“Looking for the perfect holiday entrée? Something nutritious yet easy on the Earth? Something with a subtle, yet distinctive, je-ne-sais-quoi flavor? Have you considered the humble mealworm?” “Before you click away in disgust, remember that the creeping, shelled, 10-legged crustacean we now so lovingly dip in butter (ahem, lobster) was once considered so repulsive as to be inhumane to feed to prisoners. And in many parts of the world, insects are already a popular—and important—menu item.”
So starts an article by Katherine Harmon in the Scientific American written as far back as December of 2012. And before anyone starts feeling sorry for my husband and kids, I was NOT looking for new and exciting food items to add to our menu and diet. What led me to this article was brought on by a simple quest to try to save some money.
If you have ever walked down the isle of the chicken feed section in a feed store, you will soon realize that mealworms are a very popular item in the chicken world. (Actually, you feed these worms to lizards, fish and other critters as well.) You can buy a small 10 oz bag for $11.99 or you can get a whopping 11 lb bag on black Friday sale for $59.99 (usually $79.99). In all my years of having chickens, I think I have bought maybe two of the small bags. Yes, the chicks absolutely love this dried non moving protein source, but I always thought it was too expensive and used to justify not getting this treat since my girls were foraging outside daily. They are quite capable of catching their own bugs, which they of course did.
However, seeing and talking to numerous “chicken parents” and seeing how truly attached people are to their hens, and how dedicated they are to their health ad well being, I’m starting to feel like I’m the bad chicken mom. During the Black Friday sale, I saw several of the 11 lb bags of meal worms being bought, and that has now led me to question my own chicken keeping. I would not want my girls to feel deprived in any way; there are not many bugs around during the cold winter months. Still not quite prepared to shell out the kind of money dried mealworms fetch, and figuring we are talking about a worm, exactly how hard can it be to “grow” some for my own use? I took to Google, and lo and behold, found several video tutorials on how to set up your own mealworm farm. Looks and sounds easy enough.
I have also learned that live mealworms, although technically having less protein per lb (you simply get more dried than fresh worms per lb) have a lot more nutrients in them since they are “gut loaded”. Gut loaded simply means they have a stomach full of nutrients- which the internet states isn’t true for the ones you buy live at the pet stores. So not only can I save money, but I can offer a more nutritious snack that will keep reproducing itself. And raising them myself, I know they are non GMO organically raised- lol! All I have to do is to take care of wriggly worms and the black Darkling Beetle that lay the eggs that produce these wriggly meal worms!!
The Darkling Beetle, pupae and mealworm
The things you do to keep your animals happy!
I guess there are worse things to eat as a human than mealworms- although worse depends on where you are from… In Sweden where I grew up black pudding ( sausage made out of blood) is a common thing, which sounds awful to many but yummy to me! The Scot eats Haggis ( sheep liver, heart and lungs mixed with spices and cooked inside the stomach), they eat tuna eyeballs in Japan, grasshoppers in Thailand, fried spiders in Cambodia, SPAM in the US hahaha- cause who knows what’s in Spam?!
I am not quite ready to let go of my more traditional food items so I will strictly use the mealworms to keep my chickens happy and healthy. And since I will know where my mealworms come from I can without any hesitation claim to have GMO free and organic eggs!
For the very adventurous, I am including a recipe of Meal Worm Toffee that I found on Bugs4Beginners.com, which they say is a “classy addition to a simple dessert like vanilla ice cream.” The Tequila worm seems like nothing compared to this. “Any roasted or dehydrated mealworms will do the trick, but for an extra pop of flavor, use cinnamon-fed mealworms. “
If anyone would like to give it a try, let me know and I will feed my future worms some cinnamon- if you really feel you need that extra pop to go with the crunch! And please let me know how you liked it!! 🙂
Total 1 hr; Serves 4
1. Prepare Mealworms If you are using ready-to-eat mealworms, skip to step 3; all you have to do is open the bag. If you are using frozen mealworms, follow provider instructions on the package. If you have raised your own mealworms, you will need to euthanize them in the freezer a day ahead of time, then boil for 3-5 minutes to kill any parasites, and drain. The easiest way to boil something tiny, like mealworms, is to bring water in a small pot to a rolling boil, then place mealworms in a fine mesh stainless steel strainer, and lower into boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Then, all you need to do it lift the strainer out of the boiling water, and rinse the mealworms, still in the strainer, with cool water.
2. Roast Mealworms To roast, preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius), and spread mealworms over a pan or piece of tin foil. You don’t need any oil, they are fatty enough. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are fragrant, and lightly crispy and dry to the touch. Be sure to watch carefully, as they can burn very quickly! Remove mealworms from oven, and spread across a new baking sheet, which you have covered in parchment paper. Set aside.
Toffee Warm water in a small pot and stir in sugar. Continue to heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove any undissolved sugar crystals with a wet pastry brush or wet paper towel. When sugar has dissolved, increase heat to a boil, without stirring mixture. Continue to boil until toffee has reached a beautiful golden color; approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Pour Immediately pour hot toffee all over mealworms and parchment paper, in the baking sheet. Pick up baking sheet and rotate slowly, so toffee will thin and spread out. Set aside to cool for approximately 10-15 minutes. When completely cooled, break toffee into shards and enjoy, preferably as a topping on ice cream or cake. If you will not be consuming the mealworm toffee immediately, it will keep for 1 day stacked between layers of wax paper.