Sunday, April 12, 2015
The following is the result of experiments with cooking Tiger Worms (Eisenia fetida, also called Compost Worms) so they will not be tough & rubbery as they are after being prepared by boiling alone. I also wanted to bypass giving them cornmeal to purge them which all recipes I could find recommend.
Step 1: Collecting worms from worm farm (on right: brand name Worm Cafe). Often worms will bunch together in "orgies" making collection easier. Mmmmmm yummy.
Step 2. Wash worms using a sieve, pick out debris if there is any.
Step 3. Place worms in a container. This is a commercial plastic container for supplying live mealworms, presumably small holes in the lid are an effective & necessary way of providing fresh air for breathing. I then put the container in a dark place, as these worms hate light, for 4 days. I wash the worms once a day so they don't eat their own waste (I don't know if this is necessary, they don't seem to be interested in doing this from my observation, but an easy precaution to take).
I simply fasted the worms, didn't give them cornmeal as usually recommended, I'm interested in eating worms for maximizing self-sufficiency, buying cornmeal from a shop seemed a silly excess for someone trying to be reasonably self-sufficient.
Step 4. Place worms in pot of boiling water for 5-15 minutes ( based on fact that 3-4 minutes recommended time for boiling untreated water to kill all potentially harmful micro-organisms). Presumably just putting worms in boiling water is considered a sufficiently humane way to dispatch them, it's done with lobsters, they can be frozen first if not.
Step 5. After boiling the worms can be eaten but they are tough, rubbery and average in flavor.
Step 6. I roasted them for 15-20 minutes at 220 C (428 F) on an oven tray, without water or oil, until they were crispy. You should probably check often for when they're just getting crisp. They are no longer rubbery at this stage, easily eaten, tasting something like prawns in my opinion. The prawn-like flavor and crispy texture combine to make them very similar to prawn crackers, I think good enough to consider as a regular food item, though I've only done it twice so far.
They do have a lingering smokey, perhaps earthy, strong cheesy, aftertaste that stays in the mouth for over an hour. Not an unpleasant taste but a little odd, a potential drawback worth trying to eliminate - unless it becomes an acquired taste, there are stranger ones. I will probably experiment with eating something after it to "clear the palate".
I also fried some in olive oil, this also made them crispy, they tasted more like octopus this way, not as nice I thought. Also buying olive oil seemed an unnecessary, avoidable, dependence for someone trying to maximize self-sufficiency. The aftertaste seemed to be even stronger with frying.
Final dish consisted of more roast worms than the few pictured above, I was enjoying them so much I forgot to take the photo till almost too late.
Tiger worms may be worth considering as a way of providing your own protein rich and tasty meat if you live on a small, e.g., suburban, section. Because they eat decomposing material, apparently usually at the bottom, or close to the bottom, of the food chain, they are presumably amongst the most energy efficient ways of producing meat possible (I actually find food chain hierarchies a little confusing, I assume if they're eating something from the "bottom" of the food chain like a plant they are energy efficient, if they're eating something at the "top" like a dead person, which is perfectly natural of course, they are inefficient, I don't know if they would then also be considered to be at the "top".) Presumably able to produce more meat in a given amount of space than carnivores or perhaps even herbivores. Certainly the reproduction rate of Tiger Worms is legendary, especially if well managed. Other edible consumers of decomposing material such as the American Cockroach and meal worms, also known for very high reproduction rates, are presumably worth trying for the super-efficient small-scale production of meat.
I suppose vegetarianism may be the most energy efficient way to maximize food production in a small space, which I might resort to, though these creature do use a resource plants don't and provide a byproduct plants can use. It's possible creatures like this combined with plants are more productive than plants alone and they do use spaces plants don't, namely dark places.
Also if you're on a small section, in a suburb say, probably no one will seriously object to you eating these. They'll think it's disgusting but that's probably better than being known for slaughtering (invariably cute) micro-livestock likely to be available like bunnies, turtles, mice, axolotls and birds.
People in the country wont care a toss about you slaughtering animals for food but city dwellers, especially children, will probably have more trouble with it. Reminding them their insulated industrial way of life is probably slaughtering the planet is unlikely to help.
Ref: The Worm Book. Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor. 1998. Ten Speed Press.