A Taste of Chitin
When life hands you cicadas, cover them with chocolate. That’s what Julie Love in our Protection Division did last week.
I was fretting over the fact that I’d missed the chance to try Sparky’s famous cicada ice cream (see link in "External Resources" below), when Jim Low stopped by my office.
“There are chocolate-covered cicadas and cicada cookies in Protection,” he said.
“Let’s go try some!”
We found a group of Protection folks standing around plates of cookies and a little heap of candy that looked like chocolate-covered nuts—but not quite.
Julie said at first she was pretty squeamish about picking up the cicadas, especially when they “buzzed” when she grabbed them. “But after collecting a hundred or so, it didn’t bother me anymore,” she said.
“I put the cicadas in a paper bag in the freezer after collecting them. I removed most of the legs, wings and heads before boiling and then roasting them.
“It was a fun and novel project. Maybe in another 13 years I’ll be ready to do it again!”
Julie chopped up some of the cicadas for cookies and left others whole to dip in Ghirardelli chocolate. The cookies looked and tasted “normal,” with a bit of extra crunch. That would be tiny little bits of chitin (say "KITE-n")—the hard, shiny substance exoskeletons are made of. I noticed these bits tended to get stuck in my teeth, not a pleasant “mouth feel.”
Next I tried the chocolate-covered cicadas. At first bite, they’re crunchy, then chewy. I’d say they tasted a little nutty with a distinct chitin finish.
This week the cicadas’ song is subsiding in central Missouri. By next week the air will be relatively silent until the annual cicadas emerge in late July and August. I’m glad I got a chance to taste a bit of Brood 19—and to say that, yes, I’ve eaten bugs. I’m just as glad I don’t have to live on them. Like Julie, I believe this is a treat you don’t need to indulge more often than every 13 years.