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The cicadas are driving me insane with their seduction chatter . . . so, I got to wondering, how do they taste?

onceadaylily Aug 3, 2010 05:39 PM

No, really. I was googling when the average cicada just DIES already, so that I could anticipate the blessed day, but what I found instead were websites instructing me to just eat them. I even found a newspaper article reporting how popular they were, as an snack, in 2007. Now, that's revenge. I wondered what they tasted like.

And, of course, my second thought was, "I wonder if anyone on Chowhound has ever eaten a cicada? And do they have a recipe?"

  1. amyzan Aug 13, 2010 12:27 PM

    My dog apparently finds cicadas and grasshoppers tasty, but I suspect it's the crunchiness that really appeals. Of course, she's also taken down blue jays, but that's a whole other story...

    1 Reply
    1. re: amyzan
      m
      mshenna Aug 13, 2010 11:05 PM

      When I was growing up in Maryland & the cicadas emerged, our poodles were completely addicted to eating them. One poodle ate them off the trees (I think they were molting or hatching or something? anyhow, stuck in place) as a crunchy snack. He was a very large standard poodle with a very soft mouth & I am sorry to say that my brother used to feed him the male cicadas alive -- the buzzing continued as he (poodle not brother) swallowed them without chewing much ... the dog was happy, it was a tiny blow against the interminable cicada racket, & visitors to the house were completely grossed out, which was probably the real point.

      Our neighbor's daughter had eaten them in the Peace Corps & said they tasted like avocado & something else -- didn't sound bad, anyhow.

    2. e
      ElleD Aug 13, 2010 10:18 AM

      I've never had a cicada, but I ate locusts from Niger a few years ago. They were deep fried and then soaked in soy sauce. I was only brave enough to eat a leg, not the body because I was afraid it would squoosh into my mouth. The leg was crunchy and tasted only of something that had been fried and then drenched in soy sauce. In other words, it was good!

      As for cicadas screaming or tasting like what they eat, I was under the impression that they don't have mouths, and don't eat in their mature stage. They live for one thing only . . .

      5 Replies
      1. re: ElleD
        rworange Aug 13, 2010 10:27 AM

        Everything I read seems to agree with the quote from National Geographic link ... a reliable source ...

        "Cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots. The plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor, especially when eaten raw or boiled"

        Since they are supposed to be eaten just after they emerge from the ground in their soft-shell stage, then they would have the taste of whatever they are sucking on.

        This site devoted to the insect seems to indicate that the adults can also suck sap
        http://www.cicadamania.com/faq.html#a16

        "Most cicadas subsist solely on the fluids of living trees. This fluid is called xylem. In early stages of their life, they will live off the fluids of small plants like grasses, but they move to tree root systems as they grow older. Adults live off both the fat stored in their bodies as well as fluids from trees."

        "They only live for one thing" ... what would that be?

        1. re: rworange
          Foodlexi Aug 13, 2010 12:03 PM

          Like Wasabi Woman in a previous post I have eaten chapulines in Oaxaca. They are deep fried crickets, very tiny. Not unlike tiny fried shrimp really. There's a picture here: http://www.whatamieating.com/chapulin.html
          We had a go at flying ants called chicatanes as well: http://www.whatamieating.com/chicatan... but the unpalatable ones for me were the raw larvae I ate in Laos and which I never identified. I thnk these sorts of creatures are fine as long as they are deep fried and crunchy. I just think 'shrimp' (actually prawn, as I British) and then munch. The raw ones are more of a challenge. Does anyone know what these larvae are? I attach a picture.

           
          1. re: Foodlexi
            j
            jumpingmonk Aug 13, 2010 01:20 PM

            There seeem to be more than one species in that picture, but the vast majority appear to be the young of varios types of water insect, mostly dragonflies, damselflies and mayflies. BTW all of those insects (along with Grashoppers cicadas and a lot of the other bugs we are talking about) undergo incomplete metamorphosis, so tecnically theyre nymphs, not larvae.

