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Cicadas can be eaten, but not everyone should try them


The emergence of two broods of cicadas this year has brought an abundance of the insects. Some have looked for ways to enjoy the invasion. TikTok and YouTube has plenty of videos with people telling you cicadas are a delicacy and even providing recipes.

For most, eating the insect won’t be an issue, as long as you enjoy the taste.

But for some it can be a health concern. The University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service points out the majority of people allergic to shellfish are allergic to the protein tropomyosin. That protein shows up in many insects.

“So, to be on the safe side, you should not sample recipes that include periodical cicadas if you have a shellfish allergy. As such, cicadas should also be treated as you would any other potential allergen when preparing food for the public,” it said.

If you still want to partake in cicadas, the extension has some tips. Cicadas come up out of the ground, climb up trees and shed their skin.

“This is when you want to harvest them, fresh out of their nymphal skin, and still soft and milky-white.” it said. “There are several published cookbooks, as well as a ton of information on the web related to harvest, storage, and cooking with periodical cicadas; but the upshot is you will need to freeze them overnight to humanely kill them before next removing their head, wings, and sometimes legs ahead of culinary use or re-freezing.

It goes on to mention the female periodical cicadas are apparently meatier compared to the males, so are the preferred choice when harvesting. You can tell the difference because the female’s abdomen is more sharply pointed compared to the male’s more dome-shaped abdominal tip.

“Making that distinction at the time of harvest may be easier said than done,” said the extension service. “If you do harvest males, just expect them to shrivel significantly more in the cooking process.”

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