The Cicadas are here. Known as Magicicadas, the 17 year brood has emerged in full force in innumerable hordes! At first there were only the slightest of signs of them. Holes in the ground. A pupa appearing here and there. Then this past weekend they came out in full force. Every morning I walk outside on my front porch there are at least 200 individuals on my brick walls, chairs, tables. This amazing example of pure natural abundance without limit is inspiring. And yes, the Cicadas are edible and no I have not tried any.
These red eyed flying harmless insects have arrived by the billions after 17 years, all doing their best to fly to the treetops, find a mate, procreate, lay eggs who then hatch and crawl back underground for the long waiting period, where they feed on tree sap during that time. The sheer numbers of these insects are what justify their long sojourn underground, with a window of 6 weeks to ensure the next generation's success. This strategy is called: predator satiation. The idea is that since this timeframe is so short compared to their whole life's existence, the insane amounts that emerge from the ground for mating season gives them an advantage to fill every possible predator's belly full, so that they couldn't possibly eat another cicada for this season, gives the ones who make it a better chance to successfully mate and guarantee the next generation. The amazing part about this, is the absolute abundance without limits in the environment during this period. Birds and small mammals use this opportunity to gorge themselves. Other insects are also opportunistic to take advantage of this massive but short lived resource. When Magicicadas die, they leave nutrients behind when they decompose into soil.
This inundation is intense and most people I know will let out a scream when they encounter an individual. I witnessed the development of my young daughter's disgust reflex as they made their way out of the ground. When you can barely take 5 steps without stepping on one and you have to walk around with a broom to sweep as your walk if you don't want to kill any, there is no avoidance of this magnificent natural phenomenon. Another aspect of their annoyance to some is the sound. The sound is loud on other levels and drowns out all other ambient sounds in the environment. When the cicadas are most active and singing during a hot day when the sun is high in the sky, you can't hear birds sing or even a car approaching. The cicadas produce this sound with a specialized organ called a tymbal on their lower abdomen. The males raise and lower their abdomen in order to produce the sound. You can hear the waves of sound as they ascend the trees to mate.
Cicadas are prevalent throughout every continent excluding Antarctica. As a result, Cicadas have symbolic meaning throughout the world mostly associated with immortality. They appear in music, literature, poetry and adorn jewelry and expensive dishware. In Japan, the Cicada's shell represents fooling their enemies. In China, the shells are used in folk medicine. The Cicada is associated with divine interactions in many mythologies as well.
Cicadas are edible and have been prepared throughout the world. Cicadas were consumed in Ancient Greece all the way up to modern China and North America. Yes, it's true that there is a disgust factor that prevents many from tasting, however that is entirely a cultural barrier. The female cicada is known to be meatier and prized. The main method of preparation is deep fried and salty. They provide a high protein dish that when prepared properly could fulfill an immediate hunger need as well as cultural delights. If you are interested in trying some yourself and you find yourself in the US, you can order chocolate cicadas from www.chouquette.us in Gaithersburg, MD. The team is inundated with orders for this once in 17 year treat, however if you have the patience to wait for their team to gather and prepare the cicadas then I hope you enjoy. (I am not associated with Chouquette, I just think it's a fun idea.)
I would be willing to try Cicadas, but since they are not Kosher, I am hesitant to try. The reason that they are not Kosher as opposed to kosher insects, such as locusts or grasshoppers is because Cicadas have 6 legs as compared to locusts 4 legs. This is the distinction made in the Torah and as a result I will be sitting out tasting BroodX2021. However, I am waiting for the chocolate covered locust version. Interestingly enough, there was also a swarm of locusts in the middle east this year that inspired a wave of amazing locust recipes. I would love to try them
Have you tried chocolate covered or deep fried Cicadas?
Got any Cicada stories?
Get in touch! See you in the next encounter.