            1. re: jumpingmonk
              Foodlexi Aug 14, 2010 03:47 AM

              I am very grateful indeed for this information, and that they are nymphs rather than larvae. Are you Lao? And, if so, do you know the Lao names? or the Thai or Cambodian? These came from the environs of the Mekong up around Luang Prabang.

              1. re: Foodlexi
                j
                jumpingmonk Aug 14, 2010 03:54 AM

                Nope, just good at identifying insects

      2. j
        joonjoon Aug 13, 2010 09:15 AM

        Andrew Zimmern is eating some Cicadas right now in his Beijing episode. His comments:

        Oh my gosh. Bugs like this tend to taste of what they eat off of, and I can only think this one was collected in some barn where a lot of giant (can't understand) animals took a sturdy dump. This is horrifying.

        Haha!

        1 Reply
        1. re: joonjoon
          onceadaylily Aug 13, 2010 09:59 AM

          Ooh . . . but maybe this is just a case of 'blame the chef, not the food'? I just looked for the show, but it's not on here. I'll look for it online.

        2. r
          rupyoda Aug 13, 2010 05:55 AM

          Cicada tempura is the way to go, as I learned during the Brood IX emergence in 2003. Nab them just after molting and freeze until a sufficient number are gathered to be worth the prep work.

          My partner moved to the DC area to be with me last fall and had thus far experienced the snowiest winter and a brutal summer, then this year's brood of cicadas emerged. Growing up in Seattle, he had not seen lightning bugs up close until one landed on his face this spring; and a few weeks ago a cicada stopped on his arm, nearly pushing him to a LiLo moment! It would seem, though, that the 2010 crew is an early bunch from next year's Brood XIX, likely brought out by all of the moisture last spring and during the winter--their internal clocks screaming "You're gonna rot under cover; so, get out and get your freak on!"

          Brood info: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fau...

          1. t
            Tessewi Aug 13, 2010 04:42 AM

            It's my understanding that you should eat cicadas while they are still soft bodied, after they crawl up the tree but before they molt. I ate one raw a couple years ago and I kid you not, it tasted like ASPARAGUS!
            I also have made a point of eating bugs whenever I am traveling in a place where they are part of the cuisine. It feels important to me to acknowledge that millions of people eat insects every day as an important source of nutrition. Here's the rundown of my adventures so far:
            Thailand:
            Black Ant Salad with lemongrass, herbs and hot peppers served as a lettuce wrap, tasted deliciously herby
            Deep Fried Grasshoppers, tasted exactly like potato chips but the legs get caught in your teeth
            Laos:
            Ant eggs straight from the nest were sweet and popped juicily in your mouth
            Giant water bugs on a stick whose abdomens were stuffed with herbs, tasted awful awful awful
            Korea:
            Steamed Silkworm Larvae, a common street food, taste musty and funky like a stinky cheese but not in a good way. You can smell the steam from the vendor's cart a block away.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tessewi
              onceadaylily Aug 13, 2010 08:08 AM

              I am particularly impressed by the larvae. Aside from the smell, I can't imagined they would have looked appetizing at all. Sight and smell can guard the palate somewhat over-zealously.

              1. re: Tessewi
                j
                joonjoon Aug 13, 2010 09:19 AM

                I grew up in Korea, and the smell of silkworm larvae reminds me of home. For some reason I always really liked the smell of those things. But I HATED the taste. Now I can stomach it but still don't really enjoy eating them... Still, I always keep a can of it in my pantry just so I can pull it out and show it to my friends every now and then. :D

              2. w
                WasabiWoman Aug 13, 2010 12:33 AM

                I've not eaten cicadas but since I'm an adventurous eater I would definitely give them a try. The closest I've had were chapulines (a.k.a. grasshoppers) at a local Qaxacan restaurant. I imagine you could substitute cicadas for grasshoppers in the recipe and get similar results.

                http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/authe...

