologist Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann (in Berlingske), nature guide Jes Aagaard (in Berlingske) 

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