My first exposure to edible crickets was innocent enough. We took our son to a local natural history museum for their bug festival, and one of their guest speakers had written several cookbooks about edible crickets and how eating bugs for protein was a great low-impact way to supplement your diet. My husband, being the most adventurous of us, sampled a small cup of insect stir fry that included crickets, black ants, bell peppers, corn, and onions. (My son and I decided to stick with the hummus and vegetable sandwiches for lunch.)
My husband’s fascination with edible crickets and insects finally hit home when he decided to find out how he could start raising these critters at home for human consumption. While we might own a big flock of backyard chickens, we don’t have any other pets that would eagerly consume bugs. We’ve already learned how to raise red worms as treats for our birds and how to compost at home with worms. What can chickens eat as a treat? Big, juicy crickets and superworms certainly top the list, but I had no intention of including these insects in my own diet.
After doing a lot of research, my husband came up with a plan to set up an insect farm in our house. It was a lot easier than we thought it would be, and now we’ve got a steady supply of edible crickets and superworms for my husband – and our chickens.
How to Raise Edible Crickets: Where Do You Get Crickets?
The first thing you need to raise edible crickets is – crickets. But you can’t just go out and harvest crickets from your backyard. For starters, removing large numbers of insects from the local ecosystem is never a good idea. In addition, you never know what kinds of pesticides or chemicals those insects have come in contact with before you bring them home. So when you’re getting started raising edible crickets, it’s always best to start with crickets from a trusted source.
In this case, we decided to hit up the local pet store. Crickets that are intended as food for lizards and other animals are generally safe for humans to grow and consume because they are not treated with any chemicals or other substances that would be harmful. You can also research some reputable insect farms and place an order for your first batch of crickets.
Setting Up a Home for Your Edible Crickets
Once you have your crickets, it’s time to set up a home for them. They’ll need light, warmth, food, and proper ventilation to grow. The easiest way we found to set up a cricket farm was to get a large plastic storage tub from the local dollar store. We left the lid off the tub to make sure the insects would get proper ventilation, and the smooth sides of the deep plastic tub ensured that the crickets wouldn’t escape and reproduce all over the house.
Because we live in a cold, northern climate, making sure that we had adequate heat for the insects was important, too. We chose a warm place in the house near the wood stove where they would get plenty of indirect sunlight – if the temperature in the house isn’t warm enough, they won’t reproduce. Another option would be to set up a large terrarium with a hinged lid, but the plastic tub was economical and easy for us. Keeping the room temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for a successful venture raising edible crickets.
We needed a good substrate for the edible crickets, so we chose to use some old egg cartons – something that we always have a healthy supply of around our house. We also included a small container of potting soil for the crickets where they could lay their eggs. Spray down the substrate every day with a small amount of water to keep the humidity level up.
What Do You Feed Crickets?
The $64,000 question – what do you feed these critters? We decided to give them a diet of carrots and oats, replenished on a daily basis to keep the food fresh. Remember that you’re going to eventually be consuming these insects, so you want to avoid feeding them highly processed pet foods like fish food flakes, or finely ground dry cat and dog food. Feed your edible crickets the same healthy foods that you would feed any other animal intended for human consumption like leafy greens, carrots, oatmeal, or organic vegetable scraps.
Harvesting Your Edible Crickets
The best time to harvest your crickets is while they still have no wings. Being a wee bit squeamish about harvesting, I let my husband do the dirty work: he gathered a handful of insects into a plastic grocery bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours. After the edible crickets have frozen, you can rinse them off to remove any dirt and cook them up!
What do crickets taste like? Well, once you’ve roasted your crickets, you can grind them up in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle and include them in your favorite recipes for added protein, or season them using your favorite spices and eat them whole. My husband took his favorite paleo recipe for energy balls using dates and cocoa nibs and included a handful of ground crickets. I can honestly say that I didn’t even taste the cricket powder in them, so maybe eating crickets isn’t so bad for this vegetarian, after all!
How to Roast Crickets in the Oven
Take a lightly oiled baking sheet or glass baking dish and spread out the crickets in one layer, leaving a little space between each insect. Bake them at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, stirring them about every five minutes. You can season them while baking with your favorite salts and spices, or let them cool and season them before eating. Store them in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for six months.
Are edible crickets part of your diet? Let us know your favorite ways to enjoy them.