                1. m
                  mayaishi Aug 12, 2010 11:05 AM

                  I found a cicada (how do you pronounce it?) on the sidewalk yesterday, but wasn't a fresh roadkill so I went looking for more. How do you harvest them as are they not high up in the trees? I am going to try and make cicada tempura if I can find enough.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mayaishi
                    onceadaylily Aug 12, 2010 11:23 AM

                    Si-(as in sister)kay-duh. If you have a spot near you that has very young trees, you could look there. I actually have a tree that is pressed against the windows of my office at home, and have spotted a few on the branches. I read that some people devise traps using mason jars and twigs and whatnot (lots of info online).

                    Good luck! Please report back if you go through with it.

                    1. re: mayaishi
                      rworange Aug 12, 2010 11:52 AM

                      Ok, this link I provided above talks about harvesting them. Again, please note that the cicudas that appear every 17 years are not the same as the ones that hang around all the time.
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/297005

                      One poster writes, "The Washington Post had an article online about how to prepare them. I guess they crawl up on trees when they molt ... You're supposed to harvest them within 12 hours or so of the molt while they are still 'softshell'."

                      Ya know, I once had a green salad with snails (this was intentional). They weren't drowned in butter as usual and had a green, vegetal taste. I would guess it is the same with cicadas.

                      Also, you might make sure you cicada's are organic as this article notes.

                      "Low-Fat, High-Protein Cicadas: New Health Snack?"
                      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0503_040503_cicadafeast.html

                      I do love this from the National Geographic link above

                      "Cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots. The plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor, especially when eaten raw or boiled"

                      It later notes that if they are roasted they take on a nutty flavor. In sauces they take on the flavor of the sauce. As to pairing with wines, they suggest a cocktail would be better. IMO, I'd need a few cocktails prior to chowing down on them.

                      It mentions that Jenna Jadin created a brochure called "Cicada-Licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicada." She says they are in the same family as crawfish, lobster, crab, and shrimp "So popping a big juicy beetle, cricket, or cicada into your mouth is only a step away,"

                      She warns that if the cicadas are in an area that are treated with pesticides and herbicides those chemicals can be absorbed into the insect's body.

                      So make sure your free-range cicadas are also pesticide-free.

                      The next page of that article goes on to harvesting and says that " The insects are best eaten just after the nymphs break open their skin and before their exoskeleton turns black and hard, cicada aficionados say. "

                      There are are other specifics. If there are no newly hatched tenerals, find females who have fat, juicy eggs inside.

                      It notes that the bodies of adult mailes are hollow which allows them to make the sound they make. However, as a result, they offer little more than crunch as Caroline noted in a Chowhound post.

                      Here's the Cicada-Licious brochure link with recies and capturing tips. Your cicadas should be boiled shorly after capture. They can be frozen for later use.
                      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com...

                      "Bug appetit."

                    2. rworange Aug 11, 2010 07:27 PM

                      From your mouth, so to speak, to the Chow Digest ears

                      Crunchy Cicada Goodness
                      http://www.chow.com/digest/55968/crunchy-cicada-goodness/

                      This subject comes up periodically on Chowhound, and IIRC, you will find a few people who have knoshed on them and reported how they tasted from this search list
                      http://www.chow.com/search?query=cicada&board_name=General+Chowhounding+Topics&search_board_id=27&type=Topic&from_date=&board_parent=Topical&search_board_id_btn=27&from_date_select=&user_name=&post_title=&search_board_id_btn_pop=27&sort_mode=best_match

                      Here's one poster who tried them. There might be more
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/627246?tag=highlight-4769523;post-content-4769523#4769523

                      "Cicadas sauteed in butter taste like crunchy butter"

                      And while no one tried them in this link, there is a report that regular cicadas are different from the 17-year cycle cicadas which are what people usually eat
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/297005

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rworange
                        onceadaylily Aug 12, 2010 07:58 AM

                        Thanks, rworange. You have given me much reading with my morning coffee.

                      2. j
                        joonjoon Aug 11, 2010 07:25 PM

                        I've been seeing this thread pop up and thinking to myself....that's the best topic ever written on Chow...and who posted it? My dream Chowhounder onceadaylily. Seriously, who wonders what cicadas taste like?? lol you're the best.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: joonjoon
                          onceadaylily Aug 12, 2010 07:50 AM

                          Apparently, Caralien has had them. That chow links rworange posted were *very* interesting.

