Yummy. The on-line feeder blog, The Daily Meal, has a provocative article this month: Beekeeping Out; Locust-Keeping In. The short article extols the virtues of chewy bugs as alternative food sources for desperate folks in Saharan Africa. It does not explain how raising grasshoppers supplants keeping bees. Instead of mutually exclusive, there could be some synthesis here. In the fall, one might feed old drones to the locusts – ground up and treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, of course.
The Daily Meal’s story arises from something America’s National Public Radio recently broadcast regarding some enterprising young folks who are developing a “Locust-growing Kit” suitable for distribution to refugees in Africa. The NPR story explains environmentally friendly insects-as-food cuisine, saying, in part: “…grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles are four times more efficient at converting grasses into protein-packed meat than cattle. Insects generate less greenhouse gases than cows, eat just about anything and survive in dry, inhospitable environments.” The developers of this food kit are industrious industrial engineering students at L’Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique in France. If people don’t immediately eat the kit’s produce, they can probably at least introduce the hoppers to colonize new areas, where the bugs might later be harvested in huge amounts using butterfly nets.
But I can not write about locusts in a beekeeping blog without mentioning my favourite Bible character, John the Baptist. The eminently readable New Living Bible version tells us: “John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.” Readers of this blog know that I’m a spiritual person, but not religious – which means I’m not much different from about ninety per cent of the people I know. But I occasionally read blogs and websites written by apparently religious folks. One such blog belongs to a British group, Inspire Church, which has a warm welcoming atmosphere on their website and especially in their decidedly unsanctimonious blog, which is worth a look and see. Along with the picture of a box of cereal, right, which they have graciously permitted me to pilfer, I need to give extra credit to the graphic artist who designed it – Mike Costanzo. Inspire Church tells us in an adjacent blog entry: “Jesus message to the fishermen was very simple – no ethical injunctions, no doctrines to sign up to, not even a call for repentance – just “Follow Me”. We try to be as inclusive as this at Inspire Church so whatever you believe – and even if you don’t! – why not come along to find out more. 10am. Sunday. Inspire Centre. Everybody’s Welcome Here!” If I were a joiner sort of person rather than an outcast, and if Levenshulme, England, weren’t so darn flip-side of the world from Calgary, I would want to meet these folks who are a “…lively bunch, made up of people from all walks of life: young, old, single, married, black, white, gay, straight.”
As for John the Baptist. What’s not endearing about a hermit who smells like a wet camel and has grasshopper legs stuck in his teeth? But before we cast a too admiring net, we should give some space to the fact that many nay-sayers are suggesting that John’s locusts were actually carob beans – which are also known as Saint John’s Bread. Carob is a substitute for chocolate (if anyone should wish to make that mistake) and is a high-protein bean found in abundance on tall carob trees in Palestine. These would have fed the prophet, though less romantically than crispy six-legged creatures. (By the way, Leviticus (11:22-32) allows locust-eating. Four varieties of locust are listed in the Torah as kosher.)
I’d like to end this bee blog entry by swinging back to the locusts and wild honey theme. Years ago, in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, I made a great honey-carob candy that sold in a few health-food stores. I bought fifty-pound cases of powdered carob, heated it while mixing in warm honey. (Seeds and/or nuts could be added at this stage.) The mix was poured on to a marble cooling slab where it was spread out into a thin layer. After an hour, we sliced it into bite-sized pieces and boxed it up. That was truly yummy way to enjoy locusts and honey!