Be the First on Your Block to Try – LOCUSTS??

From the online newsletter Israelinsider:

Israel is bracing for a possible invasion of biblical proportions: a swarm of voracious vegetarians. The Agriculture Ministry is on “locust alert” after sightings of the ravenous arthropods were spotted along the Mediterranean coast [earlier this month], especially south of Tel Aviv around
Palmahim beach. Ministry experts visited there to assess the gravity of the situation and to plot a course of action.

Agricultural experts have been keeping a close eye on swarms of desert locusts, of the species Schistocerca gregaria, currently eating their way across northern Africa and already worrying Cyprus, where authorities have mobilized airplanes to battle the hungry hoppers with pesticide. Israel is prepared to do the same.

However, Chief Entomologist and head of the Department for Protection of Plants Service at the Agriculture Ministry, Zvi Klein, said the desert locust swarms ravaging Morocco are unlikely to reach Israel. “If there are no drastic changes we are not in danger,” Klein said.

Locust swarms, which can range in size from one square kilometer to 100 square kilometers, are spread by the wind. With up to 3,000 locusts per cubic meter, swarms can comprise tens of millions of insects which consume vast amounts of food. Each locust can eat two grams of food per day, and experts reckon that every million locusts gobble as much food as 5,000 people in one day. They are known to eat their own weight each day.

“Locusts eat just about anything that grows; anything green,” Klein said. They are known to strip every shred of vegetation from areas where they invade.

The last locust plague to hit Israel was in 1959, followed by a smaller incident in 1961. Of course, Israelis also recall the plague of locusts afflicted the Egyptians prior to the Exodus, as commemorated each year in the Passover Seder.

A Jewish delicacy? But locust consumption is a two way street. It turns out that locust are not only rich in protein, they are also kosher — at least some of them.

The Torah, in Parshat Shmini, has this to say about eating insects, according to the Orthodox Union:

“Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs that you may eat are those which have knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground. Among these you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family.”

Those in the region appear to be of the red or pink variety, and therefore Israelis are posting and publishing recipes.

However, there is a catch: you need to be part of a group with a tradition of locust consumption. The Halachah — Jewish ritual law — regarding locusts is that one is allowed to eat a specific type of locust only if there is a “continuous tradition” that affirms that it is Kosher. It is not enough that the locust seems to conform to the criteria mentioned in the Torah. This does not mean that one must possess a ‘personal tradition’ in order to eat locusts. If one travels to a place where the people do have a tradition, the new arrival would also be allowed to eat them.

Interestingly, the author of the Arichat Hashulchan points out that locusts were never really considered a ‘delicacy’ — rather they were generally food for the impoverished.

Happily, locusts do not require ritual slaughter. You need not buy them at the butcher shop. The preferred way to eat locusts, it turns out, is the old-fashioned way, like the Egyptians did it: to pickle them, as the Jewish oral tradition in Midrash Rabba recalls: “Once the locusts came, the Egyptians rejoiced and said ‘Let us gather them and fill our barrels with them.’ The Holy One Blessed Be He said: ‘Wicked people, with the plague that I have brought against you, are you going to rejoice?!’ Immediately G-d brought upon them a western wind…and none were left. What does it mean that none were left? Even those that were pickled with salt and sitting in their pots and barrels were blown away….” However, the Israeli daily Maariv recommended frying as the preferred means of locust preparation, and provided a recipe for a low-fat, high-protein, albeit somewhat salty snack. Locust wings, legs, and torsos are reportedly delicious, and a healthy diet.


Posted on November 17, 2004 at 6:21 am by dwenger · Permalink
In: General Topics, Uncategorized

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