Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Waxworm breakfast wrap

Part of my interest in foraging, survival skills and food in general has included insects as food. When I was a "kid" I used to spend hours while camping harvesting ant eggs and adults from ant colonies, grasshoppers from fields, certain water insects and a few grub-type critters. At that time I wasn't much of a cook and so my culinary experiments mostly consisted of simply sauteing things in a little oil or butter with onion. That's still a great and simple way to approach entomophagy, the eating of insects as food (although I didn't know there even was a word for it back then, and just looked at it as something that was in line with the technology-scarce lifestyle I was attracted to at the time). 

Anyway, I'd kind of let that part of my foraging/self-sufficiency interests dwindle over the years, as I guess I came to look at it as something borne more of occasional curiosity than of any truly practical application. I've recently come to change my mind on the subject, and realize that there is indeed much genuine practical, ethical and culinarily satisfying reward to be got from entomophagy. I thank Daniella Martin's new book Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet for recharging my batteries on the subject of insects as food. 

I decided to get my feet wet again with a simple breakfast wrap using a common and easily acquired little beast known as a waxworm.

Waxworms are the caterpillar larvae of wax moths. You may acquire waxworms from just about any place that sells live bait for fishing, which is where I got mine and is how I've always used them up to now. They are a great panfish bait and are a staple during the ice fishing season especially.

Wax moths also happen to be one of the unwelcome insects that give beekeepers fits, as they feed on the comb in hives and generally make a mess of things once they get into a hive. As a small time beekeeper this aspect of their behavior made their attendance on the menu even more satisfying.

By themselves waxworms have an almost bland and uninteresting flavor. They remind me of potatoes in that regard, in that they are good vehicles for the flavors of whatever they may be prepared with. Some describe their flavor as slightly nutty, and I suppose that's fair, but it's a very mild nuttiness if at all. The biggest hurdle you might have to overcome, if you're at all squeamish about eating insects like this, is their texture, which is soft and juicy prior to cooking. But cooking does indeed address that issue; as the larvae saute they stiffen up, gain some nice firmness and even get a little crispy if you saute them long enough.

Here's all you do:
Rinse the waxworms and gently dry them. Toss them into the freezer for a while to kill them if you're averse to putting them into the pan while they're still alive. Saute a bit of onion and/or garlic (I used ramp bulbs and onion) in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a couple tablespoons of chopped greens such as kale. Once those things soften and mellow add the waxworms. Periodically flip the worms and saute until they become firm, gain some color and get well acquainted with the other ingredients. They'll stretch out and stiffen up as they cook, whether you put them in dead or alive, but their tiny screams will be minimal (I'm kidding!). Pull one or two of the waxworms as you cook and give them a try; that'll not only help you discern whether they're done or not but will also give you a good idea of their flavor and texture.

I then scrambled up a duck egg with a little cheese, set the egg and cheese onto a tortilla, added some radish sprouts and topped it all with the waxworm/ramp/onion medley. Mighty tasty in every respect.

So, you can expect more posts and maybe even a video or two on the subject as I dust off the old butterfly net and make space in the freezer for new, albeit smaller packages of "meat." 

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