Stinkbug Salsa—Would you?
I remember cicada season as a kid. They burst from the ground in maddening quantities, covering cars, sidewalks, picnic tables...anything and everything. And for a month, the city would be blanketed under an orgy of fat, winged hemipterans in a feast of fornication. The boys would invariably pull them apart just as they were relieving themselves of 17 years of deeply suppressed desires, and smush them into a crunchy orange blob on the sidewalk.
Given all this, it's hard to imagine anyone would want to eat a cicada. And yet...our local pizza chain, Snappy Tomato Pizza, did a fair business with a seasonal pie they dubbed "Snappy Cicada Pizza".
Or maybe that was only a marketing gimmick. At six years old, I wasn't tempted to find out.
As an adult, I am significantly more experimental. And although I have yet to try it, I’m quite eager to give Taxco, Guerrero’s famous salsa a go: the salsa de jumil.
The jumiles (commonly known as “stinkbugs” in English) officially come into season November 1st, when a festival is held to celebrate their appearance. Festival participants crown a Jumil Queen and gather the insect from a mountainside park to make the salsa, crushing them in a molcajete with green tomatoes, chiles and onion.
The jumil is said to have cinnamon and mint flavors, and when eaten alive, a bitter, medicinal taste due to their high iodine content. They are reported to help alleviate arthritic pain, to treat kidney, liver, and stomach ailments, alleviate toothaches, treat hypothyroidism. It’s also said to function as an aphrodisiac (though I’m convinced humans pin that quality on any animal or animal part that seems unfit for consumption).
The jumiles can be eaten alive or cooked—mixed with salsa or guacamole, or made into a taco. They’re typically only found (as a food) in Guerrero and parts of Morelos, and only in the dry season (November - February).
Noel included salsa de jumil in his list of recipes for the cookbook, but as far as I know they’re not sold in the US (or anywhere else outside of Mexico). When I googled “ buy stinkbugs” I only came across products, services, and suggestions for exterminating them. Apparently, they’re in abundance up north, but whether or not they’re the edible kind remains unclear. I don’t recommend capturing them and giving it a try, as there are some species that are more foul tasting, and for all we know, there could be noxious varieties as well. But if any of our readers are entomologists by trade, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!
Many other highly nutritious insects are consumed in Mexico—I’ll be writing about a few of them in the coming weeks. Insects are said to be the protein of the future, and in all honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a more sustainable source! I, for one, would be up for diversifying my protein intake. How many of you would be willing to give it a go?