by Luis Mario Vargas
In Mexico we have a very exotic saucer for foreigns (and even it is to some of our fellow citizens): insects. Maybe, if you belong to that gropu of people that have never in their lives tasted insects, you might think they are disgusting, or that they doesn´t taste good. Well, you are completely wrong. Actually, insects do not have a sticky consistency, if that’s what concerns you, but they taste pretty good, really.
If you are thinking about trying insects for the first time, you might be wondering: which one should I try? Are there too many of them? Well, let me tell you that, in fact, there are a lot of variations and options that you can find all around the country. However, these are the most common and (in my personal opinion) the tastiest. You can even find them without having a lot of trouble in some states in Mexico, because there are some insects that are a region’s own.
The most common way to eat these insects is, inside a taco, but there are somo other ways too. You can even eat them by only adding some drops of lemon juice or salsa made in a molcajete. Due to the way the sellers get them (a very complicated one) and that is a seasonal food, its price is not very low.
This ancient saucer is only obtained during the rain season (between July and September) and, per Maguey plant, you can only get an average of three worms. Once retired from the plant, the best are selected from the rest. That’s the reason why these wormas are so expensive. The amount you can get is very low, and they are not obtainable the whole year. One kilo of these little worms cost around 37 dollars (700 pesos).
The states that consume Maguey worms the most are Hidalgo and Tlaxcala, where they are cooked with some butter or olive oil. They are even ground in the blender with somo chilies, getting a spicy powder that is used to accompany mezcal.
Known as the “Mexican caviar”, this saucer consists of ant eggs. The ant that lays these eggs is known as “escamolera ant”. Escamoles is a seasonal food whose pickup occurs during March and April, and it is a good source of protein, providing four times more protein than red meat.
People who pick up the ant eggs look under the nopal plants, pirul trees or mezquites, and they dig 2 or 3 meters long pits to take them out. They need to be very careful of not damaging the queen ant. They must be also careful not to damage the ant nests so that they can continue producing the escamoles. In prior years, they could get 8 kilograms, on average, of egg ants per pit, but now, due to the wrong techniques and over exploding, they only manage to get half of that.
Experts on escamoles preparation say that there is no need to use a whole bunch of ingredients. Oil, butter, chilli, epazote and edible flowers from Hidalgo or Tlaxcala (escamoles can also be found in here), should be enough to cook this delicacy.
It might be unknown to you, but these little insects, apart from being eaten in our land since time immemorial, possess certain mystical power. This is also a heritage from our ancestors and their beliefs that have survived to our days. In the region of Taxco, from where this little bug is from, lays the “Templo del Jumil” (Jumil Temple), a hill that works as a sanctuary since thousands of years ago, in which people from here “hunt” the little insects.
The myth says that jumiles are relatives of our own that come from the underworld in the shape of an insect to be with us. That is why people from Taxco say “do you already bring your family?” when someone comes down the hill with baskets full of jumiles. The pickup consists of catching the insects, by putting in their knees on the ground, to then sell them in the little markets in tiny plastic bags, sometimes, still alive.
They can be eaten alive, smashed along with chilli, onon or some other ingredients to prepare a salsa, or in tacos as well.
Up in the north of Mexico, is the state of Durango. Differently from the other saucers in this list, this spot is not an ancient tradition, but a very recent invention that has become very popular among locals: the scorpion taco from Durango.
It was in this state where it was created this special taco, due to the common it is to find scorpions in this dry and hot place. Its preparation consists, more or less, of this: the scorpions are taken alive from the mountains to the restaurants, and they are put in jars filled with alcohol. When they are about to be cooked, a small incision is made in one of the sides in order to take everything out. It is perfectly cleaned and then fried in hot oil, along with some grated cheese until it gets crispy. Some tequila can be added while it’s been cooked. Once ready, the scorpion is put over a tortilla with some lettuce and tomato aside.
From all the insects in the world, the scorpion is the one that would never be considered edible due to the high amount of poison it possesses, but during the process prior to its cook, it is completely removed. It tastes like french fries with a touch of tequila.
These funny, reddish elonged insects are typical from the south of Mexico, mainly from Oaxaca, but there are some sub-species of them in the United States and the north of Argentina.
Just like many of the insects in this list, are a seasonal food, which means, can only be eaten in certain time of the year. They can be used to prepare mole, tamales, salsas and also, be eaten alone just as a snack. However it is the preaparation they are going through, they need to be toasted first in a pan at low fire. In Mexico we use a very big pan called “comal”.
They are a perfect source of protein too, and it is something we´ve been eating in Mexico for centuries.
I hope this information has been useful to you, and that you have finally decided to eat one of these delicious options when yo are in Mexico. bon appetit!
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