Why eat mealworms?

This is the question I am asked more than any other. Insects fall so far outside of what is considered “food” for most people that there needs to be a good reason to consider eating them. Fair enough. Here are my top reasons:

1. They taste great! I always start with this because I think it’s the reason we choose to eat ANYTHING. When making a choice about what to eat, I believe people think first about taste and what they “feel” like eating. Sometimes people consider nutrition or ethical factors, but judging by the amount of factory-farmed, unhealthy food consumed in North America, flavour is the #1 reason people make a choice to eat anything.

2. They’re healthy. Mealworms are a source of protein. If you grown them yourself, you know exactly what they’ve eaten and that they’re hormone- and pesticide-free.

3. They’re environmentally friendly. Mealworms produce less greenhouse gases compared with larger livestock[1]. If you grow the mealworms yourself, you also know that they were treated well. Many vegetarians make an exception for mealworms if the reason they choose not to eat meat is related to animal cruelty.

4. They’re an aphrodisiac. This is totally unproven, but like many things, if you think it’s a turn-on, then it is.

I know that is not be enough to convince everyone. It’s hard to overcome a long-nurtured dislike or even fear of insects. I have to admit, I’m still squeamish about eating cockroaches.

What are your reasons for choosing to eat insects? What do you say when people ask you this question?

For more reasons to try eating insects, check out “Why not Eat Insects?” by Vincent M Holt, originally published in 1885. (Available through amazon.ca and amazon.com)

[1] Oonincx DGAB, et al. An Exploration on Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Production by Insect Species Suitable for Animal or Human Consumption. PLoS ONE 2010;5(12):e14445.

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Inspire yourself with science images

I’ve been a big fan of the Science Photo Library for a long time. They have such a beautiful collection of images representing every aspect of science. Some of my favourites are the science history images, detailed anatomy drawings and pictures of space. It’s a great resource if you’re a teacher and want to inspire your students with the beauty of science.

And, of course, they have fantastic mealworm images. Search “mealworm” and you’ll find pictures of every stage of mealworm and darkling beetle development, as well as pictures of mealworms that are ready to eat. Here’s a video of a mealworm scurrying along. Notice that because it only has six little legs near its head, the rest of its body is being dragged along.

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Insect recipe ideas

Are you looking for recipe ideas for cooking with insects? Watch Marc Dennis prepare chapulines, waxworms and silkworm pupae in some very innovative dishes.

Bug Cuisine


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Edible insects in China

I recently relocated to Shanghai, China, where I’ve been looking keenly for any type of edible insect. I finally found some at Southern Barbarian, a Yunnanese restaurant hidden in a food mall. It’s so hidden, you have to walk through another restaurant to find it. Here is one of the dishes I tried:

Deep fried wood bugs

Their flavour is very mild and the texture is crispy and airy.

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Visit a mealworm farm at The Stop

As part of Tenebrio Molitor, the most recent edition of the Future of Food series of talks, I auctioned one of my mealworm colonies. One lucky winner was The Stop, who will be using the mealworms in their educational programs. Visit The Stop to see the mealworms in action!

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Tenebrio Molitor – Event December 12

Are mealworms the food of the future? I think so. Come to a unique event featuring cava, canapés and cooking demos on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm at the Centre for Social Innovation at 720 Bathurst St in Toronto. For your $15 you get admission to the talk, a drink, an opera performance, and tasty mealworm and non-mealworm snacks. Visit Alimentary Initiatives for more information or email aruna@philosopheroffood.com to be included in the guest list. All guests must either have an advance ticket or be on the guest list, please.

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Mealworms in the food pages

I was recently invited to eat a mealworm dinner with Corey Mintz, as fodder for his Toronto Star column Fed. The experience was unexpected and very interesting. I love tasting other people’s mealworm recipes.

You can find the column on the Toronto Star website.

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Treehouse Talk available online

Are mealworms ‘food’ or ‘not food’? The debate was played out at the Treehouse Talks on December 3, 2010. See the debate for yourself!

Which side do you sympathize with? Why?

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Mealworms in the Treehouse

On December 3 mealworms became the subject of a debate at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto. As part of the interactive part of the talk, the audience came up with reasons for considering mealworms either ‘food’ or ‘not food':

Why mealworms are FOOD

  • They’re DELICIOUS!
  • They will make a good post-apocalyptic meal source
  • They’re easy to farm
  • They’re misunderstood – appreciate them!
  • We eat them anyway as part of processed food
  • They’re an aphrodisiac (well, if you think they are, they are)
  • They’re nutritious
  • They’re versatile as an ingredient

Why mealworms are NOT FOOD

  • They aren’t recommended in Canada’s Food Guide
  • There’s no official regulation of the industry
  • A person could be allergic and wouldn’t know
  • Meat is murder!
  • They’re a turn-off
  • The word ‘worm’ in the name is gross
  • They’re not easily available in stores

The audience also invented some ingenious recipe ideas involving mealworms. Watch the recipe section of this site for the results of this brainstorm.

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Art/Science Exhibition – Harbourfront Centre – Nov 13 to Jan 2

The mealworms will be on display at Harbourfront Centre yet again! Come see Life with Bugs, a display of people’s reactions to touching and eating mealworms.


November 13, 2010 to January 2, 2011  :  Harbourfront Centre  :  235 Queen’s Quay W  :  Toronto ON  :  artandsciencefair.ca

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