Traditionally regarded by North Americans as food for castaways or Fear Factor contestants, bugs have found their way onto the menu at a Toronto gourmet supermarket.
Summerhill Market last week began selling sweet and savoury food items featuring edible insects, a collection highlighted by a cricket pie (actually a chocolate-mint pie that incorporates flour made from ground up crickets in its chocolate-crumble crust) and mealworm protein balls (a peanut butter and oatmeal treat made with mealworm flour).
The midtown Toronto store is also selling packs of roasted crickets in a variety of flavours (including honey mustard and barbeque), as well as sea salt and pepper seasoned mealworms.
And for those customers keen to incorporate edible insects into their home recipes, Summerhill is also selling organic cricket flour at a cost of $15.99 for a 113-gram bag.
Owner Brad McMullen says he jumped on the idea while researching 2016 food trends, with several sources identifying edible insects as one of the next bug, er big, things.
He subsequently discovered a Peterborough, Ont. farm called Entomo Farms, which houses as many as 30 million crickets and 20 million mealworms that are roasted and packaged like potato chips or ground into flour.
McMullen bought a small amount, then challenged Summerhill Market’s executive chef Jon Campbell and his team of 100 chefs to come up with recipes incorporating the product.
McMullen says the store has already placed a second order for the dried roasted crickets and mealworms. “I wouldn’t say they’re flying off the shelves, but they’re certainly selling,” he says. “A lot of it is probably intrigue and interest at this point.”
So just what do roasted crickets taste like anyway?
“They have a crunchy texture and a nutty, slightly earthy taste,” says McMullen. “I find some of the legs are a little harder to break down with your teeth, but they eat like a sunflower seed.”
The mealworms, he says, have a Rice Krispies-like texture and a flavour resembling toast with a hint of mushroom. “They’re not bad at all,” he says. “I found myself snacking on them by accident just the other day. I was on the phone and there were some in front of me. I forgot what they were I was just eating them.”
McMullen says Summerhill Market prides itself on being first-to-market when it comes to emerging food trends, and that it will “absolutely” continue to feature edible bugs.
“I don’t see it as being something that’s going to be one of our fastest-selling items, but I think it’s just cool for us to have something our customers have the option to buy,” said McMullen.
Crickets contain approximately 12.9 grams of protein per 100 grams, a level similar to that of lean ground beef. However, they require significantly less feed and water than cattle, while their environmental footprint is significantly smaller.
Best of all, scientists estimate that there are an estimated 10 quintillion insects on Earth, meaning it’s unlikely that the food supply is going to run out in the foreseeable future.