Eat your stinkbugs

Species found in southern Africa serves as nutritious snack


YUM! BUGS!  Before Encosternum delegorguei stinkbugs are cooked, their defensive stench is washed away. The bugs can become contaminated, however, with a fungus toxin when kept in reusable grain bags (left); clean ziplock bags are better.

R. Musundire et al/PLOS ONE 2016

One continent’s nuisance is another’s nutrition.

In parts of rural Zimbabwe and South Africa, the stinkbug Encosternum delegorguei is shaken out of trees, braised with salt and eaten as a spicy delicacy. With their defensive stink glands removed, the insects pack a high-protein punch, according to a study published January 5 in PLOS One.

Chemical analyses of ground, freeze-dried stinkbugs revealed the insects have lots of protein and nine essential amino acids. The stinkbugs also contain cholesterol-lowering fatty acids and several antioxidants that come from a flowering plant that the bugs eat.

E. delegorguei is a good protein supplement to the kind of grain-based diets that are common in developing countries, the researchers conclude. As with most edibles, however, proper food safety is important. Stinkbugs that are collected in traditional wooden baskets or in grain bags pick up low levels of a cancer-causing fungus toxin. Storing the bugs in clean ziplock bags keeps the snack toxin-free, the researchers found. 

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