Insects, snakes and lizards could be the secret to cure a global food crisis, as available land and water resources shrink, and climate-change takes effect.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is encouraging eating insects where malnutrition and starvation occurring and to help combat obesity. In South America and east Asia, where people have eaten insects for millennia, the news has been warmly welcomed. But in the West, cooking with insects is still far from accepted: despite some chefs' attempts to change people's minds.
Tarantula on a stick anyone?
Maguey worm taco isn't a dish that's not for everybody, certainly not for those afraid of bugs. But one small Mexico City restaurant called Restaurant La Cocinita de San Juan is sure to give gastronomic daredevils a new food challenge: tacos with insect toppings.
In Mexico maguey worms are served deep-fried or braised, and served in a tortilla, seasoned with salt, lime, and a spicy sauce. A 100g serving of the worms contains more than 650 calories: more than twice as many calories as an equivalent piece of steak, or one and half Starbucks blueberry muffins.
Keiko Chavers, chairperson of the company DuKo Student, tastes a chocolate cupcake made of mealworms and topped with a locust at the cookery school at the University of Wageningen. Two of Arnold van Huis and Marcel Dicke, of the university, and cooking instructor Henk van Gurp have created the Insect Cookbook, which is available in English.
Arnold van Huis of the Netherlands, Professor of Tropical Entomology at Wageningen University, tastes a stir fried dish made of vegetables, mealworms and locusts at the University of Wageningen. Mealworms have a nutty flavour, while locusts are said to taste somewhere between chicken, sunflower seeds and prawns.
A person uses a mobile phone to take photos of whole cooked alligators at the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The club, which promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space, featured catering by chef and exotic creator Gene Rurka. Chef Rurka prepared a variety of dishes featuring an array of insects, wildlife, animal body parts and invasive species.
Cooked tarantulas on skewers are seen at the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The spiders, seasoned with salt and garlic, have been a popular snack food in Cambodia since the 1990s. It's rumoured that Cambodians started eating spiders to avoid starvation during the Khmer Rouge era.
A scorpion sits on a cupcake in the kitchen before the 110th Explorers Club Annual Dinner. Scorpions are a delicacy in some parts of China, where they are fried, roasted or grilled on sticks, or just eaten alive. The scorpions' legs do have the unfortunate habit of continuing to move, once the arachnid is dead and skewered.
A man holds up a pack of macaroons containing dehydrated insects, made by
Micronutris plant in Saint Orens de Gameville, France. According to Micronutris, the company is the only firm in Europe that raises insects for human consumption. Regis Duvignau/Reuters
A man holds a pack of sables - shortbread biscuits - made with insects. One of Micronutris's products is a flour-like powder made from ground insects for use in baking. The company also sells living and dehydrated bugs.
A man eats a part of an Uromastyx lizard, also known as a dabb lizard, in a desert near Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. The lizards, which are considered a delicacy in some parts of the Middle East, are caught in the spring season using hooks and sniffer dogs as well as bare hands. The lizards can be grilled or eaten raw, and according to popular belief, their blood is used to strengthen the body and treat diseases.
Mohamed Al Hwaity/Reuters
Two snakes are seen inside their compartment in wooden cupboards labelled 'Poisonous Snakes', at a snake soup store in Hong Kong. There are scores of people in Hong Kong who tame snakes to make soup out of them. But the industry is at risk, because with young people are reluctant to take on the job, which is seen as hard and dirty work.
A bowl of snake meat soup served at a snake soup shop in Hong Kong. The soup is a traditional cuisine believed to be good for the health, as it is said to speed up the body's blood flow and keep it strong in the cold winter month.
A woman poses with a locust on her tongue at a discovery lunch in Brussels. Organisers of the event, which included cookery classes, want to draw attention to insects as a source of nutrition.
A cobra embryo is displayed at a snake farm before the Spring Festival in Tainan, Taiwan. According to the snake farm's owner, Huang Kuo-nan, eating cobra eggs with the embryo is good for your health.
Mealworm quiches are seen at the Rijn IJssel school for chefs in Wageningen. Dutch scientist Arnold van Huis says that eating insects will help the health of the environment and people.
A chef prepares a cobra meat burger at a Chinese restaurant in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Snake hunters catch about 1,000 cobras from Yogyakarta, Central Java and East Java provinces each week to harvest their meat for burgers, which are priced at 10,000 rupiah (50p, 80 US cents, 65 euro cents) each, as well as satay and other dishes. Some customers said they believe cobra meat can cure skin diseases and asthma, and increase sexual virility.
A boy displays boiled rats for sale on the main highway in Malawi's capital Lilongwe.
A dish in an ant sauce in the restaurant Color de Hormiga in Barichara, Colombia. Every year during the April to June season thousands of Colombian farmers and inhabitants of Santander province collect a species of large leafcutter ants as part of a traditional ritual in the region. The ants are cooked and sold as exotic, specialized food.
Jose Miguel Gomez/Reuters
A boy from New York's Public School 7 from the Bronx, New York, US, holds an hors d'oeuvre prepared with an insect, before eating it at New York's Museum of Natural History. Noted chefs were preparing dishes for schoolchildren with insects as part of a program that highlights cultures around the world through their cuisine.
Mike Segar MS/Reuters