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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University, will prepare and eat cicadas Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

NorthJersey.com

The invitation came by email.

Montclair State University invited me to lunch. On the menu: cicadas.

Cicadas?

It turns out that Cortni Borgerson, assistant professor of anthropology at the university, has been marinating, sautéing, coating, boiling, rolling, and slicing beetles since starting her PhD in Madagascar 15 years ago. There she feasted on Sakondry, also known as the bacon beetle, a nutritious (high protein) alternative that she and her colleagues hope to replace the consumption of the endangered lemurs in the island nation.

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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University, prepares and eats cicadas Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Borgerson cuts a “sushi roll” with grilled cicadas.
(Photo: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com)

Now in New Jersey, living in Montclair, she teaches and studies all about sustainable food sources, environmental health, and nutrition – which apparently means insects.

Insects are, according to Borgerson, “twice as rich in protein as beef,” and unlike cattle, lamb and pigs, they have no negative impact on the environment. And because it’s finally cicada season in the northeast, Borgerson eats and serves the three-inch-long, red-eyed beetle to friends, family, and now – because I’m the food editor of The Record and northjersey.com – me.

No doubt you’ve heard the Brood-X cicadas appear in New Jersey after living underground for 17 years.

“It’s the largest recurring cicada in the world,” said Borgerson, a 36-year-old mother of two. “And Northeast America is especially blessed.”

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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Montclair State University, prepares and eats cicadas on Tuesday June 1, 2021. “Sushi” with grilled cicadas in the pan.
(Photo: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com)

In New Jersey, Brood-X cicadas have been sighted in Princeton, including South Jersey; Borgerson said that the insects are due to the use of pesticides, the large number of trees felled (trees are the bread and butter of cicadas) and the great development of the area (excavation through concrete is impossible).

More coverage: Is it a cicada year in New Jersey? Brood X appears

So Borgerson went foraging at Princeton, where the cicadas are busy shedding their skins, unfolding their wings, hardening their new skin, and looking for a mate (that deafening sound they make is the males’ mating call; they die shortly afterwards). There she harvested cicadas for our food, plucked them from trees and carefully tossed them into plastic containers. She looked for cicadas in the teneral stage, that is, immediately after they had assumed their adult form and were still pale white. Tenerife cicadas, she said, are the most delicious. (However, seafood allergy sufferers should not eat it.)

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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University, will prepare and eat cicadas Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
(Photo: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com)

Back home, she quickly froze them.

“They’ll last two weeks in the freezer,” she said. “You shouldn’t leave them out – they spoil like leaving lobsters on the counter.”

Eating cicadas is healthy and has benefits

She hopes that in the future, eating bugs will be normal for us. It is common to more than 2 billion people around the world (ants in China, grasshoppers in Mexico, bee larvae in Vietnam, beetles in the Amazon, crickets in Cambodia and Thailand).

Insects, she said, are nutritious (cicadas are low in calories, high in iron and protein, for example), sustainable (they don’t harm the environment and eat little), and a great way for us to feel connected to Mother Nature.

“We’re going to see a big boom in insect eating in the near future,” predicted Borgerson, comparing his potential rise to that of plant-based burgers. “It’s coming,” she said. “When I find bugs in the refrigerated section of my supermarket, I know we made it.”

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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Montclair State University, prepares and eats cicadas on Tuesday June 1, 2021. “Sushi” with grilled cicadas in the pan.
(Photo: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com)

How to prepare cicadas to eat

Borgerson prepared most of our meals at home before we met in a campus kitchen. In a long summer dress, she unloaded bags of avocados, cream cheese, sushi rice, nori, sriracha and cooked cicadas. We wanted to have sushi for lunch – cicada sushi. But no, we wouldn’t eat the cicadas raw, assured Borgerson.

She opened two stainless steel containers and revealed a pile of small cooked bugs lying on paper towels. One contained cicadas that were quickly fried after marinating in gluten-free tamari, lime juice, and a few drops of sriracha (“I love it hot,” she said). The other contained cicadas that had been cooked quickly as if in shallow water.

Did I want to lock the door? Have I got a little squeamish?

No way. I couldn’t wait to put one in my mouth.

So i did.

And?

How do cicadas taste?

Yum! The little beetles are surprisingly meaty, wonderfully crispy, a bit nutty and delicious all round. Some say they taste like shrimp, others like asparagus. Thank goodness nobody says they taste like chicken. I popped a few more.

Borgerson made some maki rolls for us with cicadas cooked in both directions, as well as avocado and cream cheese. If only she brought some sake.

I left happy, fed up, wondering if I should take time to go to Princeton this weekend. Some of us do pretty much anything to have a delicious, nutritious – and, when I think about it, free – lunch.

Get a fork and knife – cicada recipes for you

Here are three recipes courtesy of Cortni Borgerson of Montclair State University

Tempura cicadas

Singing sushi

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Dr. Cortni Borgerson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Montclair State University, prepares and eats cicadas on Tuesday June 1, 2021. “Sushi” with grilled cicadas in the pan.
(Photo: Michael Karas / NorthJersey.com)

heat Frying oil.

Spread thinly Spread the sushi rice evenly on the nori sheet.

Set up tempura Cicada, avocado and cream cheese on the underside of the leaf. Roll the sushi tight.

Immerse the role Pour into the tempura batter and fry until golden brown.

Set the role smear on a paper towel or cloth until cool enough to cut.

Plate and drizzle with Sriracha cream sauce.

Serve warm.

Flaming cicada fondue

1 shot of rum

Heat the chocolate in a water bath while stirring and slowly adding small amounts of water or milk until a nice melting consistency is achieved, which is ideal for dipping.

For in a fondue pot and surrounded with bowls of fruits and cicadas.

Pour the rum over it and light it with a long match / lighter.

Once the fire burns out, dive into the cicadas and fruits.

Serves: 4th

Share cool cicada Facts and enjoy the epic end to your science and family evening.

Esther Davidowitz is the Food Editor for NorthJersey.com. To learn more about where to eat and drink, subscribe today and subscribe to our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

Email: davidowitz@northjersey.com

Twitter: @estherdavido

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