The Cicadas Are Coming!

After 17-Year Hiatus, Critters Set to Emerge on a Grand Scale

A cicada nymph

hide captionA cicada nymph encountered during Melissa Block's hunt for the insects in suburban Maryland.

Nathan Santamaria, NPR
A cicada emerging

hide captionA cicada emerging

Gaye Williams, Maryland Dept. of Agriculture
An adult cicada on a leaf

hide captionAn adult cicada perched on a leaf

Gaye Williams, Maryland Dept. of Agriculture

Cicada Sounds

Three species of cicada emerge every 17 years. Each has distinctive morphology (shape and color), behavior and calling signals. Listen to the chorus calls of each:

Listen 'Magicicada septendecim'

Listen 'Magicicada cassini'

Listen 'Magicicada septendecula' (mixed with cassini)

Courtesy University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Willie, the first known Brood X adult cicada

hide captionThe group set to emerge in 2004 after a 17-year hiatus is known as Brood X. On April 20, Willie, above, became the first known Brood X member to emerge as an adult winged cicada. Willie was helped along by University of Maryland researchers.

University of Maryland

Residents of Washington, D.C., and 15 states — from Georgia to Michigan to New York — are awaiting a massive, boisterous grand entrance. A group of cicadas that only emerges once every 17 years is making its way out of the ground — by the billions, at least. NPR's Melissa Block headed out to suburban Maryland for a cicada preview. Below, find recipes for critters that will soon be too numerous to ignore.

Cicada Recipes, Courtesy of Jenna Jadin, University of Maryland

*Disclaimer: the University of Maryland does not advocate eating cicadas without first consulting with your doctor. While many people do eat cicadas, there is no guarantee that they are safe for every person to eat. As with all foods, it is possible that certain individuals will have allergic reactions to substances within the cicada.

Before You Begin

Who to Cook: Newly hatched cicadas, called tenerals, are considered best for eating because their shells have not hardened. It is best to collect these in the very early hours of the morning, just after they have emerged but before they have time to climb up out reach. The best way to do this is to simply go outside with a brown paper bag and start scooping them in. You can cook with them immediately, or refrigerate them (they will remain alive but will mature much more slowly) or freeze them.

Keep in mind that freezing will work best for those that you are going to roast, as the consistency of the cicada may change and make them inappropriate for dishes that call for fresh cicadas. If you are unable to get any tenerals, then mature females are the next best thing. Adult males have very hollow abdomens and will not be much of a mouthful, but the females are filled with fat. Just be sure to remove all the hard parts, such as wings and legs, before you use the adults. These parts will not harm you, but they are also not very tasty.

Soft-Shelled Cicadas

Ingredients:

1 cup Worcestershire sauce

60 freshly emerged 17-year cicadas

4 eggs, beaten

3 cups flour

Salt and pepper to season the flour

1 cup corn oil or slightly salted butter

Directions:

Marinate cicadas alive in a sealed container in Worcestershire sauce for several hours. (Note: You can skip this step and go directly to the egg step instead.)

Dip them in the beaten egg, roll them in the seasoned flour and then gently sauté until they are golden brown.

Yield:

4 main dish servings

El Chirper Tacos

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter or peanut oil

1/2 pound newly emerged cicadas

2 serrano chilies, raw, finely chopped

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground pepper or to taste

1/2 tsp cumin

3 tsp taco seasoning mix

1 handful cilantro, chopped

Taco shells, to serve

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce

Directions

1. Heat the butter or oil in a frying pan and fry the cicadas for 10 minuts, or until cooked through.

2. Remove from pan and roughly chop into 1/4-inch cubes/ Place back in pan.

3. Add the chopped onions, chilies and tomato, season with salt, and fry for another 5 minutes on medium-low heat.

4. Sprinkle with ground pepper, cumin and oregano to taste.

5. Serve in taco shells and garnish with cilantro, sour cream, lettuce and cheddar cheese.

Cicada Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup fresh cicadas, washed and any hard parts removed

1 1/3 cups white sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine sugar and flour. Sprinkle one-fourth of it over pastry in pie plate. Heap rhubarb over this mixture. Sprinkle cicadas in amongst the rhubarb. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and flour. Dot with small pieces of butter. Cover with top crust.

3. Place pie on lowest rack in oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for 40 to 45 minutes.

Yield:

Makes 1 pie (8 servings)

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