Cicadas are popping up by the billions in the eastern United States this season and then finding their way to the dining tables of adventurous foodies.
However, people with a seafood allergy should avoid the crispy insect that is related to crustaceans, federal health officials warned on Wednesday.
The advice of the Food and Drug Administration comes as the current group of cicadas known as Brood X emerge from the ground in their regular 17-year cycle. The shrimp-sized, pearl-eyed beetles with almost translucent wings are being prepared in a variety of ways this year by professional chefs and at home.
Some prefer them fried and others like them in their Caesar salad. Bun Lai, the head chef at a sustainable sushi restaurant in Connecticut, will present them in a fine dining experience on his farm. And Frank’s RedHot, the 100-year-old hot sauce brand, has released a number of cicada recipes including: caramel cada corn, chili lime cada tacos, and a cicada “parm” slider.
Cicadas that do not bite or sting and are not venomous are also eaten by predators such as birds and small mammals. According to National Geographic, they’re gluten-free, high in protein, low in fat, and low in carbohydrates.
But insects and crustaceans belong to the arthropod family. And, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the potential allergenic risks associated with edible insects need further investigation.
People with existing allergies to crustaceans may develop allergic reactions to edible insects that contain similar proteins, the report said.
The cicadas, whose numbers could reach tens of billions, are said to appear in about 18 states for about six weeks. The Washington, DC, Indiana area and around Knoxville, Tennessee are the three epicentres of the Brood-X cicada across the country.
While cicadas are generally not harmful to humans, the sharp hum they make when looking for mates can be annoying.
The opportunity to enjoy cicada dishes won’t last forever. Once the insects have mated and their eggs hatched, the developing cicadas known as nymphs begin their 17-year cycle and feed underground.
The next opportunity to feast on fresh Brood-X cicadas will be in 2038.