What wild-harvested foods do you love—and which ones wouldn't you eat?
For plenty of Minnesotans, insects fit squarely into the latter category. There's something about sliding a bug down the hatch that unnerves even folks who might otherwise be wide-ranging in their protein choices. Venison, yes. Lutefisk, maybe. Bugs, no way.
But anyone who has traveled broadly or watched TV food shows knows that insect eating is a thing—a big thing—in many parts of the world. It can be hard to avoid globetrotting food personalities munching charred grubs or sautéed beetles. Americans have certainly been exposed to the idea even if we haven't embraced the practice at home.
As writer Frank Bures shows us in "Crunch Goes the Cricket," that may be slowly changing. Bures speaks to an entrepreneur who's betting that Americans are ready for cricket bars, and he goes afield with some Minnesota bug eaters—excuse me, entomophagists—who can show us how to catch, prepare, and savor insects, if only we open our minds to the idea.
Minnesota Conservation Volunteer has often extolled the virtues of local, sustainably harvested wild foods, and it's clear that insects tick all those boxes. After all, they're another part of the food chain, just smaller and more abundant. Way more abundant.
Scientists estimate that the global biomass of insects outweighs by several hundred times the weight of all humans combined. Or, as Minnesota-based science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker put it on the statistic-crunching website FiveThirtyEight, "The bugs of the world could squish us all."
Mammals such as bears, which gorge themselves on protein-packed ant larvae and pupae, don't need to be told that insects are tasty, nutritious, and ubiquitous. Nor do the many birds and fish, from flickers and flycatchers to bass and trout, that lap up bugs of all kinds. Virtually every wild creature we like to watch or harvest relies on insects as part of its food web, even if it doesn't directly consume them. So too do we.
Consider taking a cue from insect-eating cultures worldwide and making the connection more direct. It's really not that much of a leap—DNA research indicates that insects are related to crustaceans such as lobsters and shrimp, which we consider seafood delicacies.
Still, let's face it: It's unlikely that insects will soon crowd out favorite game, fish, and wild-gathered foods on local dinner plates. This fishing season, many Minnesotans will try their hand at landing a walleye, the state fish and the subject of Joe Albert's story "Where the Walleyes Are."
If these anglers are successful, many of them will savor their catch around a campfire or a table with family and friends, and some may comment that it is by far the finest of Minnesota's wild foods. And if they have shared it with me, I'm certainly not going to argue the point.
Keith Goetzman, acting editor