How to Eat Living Stink Bugs...

A Mexican delicacy

The entomophagy or insect eating is considered disgusting in western societies, even if the Europeans eat all kinds of crustaceans and mollusks.

Other cultures do not reject insects at all, as they are an easy and accessible source of proteins and fats. Toasted termites are extremely appreciated in the African countries; in Brazil ants are eaten salted, while in Thailand with curry. In Thailand, too, crickets are fried in banana leaves. Palm worms (beetle larvae) are considered a delicacy by the Guarani Indians of Northern Argentina.

Bees, caterpillars, cicadas, flies and even silk worms are delicious food. In the end it's all good, these insects are regarded as food like any other food, but what about stink bugs?

In Europe and US, stink bugs are considered just agricultural pest insects, because these hardy insects can create large populations, sucking plant juices and damaging crops. Some can be predators of other insects, especially of beetles.

Unlike other insects, bugs secret a stinky secretion as a main defense. When disturbed, stink bugs will release the pungent liquid, whose rancid almond smell is due to cyanide (a powerful poison) derived chemicals. Still, giant water bugs are eaten fried in Laos and stink bugs are famous in the Indigenous Mexican cuisine.

The Mexican comestible bugs are called jumil, chinche de monte (mount bug) or xotlinilli. They belong to the Pentatomidae family and the most appreciated species are Atizies taxcoensis and Edessa mexicana (called chumil).

These bugs are small, a little less than 1 cm (0.4 inch) (females are bigger than males). They are eaten especially in the states of Morelos y Guerrero. The consumers say they have a specific cinnamon flavor coming from the stems and leaves they feed upon, others say they have a bitter medicinal flavor, probably due to their high iodine content. They are also rich in vitamin B2 and B3. Jumiles are used for making a specific sauce or as taco filling.

As taco filling, in Taxco and other regions of Mexico they are eaten alive, as jumiles can live up to one week after the cooking process, including beheadedment and toasting. Scientific research showed that jumil has analgesic and tranquilizing qualities.

Jumil was discarded by the Mexican "high cuisine", following European standards, as it was falsely seen as having the typical "stinky scent" and "spicy bug flavor" of the other stink bugs. Their eating was regarded as the result of food shortage and superstition.

Since the Pre-hispanic epoch, they have been collected for the Festival of the Deceased Ones. The Aztecs went in pilgrimage to Cerro del Huixteco ("Hill of the Huixteco"), close to Taxco (Guerrero), to climb to the temple dedicated to the jumil. Today, in Taxco, the pilgrimage is still celebrated in October on the first Monday after the Day of the Deceased Ones, when the delicious insects can be served, either alive (in tacos) or cooked and it is the premise of a large fiesta. The participants gather in the mountain park of Huisteco jumiles and crown a Jumil Queen. But the habitat of the jumil is menaced due to the fractioning of the hill.


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