                          Someone ate a fried tarantula. I have to admit, that is one offering that would lead me to say, "No, thank you . . . I had a *really* big lunch."

                        2. Veggo Aug 11, 2010 07:09 PM

                          Cicada factoid: It is thought that their 17 or 13 year periodicity, both prime numbers, is part of natural selection that reduces the chances that they emerge during the same year as a predator with a shorter, non-prime life cycle.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Veggo
                            onceadaylily Aug 12, 2010 07:33 AM

                            I read that, and also that when a brood popped up early (the 2007 emergence, I think), it was thought to be for the same reason. Weather patterns were also discussed as a possible reason. All theory, though; cicadas are a bit mysterious.

                          2. s
                            somervilleoldtimer Aug 11, 2010 06:40 PM

                            Great discussion. I have two contributions: 1) there's a great book called "Man Eating Bugs", all about insect eating across the world. It's terrific, wonderful pictures of giant vats of mosquito soup, etc. 2) the giant wasp things is called a "cicada killer." I've seen them take down cicadas once or twice, but I've never heard the scream. Here's info about the wasps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphecius
                            Eat well.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer
                              onceadaylily Aug 12, 2010 07:56 AM

                              Thanks. I'm doing a round through my used bookstore circuit today. I've thought I would research this.

                            2. grampart Aug 5, 2010 09:38 AM

                              Deep fried, served with ranch dressing......they will come.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: grampart
                                m
                                millygirl Aug 6, 2010 04:48 AM

                                I'm gonna have some great nightmares tonight. I can see it now.

                              2. JungMann Aug 5, 2010 09:25 AM

                                During one of the mass emergences of periodical cicadas when I was a kid, you could barely hear a person speak to you outdoors because of the rattling of the cicadas. Around the same time, several high-end restaurants, particularly French ones, started offering them as a seasonal specialty on their menus. I never tried it, but my grandfather did mention that he used to eat them back home as well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JungMann
                                  southernitalian Aug 13, 2010 01:47 PM

                                  I am sitting in my office in Charlotte NC right now with the air conditioning unti on full blast right outside my window and I can barely hear it because the cicadas (or "Al Qaedas) as we call them this time of year) outside.

                                2. r
                                  runwestierun Aug 3, 2010 11:37 PM

                                  I accidentally bought a bottle of mangda chutney, thinking I'd bought mango chutney. It was in the same spot in the store and my brain just saw the "Mang...".

                                  Anyway, it's made of mangda, giant Thai water beetles.

                                  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_HE50q2vPXJk...

                                  I'm thinking they are very close to cicadas. The chutney was extra hot, so I think I mostly got chili and fish sauce taste. People tell me when you eat them alone they are strangely fruity, like bananas. But I think the only way I'd ever eat them again is by accident, just like the first time.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: runwestierun
                                    onceadaylily Aug 4, 2010 06:32 AM

                                    You've come the closest then, even if it was a mistake. I'm curious, what did you put the chutney on? Did you serve it to company?

                                    1. re: onceadaylily
                                      r
                                      runwestierun Aug 4, 2010 03:43 PM

                                      I bought it for my 83yo neighbor, Llyle. We live in a very remote area and whenever I go to the city I get him sardines and hot mango chutney. He eats it on everything, it's his main condiment. I just tried it straight when we realized I'd bought something else. That was before I realized what "else" it was. I was pretty sure "mangda" was just a different gender of "Mango". But it tasted different, so I looked it up on the computer. oops.

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7142...

