Our cherry tree is finally producing a good amount of fruit after 3 years of getting comfortable where we planted it. It is a little bittersweet seeing all the cherries this year and knowing that we have to either try to give the tree away (transplant it), or take it down all together. If you read one of my previous posts called “Landscaping Frustrations“, you will know that we had to put the cherry tree in because our neighbour bought too many trees and gave it to us…but we were still in the middle of designing our landscaping and it is now in a place where we plan to put a gazebo, and our trees will now go along the back fence. Oye. But, we have been getting while the getting is good.
When I was growing up, we had a large cherry tree in the front yard. I loved picking the cherries and enjoying them as a treat. They were so flavourful and for some reason (it’s all in my head), tasted different than store-bought cherries. These were rich red all the way through and were so juicy that you ended up with stained finger tips from picking them from the branches. My parents did spray the trees a few times, but for the most part didn’t. When you are a kid, you don’t think about those kinds of things and why a tree might be sprayed. But then it happens, you bite into a delicious cherry and there inside it is a worm! Nothing like a worm to completely ruin not only that cherry but ever wanting to eat a cherry fresh picked again….right?
Well it did for a while, but things change when you are gardening all the time, and have had a chance to travel. We do both. In the last few years, I have been more interested in articles and news stories about the use of insects as a source of protein. As someone who lives in the western culture, insects have always been something that I have wanted to avoid eating. However, learning that almost 80% of the world population consumes insects as part of their traditional diet will make an idea spread in you brain.
I have not had the pleasure of trying fried insects or cooked insects from a market…yet, but I did visit the very cool Newfoundland Insectarium while vacationing there, that had all sorts of snacks made from insects. Some were obvious, like suckers with scorpions, spiders and worms in them. Others were not so obvious, like cricket nacho chips, or a cricket cardamom protein bar. For me though, it was a great first step in trying an insect-protein snack. I didn’t want to try something that looked like a bug, but I was extremely curious. So I dove in and bought some of the cricket nachos and the cricket protein bar.
I think Kurt and his mom thought I was a little crazy for wanting to try them, but I was curious. I do eventually plan to travel more and I think I could get on board with trying some insects now that I have tried foods that have insects but don’t look like insects. The chips were delicious and didn’t taste any different than a normal bag of nacho chips. The protein bar was the same. I would never have know that I was eating insects. Kind of like the cherries. If I hadn’t looked, I would have never known that the worm was there when I was a kid. I would have just benefitted from the extra protein.
Now, if you have made it this far in this post, you may be cringing or wretching, depending on where you are from. But don’t. Think about my earlier statement. 80% of the worlds population eat insects as part of a traditional diet. And although we pretend to hate eating insects here in the western world, we do it all the time. Our commercialized food has specific amounts of bug fragments that are acceptable levels within the marketplace. The US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) both have acceptable levels of insect fragments allowed in our commercial food. This means that the chocolate bars that we enjoy can have up to 60 or more insect fragments in 100 g (FDA). Cheese can have no more than 25 insect fragments in 100 grams (CFIA). And coffee, for those that enjoy their coffee, you are possibly enjoying quite the insect feast with up to 10% of beans infested or damaged by insects (FDA). If you like yourself a Starbucks Strawberry & Creme Frappuccino, birthday cake pop, mini donut with pink icing or their red velvet whoopee pie, then you enjoy your insects. The red colouring in those Starbucks items is cochineal, made from the crushed body of a white insect, Dactylopius Coccus that feeds on cactus.
So you may be asking why I am going on and on about eating bugs. Partly because it fascinates me, but because this is my round-a-bout way of justifying that I am enjoying my non-pesticide-sprayed cherries that may or may not contain worms. I did soak a batch to see if there were worms and I didn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. And I am quite ok with it. I thought it would be a mind over matter kind of thing, and it definitely is, but it didn’t take much to get my mind over the matter. What I don’t see won’t bother me, and I won’t be looking for them. Plus, Kurt and I do not use pesticides in our garden or yard. Partly due to our two beautiful dogs and not wanting to harm them, but also because we don’t really want to eat pesticide covered food, hence the reason we are growing it ourselves. I’m not saying I won’t eat store-bought, but I like that we can enjoy our own veggies for the summer months.
I have found that the grocery store that I frequent now carries cricket protein bars, which I have now started picking up. They offer a chocolate one and a peanut butter one, and I figure, they both already contain bugs, what’s a few more in a protein bar, right?
It seems strange to go to all this explanatory trouble to justify my decision to eat my cherries, but I do believe creating a conversation about new sources of protein is good. Insect protein uses less space, less water and is less harmful to the land that our traditional western sources of protein. They are high in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories and contain more healthy proteins with lower fat content than our traditional western proteins. The UN believes eating insects could help combat malnutrition and on the flipside be beneficial in our battle against obesity. I’m on board. And I look forward to one day getting to try some insects that still look like insects. I am not however, going to go and find some in my yard to try (for many reasons including the ones listed in the articles below). I will wait until I can travel again and try out a dish that someone who knows what their doing has prepared.
In the meantime, if you are interested in more information about insect protein, I recommend the following articles. Or just do a google search, so much great stories about how cultures use insects in their diets.
- MedicalNewsToday – Grubs Up! How eating insects could benefit health
- Popular Science – You should start eating bugs. Here’s how.
- Crickster – Edible Insects: The good, the bad, the ugly
- NY Times – Why aren’t we eating more insects?
- The Guardian – If we want to save the planet, the future of food is insects
- CNN – The food that can feed, and maybe save, the planet: bugs