Last week I tried to make some amuse bouches from bugs. This is a French term meaning something along the lines of amusing the mouth (aka generating an appetite… aka an appetizer!) It’s also just super fun to say.
Long story short, I chose really bad avocados. My roommate Blake suggested that I learn the basics of when fruits and vegetables are in season and how to pick the best ones once in the grocery store. This got me thinking—are bugs seasonal? When is the best time to buy?
We’ll start with the fruits and veggies, but if you’re interested in the bugs skip past the lovely infographics provided by this blog and head to the last section of this post for the deets on when and how to select the “freshest” insects.
When are Vegetables in Season?
For the best tasting peppers, choose ones that feel heavy for their size. This indicates a ripe and juicy pepper.
To keep carrots fresh, store them wrapped in moist paper towels or in a sealed plastic bag. They can last for weeks this way.
When broiling corn, soak it in the husk beforehand to bring out the natural flavor and moisture.
After purchasing, do not wash spinach immediately. Washing before storage decreases the time to spoilage. Wash only prior to serving.
Steaming broccoli has the lowest risk of causing the nutrients to leach out from the broccoli.
Steaming kale provides extra cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Avoid cooking tomatoes in aluminum foil. The acid interacts with the metal, causing aluminum to move into the food being cooked.
The experts say you should always peel your squash before steaming it.
Green beans may cause a temporary reduced ability for the body to absorb calcium immediately after consumption. So save the dairy for another meal.
The best emoji. Choose egg plants that are heavy for their size and that have shiny and smooth skin.
When are Fruits in Season?
Wrap extra ripe bananas that you won’t eat in time in plastic wrap and stick them in the freezer to use later for banana bread.
To prevent cut apples from browning, drizzle a little citrus fruit juice over them.
Look for oranges that feel heavy for their size. More juice makes for a better tasting orange.
To find the sweetest kiwis, look for the slightly squishier ones.
Honeydew purportedly tastes best in January and February, though they are available year-round.
Strawberries won’t ripen at all after they’ve been picked. Make sure you select bright red strawberries that look full and unwrinkled in the store.
Pineapples do not have a long shelf life, so eat them fast! At room temperature they can last for about two days. This can be extended to seven days in the fridge.
Grape seeds are edible and provide a wealth of antioxidants.
Remove raspberries that have gone bad from the bunch, as they will speed the rate at which other berries will go bad.
Blueberries are fragile, so after washing them, pat dry.
When are Bugs in Season?
Do bugs even have a season? When is the best time to grow or purchase crickets? Grasshoppers? Scorpions? And in our hypothetical bug grocery store, how should I choose the most “ripe” sago grub? What would be the metaphorical equivalent to testing an avocado’s firmness?
I turned to the experts for some answers. To the question of seasonality, the consensus seemed to be: yes and no.
Lee Cadesky, co-founder of One Hop Kitchen
and C-Fu Foods
, explained, “Grasshoppers, to my knowledge, only have a 1 month season in Mexico and the harvest is starting now [mid-November]. For farmed insects, seasonality can exist if the farms also sell some supply for fishing bait. Fishing season can drive down the supply of some farmed insects and post fishing season there can be a small glut if there was surplus production to meet summer demand.”
Otherwise, it seems, farmed insects seem to be pretty seasonally independent. Factors like heavy rain or blights, however, have been shown to negatively impact cricket productions in farms in regions like Southeast Asia—especially where farms are outdoors. Robert Nathan Allen—insect expert extraordinaire of Little Herds
—adds, “It would largely depend on the area and species. If wild harvesting insects, almost definitely yes.”
Allen continues, “If you’re farming insects in a climate controlled building, no. There may be season fluctuations in energy costs and usage to maintain the climate, but the insects should be able to reproduce and grow efficiently while independent from the outside world’s seasons.”
Keep in mind that certain insects do take longer than others to mature, but there’s not necessarily a seasonality to them, per-se.
The majority of wild insects are found in tropical climates anyway, which typically have less temperature variability, and, thus, seasonality. Pat Crowley— the genius behind Chapul cricket protein bars
—adds, “Commercially grown insects in farms outside of the tropics optimize growing conditions to provide crickets for example, who prefer warm, humid conditions, throughout the year. To learn more about insect seasonality in your area, visit your local flyfishing shop.” I’m imagining him delivering that last line in an infomercial-voice with a nod of his head at the end of the PSA.
How to Tell if Insects are Fresh:
“For most insects, freshness can be smelled,” explains Lee Cadesky. Cadesky is a bit of an expert on the subject. He started C-Fu FOODS
in 2014 with a mission: explore how to put insects in the center of our plates. Together with his brother, he researches how to develop new and innovative ingredients from insects for a wide variety of applications. They’re the top of their field when it comes to insect processing, sampling, tasting, and general cuisine.
Cadesky explains, “Fresh insects should be intact, not smell off, and have the right color. Ideally, if frozen, they should not clump together and have little evidence of frost/freezer burn (this is mostly a packaging and processing issue than a freshness one).”
Indicators differ for each insect. I’ll likely return to this topic in a separate blog post. But as an example, Cadesky continues, “Many insects (mealworms in particular) turn black after they die but if they are frozen while still alive they will maintain their orange/yellow color. This is a good indication of harvest quality. For absolute best results, most insects are probably best consumed immediately after molting when their exoskeletons are at their softest. This is noticeable in mealworms in particular as they are white in color after molting. “
And as for our hypothetical insect grocery store? Allen had some thoughts there too, “I’m imagining somebody pinching crickets in the grocery aisle. You’re getting way outside the American reality here, nobody will be buying whole fresh insects in a grocery anytime soon. Maybe frozen, but that’s a few more years out in my guess. You can think of insects more like meat and less like produce. (Please don’t squeeze the Sago Sausage-Bugs!)”
My favorite answer to the grocery store question came from Pat Crowley (Chapul
)—”To find the most ripe insects at your grocery store: Just try them all. You need to develop your own preference. The perfect silkworm is just as subjective as the perfect papaya.”
TL;DR: it doesn’t much matter the time of year. Just try all of the bugs.