                                      1. re: runwestierun
                                        j
                                        jumpingmonk Aug 4, 2010 04:57 PM

                                        One caveat to those who are actually contemplating trying this, one of the genders (male I think) is supposed to smell and taste a little unpleasant, so it's usally reccomended you only eat the other one (and no, I don't know how you tell the difference, but you can probably find out online) Unfortunately it's also the males who make most of the racket so eating cicadas as a method of noise control probably isn't all that productive in the short run (as for the long run, it sort of depends on how many females you eat, and how many got to lay eggs before you got to them)

                                      2. re: onceadaylily
                                        k
                                        kemi5 Aug 15, 2010 09:41 AM

                                        OMG!!! You and runwestierun crack me up! Thanks for the laugh :)

                                    2. RealMenJulienne Aug 3, 2010 10:30 PM

                                      Man, I think about this ALL THE TIME. Eating insects fascinates me from a historical, nutritional, and ecological standpoint, but when I actually have a cicada in hand I start getting second thoughts. I guess if you are gonna eat a bug, cicadas are big enough to make it worth your while. This thread on LTH forum is entertaining, and I think has some recipes: http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                        onceadaylily Aug 4, 2010 06:27 AM

                                        Me, too. I researched preparations, and am having serious second thoughts myself.

                                        One set of instructions advised me to remove the wings, and to be mentally prepared for the "scream", and then toss them into hot oil. The word 'scream' put a whole new perspective on this.

                                        1. re: onceadaylily
                                          RealMenJulienne Aug 4, 2010 07:38 PM

                                          In Indiana we have these huge brownish wasps. Their bodies are about the size of a chapstick and when they buzz by your head their wings sound like an industrial fan. I saw one of these things jacknife a cicada out of the air and it let out this bloodcurdling scream as it was carried away.

                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                            j
                                            jumpingmonk Aug 4, 2010 08:06 PM

                                            The ones we have on the east coat are a bit smaller and more colorful (sorta the same brown front you describe, but with a more typical yellow and black abdomen) but they do much the same. Those kind of wasp is called (not supsingly) cicada killers.

                                          2. re: onceadaylily
                                            s
                                            Subvert Aug 13, 2010 02:44 AM

                                            I have a hard time believing a cicada would scream when you prepare it, for the same reason that lobsters don't scream. They just don't have the physical apparatus for it, and I really wouldn't expect them to have the mental apparatus for it either. (Just to review, the sound that lobsters make when boiled is due to steam escaping. They don't have lungs, and they don't have a central nervous system).

                                            1. re: Subvert
                                              onceadaylily Aug 13, 2010 08:19 AM

                                              Just the thought of it was enough to make me understand that I was flinching away from preparing these for myself. And understanding *that* has made me look more closely at the remove at which I place myself concerning the kind of meat I put on my plate. So, maybe I should do it. Maybe I should force myself to do this, as a way of tearing away the curtain between me and my factory-farmed food.

                                              They might not scream, Subvert, but surely the boiling oil doesn't tickle them to death.

                                        2. rworange Aug 12, 2010 12:35 PM

                                          You've probably come across this page which has a zillion cicada links including those that sell cd's with the sound of the insect. People pay to hear that.
                                          http://www.cicadamania.com/archive.html

                                          Anyway, waaay down on that page is this link

                                          Yes Virginia, there is more than one kind of cicada! Most of the news and information on this site is about Magicicadas -- those exceptional cicadas which arrive in select locations once every 17 or 13 years -- HOWEVER there are literally hundreds of other varieties of cicadas. One of North America's most popular type of annual cicada is the Tibicen. Visit Roy Troutman's Gallery of Tibicen cicadas.

                                          This photo from one of the site's galleries really defines the term 'bug-eyed"
                                          http://www.cicadamania.com/pictures/m...

                                          1. corneygirl Aug 3, 2010 07:43 PM

                                            Haven't ate them either, but I seem to recall Andrew Zimmer? saying most insects taste like seafood. Makes sense in a way, when you think about the whole exo-skeleton similarities. They're probably at a similar place on the food chain as shrimp and crawfish so I say skewer a couple and through them on the grill... and then let me know if I should try (wink).

                                            1. visciole Aug 3, 2010 06:08 PM

                                              LOL, I want a report too! Those suckers are sure loud. Now if only they pair well with groundhogs...

                                              1. Chowbird Aug 3, 2010 05:48 PM

                                                No, I've never eaten one, but a quick Google search revealed a whole *collection* of cicada recipes here:

                                                www.newsdesk.umd.edu/pdf/cicada%20rec...

                                                We expect a full report of your experiment! :)

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