Montana State University

MSU students, faculty try grasshopper stir fry, cricket tacos

March 2, 2007 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Marissa Harwood, left, and Mark Kronfuss try an insect fritter. (MSU photo by Jay Thane).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

That was Florence Dunkel's philosophy Friday when she introduced Montana State University students and faculty to the idea of eating insects. The entomology professor and instructor for "Insects and Human Societies" started the four-hour dining experience by having participants taste and compare 20 kinds of honey.

People don't mind eating honey, even when they know it's the regurgitated product of a bee's stomach, Dunkel said.

Then she had the students and faculty cleanse their palates and moved them over to a buffet where the tacos contained crickets, and the stir fry held grasshoppers. Boiled waxmoth larvae were peeking out of fritters, and the chocolate chirp (pun intended) cookies hid crickets.

Americans don't realize the value of insects in other cultures, Dunkel said. Insects provide nutrition that can be valuable during a drought, she explained. Termites provide plenty of protein and minerals for weaning children.

Marissa Harwood, an MSU freshman in Dunkel's class, said her favorite insect dish was the fritters. "It's pretty awesome," she said.

Mark Kronfuss, a sophomore art major, said, "It's pretty interesting. When it pops in your mouth, it's kind of weird. Other than that, it's pretty good."

Bob Diggs, Dunkel's husband who is equally sold on insects, said his favorite insect dish is anything that contains grasshoppers the way Dunkel prepares them. First she obtains grasshoppers that were raised without insecticides. Then she freezes them in a plastic bag. Once they're frozen solid, she rubs the bag so the wings and legs fall off. Then, she carefully removes the head, pulling the guts along with it, so the grasshopper basically becomes a shrimp with its shell still attached. She then prepares the grasshopper in various ways.

"It's very high protein," Diggs said.

Raising a pound of beef requires about 10 pounds of grass and other forage, he said. A pound of grasshoppers, however, requires only about 1 1/2 pounds of forage.

"The actual nutrient content of grasshoppers is very good," he said. "And the cholesterol is much lower than shrimp."

Diggs noted that reality show contestants eat raw insects, but he recommended cooking insects before eating them.

"They are taking a real risk," he said.

"Insects and Human Societies," also known as Biology 106, is a core course at MSU. Dunkel, in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, has taught the course for 19 years.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu