Every time someone brings up cicadas in conversation online, I feel like there’s always that one person who chimes in and says, “Did you know cicadas are edible?” Me. That person is me. Because I’m a food writer turd boy.
This is especially true when there’s a 17-year batch on the horizon, like the Brood X cicadas that will make a big appearance in Washington D.C. this spring. Come the second half of May, well, you might as well go in a bunker. University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp says, “It’s going to be pretty remarkable, come the latter half of May. The densities of these things is going be phenomenal, about 1.5 million per acre. It blows your mind.” Ugh.
These are going to be the kind with the bright red eyes, the ones that look like they just landed from the planet Bleezorg. And apparently this is going to be one big wildlife buffet, too. Birds, possums, raccoons, chipmunks—it’s like one big crab boil for them.
“What people will actually see is animals eating bugs,” Gaye Williams, an entomologist for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said. “It’s very much like when you go to an all-you-can-eat crab feast. The very first bunch that you throw down on your table, everybody grabs crabs and you start cracking them, and you take every last molecule of crab meat. About the fourth tray … people only take the claws. As this orgy of eating goes on, there are animals that actually won’t touch them anymore. They’re full.”
Guess what. Your dogs are going to eat them too. And people. Washingtonian has been kind enough to post cooking suggestions for those of you who are practically salivating right now.
Iulian Fortu, founder of local foraging company Arcadia Venture, based out of Northern Virginia, says, “Cicadas are actually related to shrimp and lobster and are eaten in many cultures around the world. You don’t get the seafood flavor, but you do get that sweetness.” Who’s hungry?
Fortu says that you want to get them within the first few days of their emergence from the ground. “They don’t have their wings yet, and they’re softer. Later they become more crunchy, which some people don’t like.” Got that? The softer the better.
Also, you really need to make sure they’re clean if you’re about to serve them to your loved ones at a backyard buffet (after we all get vaccinated). All you need is to blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes. Remember, these things have been in the ground for 17 years. Since the Bush administration. And if you haven’t showered for 17 years, I don’t want to be near you, either.
If you’re ready to chow down, Fortu suggests you grind the cicadas up with spices and green onions and turn them into shrimp dumplings. What a good use for your food processor. You can also go the chapulines route and fry them up for poppin’ by the handful, snack-style. Finally, Washingtonian helpfully suggests a buttered up Connecticut-style roll. In that case, may I helpfully suggest you put some cicadas in a hot dog bun and cover them with Chicago-style hot dog toppings? Or maybe a pesto and cicada pizza? Scrumptious.