By Tim Regan
remember your vitamins
Though little research has been done to figure out the nutritional content of cicadas, says Dr. Jenna Jadin, insect enthusiast and fellow at the USDA, cicadas are probably on par with grubs and other bugs—high in protein with some calcium. In fact, last month the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization released a 200-page report stating bug-eating is nutritious and good for the environment. And don’t worry about mercury levels, as long as the bugs are from the woods. “It’s OK to eat [cicadas] once in a while, as long as they haven’t been under a pesticide-covered lawn for 17 years.”
the early bird …
Like many humans, cicadas emerge groggy in the early morning hours. While they’re still stretching out their wings, snatch them off of tree trunks and low hanging branches. Look for young, fatty cicadas, called tenerals, as they lack hard shells and are well-suited for cooking.
in the kitchen
Like anything from the woods, cicadas must be boiled for at least ten minutes before consuming. This process serves two purposes: it removes errant bacteria and gunk, and it firms up the flesh inside their shells. Jadin, who autored “Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas,” suggests dry-roasting them in the oven, which brings out a “nutty flavor,” before you add the meat to sauces or dishes. Her cicada recipes include “Southern Cicada Tartlets” and “Sizzling Chili Cicadas.”
hands of a surgeon
Unlike shrimp or crabs, cicadas don’t require any special tools to prepare other than your fingers. Before cooking, pluck off the wings and feet for the best experience, unless you like picking exoskeleton out of your teeth. Also keep the head on, it adds flavor.
If given the chance, Pizzeria Orso’s Will Artley says he’d “smoke them first, followed by a quick visit in the fryer and then lightly toss them in BBQ seasoning” for a crispy snack.
Green Pig owner and meat master Scot Harlan, however, isn’t so enthusiastic. “I’m a pretty adventurous eater,” says the chef who serves pig ear tacos at his Arlington restaurant. But the only way he’d eat a cicada is if it was pureed and complimented by a strong vinaigrette or some potent anchovies.