Diners will think twice before eating insects: chefs

Top New Zealand chefs say it will be a long time before diners here will be able to stomach ordering insects for dinner.

Their comments follow a United Nations report that recommends serving insects such as crickets, grubs and grasshoppers as a way to stave off world hunger.

The authors of the study, by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said it was accepted that the world's population would reach nine billion by 2050, and the current amount of food production needed to double.

"Land is scarce, and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option," the study said.

"Oceans are overfished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production."

One billion people worldwide were already chronically hungry, the report said.

"Tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated. Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food."

But chef and Masterchef judge Josh Emett said he thought it would take some time before Western cultures accepted insects as part of their diet.

"I think it's going to be a struggle," he said.

"You've got to change generations and perception. For me to start eating insects now is a pretty tough call, if I had to make them part of my diet."

They might be more palatable if served with a nice sauce or some rice, he said.

"But then I guess that's why you're eating insects in the first place, because there's a shortage of that sort of thing."

Emett said it would make a "lovely challenge" on Masterchef.

"The problem is we'd have to judge it and eat it, and I'm not so sure about that."

Wellington chef Ruth Pretty said unless insects were already part of the person's culture, it would take a major food shortage before most Westerners would include insects as a staple diet.

If she was to cook an insect, such as a grasshopper, she would opt to deep fry it.

"Because it would just be crispy then, maybe add a bit of tempura batter ... because all you're going to taste then is crispness.

"There's not much flesh on it, it's going to be crispy anyway, so you'd emphasise that crispness."

Wild Food Festival organiser Mike Keenan thought the concept of introducing insects into people's diets was a great idea.

"Most of the insects are very healthy in protein."

At the festival people were most drawn to huhu grubs, beetles and grasshoppers, Mr Keenan said.

"They seem to go down extremely well."

Insect Recipes

* Grasshopper tortillas
Collect 1000 young grasshoppers. Soak for 24 hours. Boil and let dry. Fry in a pan with garlic, onion, salt and lemon. Roll up in tortillas with chilli sauce and guacamole.

* Witchetty grub barbecue:
Sear grubs with butter and garlic in a hot pan until brown. Grab the head and bite off the rest. The taste is of fried egg with a hint of nuts.

(Source: The Guardian)

By the numbers

* insects form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people;
* more than 1900 insect species have reportedly been used as food;
* about one million of the 1.4 million described animal species on earth are insects, and millions more are believed to exist;
* of the one million described insect species, only 5000 can be considered harmful to crops, livestock or human beings.


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