Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So, rather than writing a note saying that the oatmeal bars contained superworms during class snack time, I verbally told people, which I don’t think traveled very well.

Lesson learned, so the next day I brought some more bars to our school studio and wrote a note on the container with a list containing all the ingredients used in the oatmeal breakfast bars.

I was surprised to learn that some people didn’t read the note, or read it and thought it was a joke and dug in anyways. Some vegetarians ate them without reading or taking the note seriously, which I kind of felt bad about.

Which brings me to a question I’ve been curious to ask for a while:
How do vegetarians or vegans feel about eating insects?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Snack Time!

*Note / “Mealworms” and “superworms” aren’t really worms, they’re beetles. They both are species of the “darkling beetle”. The “superworm” or “zophobas” are common names for the beetles when they are at their larval stage. Likewise, “mealworms” are the larval form of the “mealworm beetle”. They go through complete metamorphosis from egg > larva > pupa > adult beetle. Just wanted to clarify cause I wasn’t too sure myself!

So it was me and Kristin’s week for class snack time. I made a variation of this oatmeal breakfast bars recipe that I got from vegweb.com. I made the exact same bars a couple weeks ago for my writing class, but this time I used cranberries instead of raisins and added superworm flour, which turned out pretty good.
Superworm or mealworm flour is basically baked crunchy worms that are then ground up into a fine protein rich powder, much like the consistency of flour or flax seed, depending on how fine you like it. They smell really good fresh out of the oven and have a nice nutty flavor. Scroll down to the end of this post to learn how to prepare worms for cooking and how to make mealworm flour!
Here are just a few of the happy eaters: Caroline and Gustavo. More than half the bars were gone by the end of class!
How to prepare worms for cooking:
1) Place live worms in strainer and wash in cold water
2) Pat them dry with a towel (or a hanky!) to get rid of any moisture
3) Place the worms into a plastic ziplock bag or container
4) Put the bag or container in the freezer for 15 minutes
5) Take out of the freezer and they’re ready to cook

How to make protein rich mealworm flour:
1) Preheat the oven to 200ยบ F
2) Lightly spray a baking pan with oil or butter
3) Take the frozen worms and sprinkle them onto the pan
4) Bake in oven for approximately 1-3 hours (This depends on how many you are baking. You may want to consistently check. The insects should be fairly brittle and crush easily when they are done.)
5) Remove from oven
6) Crush worms to consistency of flax seed or as fine as you like using a mortar and pestle, food processor, a fork, etc.
7) Now you are ready to use them in your cooking!

How’s it Growing?

So far, the raising process has been slow. I’ve been switching out the vegetables about every 2 days, and recently added apples to see if they would enjoy that more. I decided to take out the egg cartons so that they won’t chew on them, and just added more oats so they can burrow and hide underneath that instead. They say you should have at least 1” thickness of substrate for their habitat.I also separated 3 worms into their own separate containers to encourage their pupating process (which should take about 2 weeks). I noticed that these quarantined worms seem to be a little slow and sluggish. Does that mean that they’re starting their pupating process?

Overall, all the worms have been growing larger and look healthier than when I got them at the pet store. Their transforming and reproducing may take some time, so in the mean time and for the sake of my budget, I need to ration what I have for now (I only used 24 meal worms in the oatmeal breakfast bars). Hopefully, I will have a good supply of mealworms soon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home

After doing some extensive research and calling a ridiculous amount of pet shops in SF (btw there is an excessive amount of dog boutique and grooming services in the city), I finally decided to purchase my superworms (refer to previous "Mealworm CRISIS" entry). I read it's recommended that beginners should start with raising mealworms before taking on the escape artist cricket.

I decided to try 6th Avenue Aquarium first. I first bought 100 superworms for $5, but didn't realize how little 100 worms would look like, so I bought another 100. The cashier figured I was probably the crazy person who kept calling the store about mealworms, and he asked what they were for. At first I said it was for class, but then when I said it was for cooking, his eyes got all buggy (pun unintended). "Are you going to make them Thai-style?" he asked. I also picked up a few plastic storage bins, a strainer complete with lid, an apple, and a potato.I took the bus back home and got a few stares (not because of the worms, but by my huge plastic bag loot of tupperware). I awkwardly carried it on one arm, while carefully trying not to squash my secret tote bag of worms in the other.

I finally got home safely and started setting up my new mini-farm right away. First, I washed and dried the bin. Then I filled it with oatmeal I had in the kitchen, and slices of potato and carrots for their water source (you can use apples too, I just ended up saving the apple for later). I also added an egg carton for additional shelter from the sunlight. Tada! Home sweet home.

I later found that I accidentally threw out an adult mealworm beetle. I had mistaken it for an intruder and tossed it. It did cross my mind that it could of been a mealworm beetle, but I think I was expecting it to be larger than it actually was. Note: don't throw away the baby-makers!
It's interesting how some people who are squirmish when it comes to bugs, or eating bugs, still express a level of interest and curiosity.

Mealworm CRISIS

During my game of telephone with different pet stores, I found out some interesting information from The Animal Company pet store in Noe Valley. Apparently, there is a nationwide MEALWORM CRISIS.

For the past several months or so, pet stores have been short or completely out of mealworms. Pet stores are affected because they usually buy their live feed through major and/or independent distributors. Some independent companies are feeling the pinch too because they depend on the major distributors as well.

I was told that some major distributor tested their batch of mealworms, found traces of pesticides in it, and had to throw out the whole batch. There could be other reasons for the shortage, such as mold. In any case, the demand is definitely larger than its supply.Right now, most shops only have king or superworms available. These are slightly harder to raise since larvae needs to be forced to turn into a pupa. This requires more effort because each larvae needs to be isolated in their own space (see picture above). After the larvae turns into a pupa, it then turns into beetle. The beetle then lays eggs and starts the cycle again. See the process and cycle here for a better visual.

Personal Sustainability Project Objective

As part of my Contemporary Issues Class at CCA, I am taking on a Personal Sustainability Project. My PSP will focus on living a more sustainable diet through raising my own “minilivestock” by rearing, harvesting, and incorporating insects in my own daily diet. In addition to my PSP, I will use design to help further the voice of an existing organization or create my own.

Entomophagy, or “insect eating”, has been widely practiced throughout the world over thousands of years, but is uncommon in Western countries today. I am aware of the environmental and social impact of my carnivorous diet, and sometimes attempt to reduce my intake of traditional farm-raised livestock such as cattle, pigs, chicken, and sea food. Introducing insects to my diet will not only offer me an additional meat option, but will hopefully help reduce my own carbon footprint.

Entomophagy may also be an answer to the many issues we face today, such as health, world hunger, poverty, environmental, global warming, crop and pest control, rising cost of food and resources, etc. It can be beneficial for the entire planet. Entomophagy definitely has a place in today’s "going green" campaign, but how much does "going green" mean to people, and would they go as "far" as to eating insects? How would people feel if they found out that they unknowingly eat approximately 1lb of bugs a year? How soon will it become part of the natural human (Western) diet?

I've been curious about insects as part of the human diet for the past year, but have yet to actively explore it. This project will be the launch pad to for me to put my thoughts into action. Here, you will find updates on my minilivestock farm, cooking with insects, information, and conversation. Through this process, I hope to create a better understanding and awareness of Entomophagy, and hopefully inspire others as well as myself.

Please forward this page to anyone you like. I would like to start up a community and some dialogue.