I started a farm this week. No, not a beef or dairy farm, not a pig farm, or a chicken farm. I started a WORM farm! It's not a compost worm farm either, it's a mealworm farm... to add worms to my meals! Or snacks at least.
Ok, I know some of you are probably grossed out, but hear me out on this. They're REALLY good! "Yeah, but they're BUGS!" Now, I could go into the whole "do you know how many bugs are in your food already?" spiel, but I'll spare you. Some people, no matter how much you try to convince them, will never, ever, ever eat a bug. Some might... if they're dipped in chocolate. Everything tastes better covered in chocolate. This post, however, is geared towards the more adventurous foodies among us. No chocolate covered wormies here. You know me. I like food to be what it is naturally, and let's face it- worms are worms. Excpet in the case of mealworms, when they're caterpillars.
Anybody can have a mealworm farm. Unlike cows, or even chickens, even those of us who live in apartments can keep a good size farm running. It pretty much takes care of itself, with the exception of changing out the fresh veggies every day or two. Of course it seems easy now, since I'm just starting. We'll see what snags I run into as they morph into beetles. I'm not a big fan of beetles, and I admit I find them a little creepy. Worms are easy to control. Beetles run about.
I started my farm by purchasing 1000 mealworms from my local pet store. You don't want to eat these. They've been munching on saw dust or cardboard, and you don't want to eat that. Even if you don't plan on farming generations of mealworms, and only want to buy some to try, you'll still want to set up a suitable habitat with quality food for at least a few days. In that case, you can probably skip the multiple bins, the brewer's yeast and the wheat germ, and just put them in a container with oats for a few days.
Mealworms in hand, I started setting up my farm. I picked up 3 plastic tubs from the dollar store. The wormies will go in one. One will be used for the pupa stage, and one will be used for the adult beetles. I lined the bottom of the worm tub with about an inch of food, which is a mixture of 10 parts oatmeal (not instant,) 1 part wheat germ, and 1 part brewers yeast. It took some time but I separated all the mealworms from their sawdust and put them happily into their yummy new home. To that I added 3 pieces of carrot to the dish. You can use any hard veggies such as carrot, sweet potato, white potato, cabbage, etc. This will be how your wormies get water. They seem to really like carrots.
Also I will have to be sure to keep them no warmer than 85 degrees. From what I've read this can cause developmental problems. I hadn't planned on air conditioning my apartment this year, so I will have to find a cool-ish place to keep them should we end up with a hot, hot summer.
There will be more farming tips and updates as this little project progresses, and as I learn by trial and error. Hopefully not very much error. I did decide to go ahead and sample my mealworms already, picking out about 150 of the biggest wormies. 150 mealworms is approximately 1 ounce in weight. Nutritionally, 1 ounce is about 135 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs and 7 grams of protein, from what I've been able to gather from the net and calculate. I rounded to the high side. Please correct my numbers if I'm wrong!
After harvesting my 1 ounce of mealworms I had to freeze them for a few hours. I actually let them freeze over night to make sure they were dead. I simply sauted them up with a bit of butter. That's when I learned you should heat them SLOWLY or they pop like popcorn, and jump out of your pan! Slow and steady wins the race... or cooks the mealworms, in this case. They didn't all pop. Just a few. I reduced the heat and let them cook up. I tried one and they were a bit nutty and crunchy. They have a very light texture, so there's not a lot of chew. Then I decided to play with flavor really quickly with what I had on hand.
1 ounce (150) mealworms
1 teaspoon of butter
1 teaspoons sweetener (I used erythritol)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
a sprinkle of salt to taste
Start by cooking your mealworms slowly in a small pan with butter, until they start to heat through, then add your sweetener, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add salt to taste. I like a salty/sweet combination so I added a bit more than you might like. Just let the wormies cook up until everything is melted happily together. What you choose to do with them from this point is up to you.
I've decided my wormies will make a fine topping for snacks and desserts, at least until I have enough to eat them in large quantities. Keep watch, there WILL be more worm recipes in the future. I have a few ideas in mind already.
Have you ever eaten mealworms? How were they prepared? If you haven't, would you consider eating bugs? I would love to hear people's opinions and reactions. Let me know what you think!