Bozeman buffet features mealworm quesadillas, cricket stir fry
February 21, 2012
Mealworm quesadillas and Chinese stir fry made with crickets are among the entrees to be served at this year’s bug buffet at Montana State University.
MSU student Brock Spain studies his plate of cricket stir fry during a previous bug buffet at Montana State University. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).
The 24th annual buffet – set for noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 -- could also include a green salad with roasted grasshoppers available for a topping, and dream bars that use roasted crickets instead of nuts. Among the other dishes will be fritters that incorporate wax moth larvae and brownies containing mealworms.
The buffet will be held in MSU’s Plant Growth Center along Eleventh Avenue in Bozeman, said MSU entomologist Florence Dunkel. Cooking will begin at noon for those who want to watch. The food will be ready to be served around 12:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Much of the world gets valuable nutrition from insects, and the buffet is designed to introduce that concept to participants, Dunkel said. Besides going through the buffet, attendees can taste various types of honey. Honey is made by insects, but the West is more open to eating honey than insects, Dunkel said.
Participants can watch two films that relate to food insects, too. One film is from the Discovery Channel and the other from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. The films will be shown continually through the afternoon. Attendees can also stop by exhibits. They can visit with Obie Pressman, regional representative from the Peace Corps office in Seattle. Pressman was a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia from 2007 to 2009 and ate many mopane caterpillars. At one point, for three days during the harvesting of a bumper crop, Pressman ate mopane caterpillars for breakfast, lunch and supper with millet porridge.
“Namibia is a very tribal country,” Pressman said by phone from Seattle. “Certain tribes are crazy about mopane.”
Dunkel said mopane caterpillars can contain 17 times more iron than the same amount of beef does. The caterpillars are about four inches long and one inch wide. They look like a larger version of the wax moth larvae that will be served at the buffet, Dunkel said.
Visitors to the insect event can also learn about student research projects involving food insects in two communities, Dunkel said. One project involves the commercial production of grasshoppers from a community garden on the Crow Indian Reservation. The other project involves students who are trying to help Malian village survive a “hungry season” that’s expected to be longer than normal this year because of a shorter than usual rainy season that’s creating a grain shortage. Millet and sorghum grains are these villagers’ main source of protein and calories. Thailand has approximately 20,000 cricket farmers, so the students are hoping to quickly adapt some of their techniques for the village of Sanambele in Mali.
To share with bug buffet with the state of Montana, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks News Service will film the event and interview participants, Dunkel said.
The bug buffet and related activities involve two of Dunkel’s University Core courses. One is Biology 162 CS, “The Issues of Insects and Human Societies.” The other is AGSC 465R, “Health, Poverty, Agriculture: Concepts and Action Research.” At least 10 of her students are conducting research this semester that relates to food insects and feed issues, Dunkel said.