Insects have great potential to serve as a sustainable food source owing to their notable nutritional value, high feed conversion rate, and low environmental footprint. The sharing of well-established recipes in cultures where insect consumption is normalized can facilitate new product development among cultures where consumption is resisted. In the current investigation, we traveled to both rural and urban areas of Oaxaca, Mexico and studied the collection, processing, retailing, and eating practices of edible insects such as chapulines [Sphenarium purpurascens Charpentier (Pyrgomorphidae, Orthoptera) and Melanoplus mexicanus (Saussure) (Acrididae, Orthoptera)], chicatanas [Atta mexicana (F. Smith) (Formicidae, Hymenoptera)], maguey worms [Comadia redtenbacheri (Hammerschmidt) (Cossidae, Lepidoptera)], and cochineal [Dactylopius coccus Costa (Dactylopiidae, Hemiptera)]. In rural communities where access to other animal-based foods has been limited, insects provided important nutritional value that today also translates into important economic value. Community members know the habits of the insects and are skilled at collecting them using sophisticated techniques. After collection, the insects are often toasted with or without seasonings for flavor and preservation. The processed insects are readily available in urban markets, and their importance in Oaxacan cuisine cannot be overestimated. Chapulines, chicatanas, and maguey worms are key ingredients in many spice mixes, salsas, and mole sauces. Cochineal is used as a food colorant. These insects are also found in a variety of foods, both sweet and savory, including omelets, tamales, quesadillas, chocolate truffles, and sorbets. As evidenced by the culinary uses of insects in Oaxaca, there is substantial potential for edible insects to become a delicacy in Western cultures.
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