As I explore insect foods this summer, one of the things I’m discovering is the sheer number of start-up companies entering the market. There are dozens, many of them run by enthusiasts who have understood the environmental and nutritional benefits of eating insects, and really want to communicate that to others. It’s a vibrant field, full of bold ideas. It’s easy to get involved too, as there’s a lot of crowdfunding going on.
Most of these start-ups have just one or two products. Energy or protein bars are the most common starting point, with several varieties available in Britain right now. Some have been on the market and then disappeared again, suggesting that there’s a fairly high failure rate. Eating insects will be normal one day, but at the moment it’s pretty radical. Some of the businesses have come in too early and haven’t found a market for their products. Others appear to have had supply chain problems, and products are always sold out. And others are carving out a niche for themselves.
One such company is Jimini’s, the first insect start-up in France. They source their insects from the EU, and put a lot of effort into advocating and encouraging insect-eating. They’re cultivating a fun and inspiring brand, with the tagline ‘think bigger, eat smaller’. They were kind enough to send me some pasta. I’ve already tried cricket pasta, so this one is buffalo worm pasta.
Buffalo worms are the larvae of darkling beetles, and they’re a common food. Of around 2,000 different edible insects eaten around the world, over 30% of them are from the beetle family and most of them are eaten at the larvae stage. You may have encountered something similar when feeding mealworms to birds. You can get them freeze-dried and whole, but here they have been ground up and added to durum wheat flour and eggs to make a nutritious and protein-rich pasta.
Since the family got on just fine with the cricket pasta, I go ahead and cook Jimini’s pasta for everybody. It comes in a yellow box with a window, and it’s rougher than normal pasta. Almost spiky. It gives off little crumbs of starch as it boils and the water goes murkier as it cooks, but it smells and looks good. It tastes good too. Actually, where the cricket pasta had a certain je ne sais quoi, this is pretty much indistinguishable from a standard whole wheat conchiglie. There is some muttering from the lady of the house, whose patience with my experiment is beginning to wear. Nevertheless, plates are once again cleared.
You can buy Jimini’s pasta, energy bars and snacking insects online in Britain and Europe.