If the planned changes in legislation take place, insect dishes can soon be purchased in the stores.
Fifth year speech communication major Johanna Puolitaival has eaten and grown mealworms for a couple of years. This year she also started her own Kitiinikokki-blog, where she spreads information about eating insects to others.
Advocates of insect eating consider insects a good and high-protein alternative to, for instance, meat. Growing insects is significantly more ecological and ethical than for example producing beef.
“In order to take pressure off of intensive animal farming, we have to find other sources of protein. This would be a terribly easy alternative for that, competitive with soy in both price and ecological value. From this, it is also easier to get really delicious, even meaty food”, Puolitaival explains.
Puolitaival endorses insect eating also for culinary reasons. If insect eating were to become more common in western countries, it would open up completely new possibilities for the food culture.
“I think it is absolutely great if we can really bring a new type of ingredient to the western diet”, Puolitaival says.
At the moment, legislation limits bug-munching. Selling and serving insects for food is forbidden in the European Union. The situation might change fast, though.
Puolitaival explains that the EU is dismantling legislation that restricts using insects in human nutrition. Insect foods could, at the fastest, be brought to supermarket shelves already early next year.
“There are several firms in Finland which are just waiting for the legislation to change.”
Although ready-made insect dishes are not available in the stores, insects are easy to grow at home. Puolitaival herself grows mealworms, the maggots of which are sold in pet stores as food for animals.
“Growing is not expensive. The purchase price is high in the sense that if you eat insects, at least as a student you almost have to grow them yourself. At its cheapest, a half a kilo batch can be bought for 25 euros”, Puolitaival says.
After the first mealworm maggots have been obtained, growing them is very easy according to Puolitaival. She has two boxes the size of shoeboxes, one of which contains the beetles and the other the maggots that can be eaten. The pupas that will later turn into beetles have their own, smaller boxes.
There is oatmeal and wheat flour in the bottom of the boxes. In addition, the insects eat for instance carrots, apples and salad. The boxes also contain pieces of egg carton for the insects to hide in.
“The upkeep is practically free”, Puolitaival says.
But what about the most important part, taste? Johanna Puolitaival fries us mealworm maggots. To avoid covering the taste of the maggots, they are fried crispy in oil and seasoned only mildly with chili paste and salt.
We pick the first maggots a bit cautiously from the plate.
“Surprisingly mild, this is a bit like eating popcorn”, our photographer Unto Luoto gives his approving judgements.
Surprisingly, the taste is really good, and so the rest of the maggots disappear quickly from the plate. I could definitely imagine buying these from the store.