I think locusts are a really exciting edible insect.
Type 'locusts food security' into Google and you'll see lots of hits that give examples of locust swarms destroying crops and threatening food availability in some of the most food-insecure regions of the world. The FAO has even developed technology to monitor locust swarms, making them easier to combat. Yet the common locust is also one of the most popular edible insects, and its large swarms make it fairly easy to collect.
What does this mean for farmers who combat their locust invasion by harvesting them and using them for food or additional income? Is there still a net loss, and if so, what does it take (efficient harvesting methods? higher prices? fairer commodity chains?) to convert that into a net gain? These are crucial questions that could help reduce the devastating impacts of locust crop pests.
Locusts can also be farmed, though they're reportedly picky and will only eat fresh leaves, according to colleagues of mine who breed them in Japan. Perhaps they're a bit like the caterpillars we're working with at the moment!
Anyway. Enter Kahit Hien of FasoPro:
Locusts are a popular snack in Burkina Faso, and they're usually imported from Niger or Nigeria.
So, he showed me how to cook them! He tipped a bag of dried locusts into a pan over an open flame, and added a small amount of oil, stirring them periodically. After about 7 minutes, a delicious savoury smell rose from the pan, and he declared them ready.
They were delicious! I've had dried locusts many times, and they often lack any real flavour. But these, perhaps because they were freshly collected, and then freshly re-cooked, were really tasty. We put them into sealed packets so that I can take them back to Cambridge with me - I'm really looking forward to taking them in to the office when I go back next week, and seeing what my fellow researchers think of them :)