A Cricket a Day…

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“It’s fun to see kids try to eat crickets. At first, it’s a challenge, an adventure. But the next thing you know, they’re fighting over the bag.”

STORY BY MATTIE JOHN BAMMAN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CRICKET FLOUR

Would you eat a cricket? Or maybe the better question is: Why wouldn’t you eat a cricket? Roughly 80% of the world already eats insects, from grasshoppers to centipedes. Scientific studies show that crickets are highly nutritious, able to compete with mainstream meats in supplying protein and amino acids. And their production carries a tiny fraction of the environmental costs of raising traditional livestock: fewer greenhouse gasses, less water use, and virtually no deforestation.

Portland is home to at least three cricket startups, including Poda Foods, Thinksect, and Cricket Flours. Cricket Flours has the widest variety of cricket products, including gluten-free cricket protein powders, an all-purpose cricket flour, cricket brownie mix, and straight-up roasted crickets.

“It’s fun to see kids try to eat crickets,” says Charles Wilson, who founded Cricket Flours in 2014. “At first, it’s a challenge, an adventure. But the next thing you know, they’re fighting over the bag.” That’s because these crunchy buggers come in flavors like Buffalo-wing sauce and cheesy ranch.

Charles is on a mission to normalize the idea of eating crickets. It’s stunning what he’s accomplished in such a short time. He’s teamed up with natural history museums, like OMSI, to make presentations to innovation-minded customers. One collaboration featured a Voodoo Doughnut made with cricket flour, filled with Bavarian cream, and topped with roasted crickets and Rice Krispies. Wayback Burgers offers Oreo Mud Pie milkshakes made with Cricket Flours protein powder at over 90 locations (the closest to Portland is in Woodland, Washington).

Charles came to crickets when his doctor gave him a long list of foods he wasn’t allowed to eat. “Crickets weren’t on it,” he jokes, but Charles really had difficulty finding ingredients that both fit his diet and tasted good. He was drawn to crickets for their high nutritional value, but only people on especially strict diets, like CrossFit athletes, seemed to eat them.

When Charles soon discovered just how few cricket products were available in the U.S., he started developing prototypes. Thus, Cricket Flours was born. Today, it sources crickets raised specifically for human consumption from farms in the U.S. and Canada, and Charles makes all of his products in a commercial kitchen in Portland.

The two leading products at Cricket Flours are the All-Purpose Baking Cricket Flour and the Cricket Protein Powder. The flour is a high-protein blend of wheat flour, malted barley flour, and cricket powder and can be used as a one-to-one substitute for normal baking flour. Cricket Flours also makes cricket powder in a variety of sizes, such as 10-gram packets, and flavors, like Peruvian chocolate. The powders are good for shakes and smoothies, as well as for baking.

Ready to jump in? The Cricket Flours cookbook, All Cricket No Bull, offers around 50 recipes.

Charles says competition is heating up, but he’s glad to see it: It’s a sign the industry is gaining momentum. First-time cricket munchers have lots of introductory options. There are those roasted crickets, which many cultures eat like chips, and that gluten-free brownie mix, not to mention cricket oatmeal. Find the entire portfolio online (cricketflours.com) or visit the Know Thy Foods market in Portland.

Mattie John Bamman is a culinary travel writer focused on the Pacific Northwest, Italy, and the Balkans. Wine, wilderness, and words brought him to Portland, where he regularly contributes to Edible Portland and other publications, including Northwest Travel & Life Magazine. Mattie is also the editor of Eater Portland.

Chocolate Espresso Banana Bread with Cricket Flours

Provided by Cricket Flours

Makes one loaf  | Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients

3–4 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch sea salt
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 shot espresso, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Cricket Flours’ Peruvian Chocolate Cricket Powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (or gluten-free) baking flour

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In mixing bowl, combine the bananas and melted butter and mix together fully.

Add baking soda, salt, sugars, and egg. Mix.

Once combined, add vanilla extract, espresso, cricket powder, and baking flour.

Slightly grease a 4-inch x 8-inch bread pan and pour in the mixture. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50 minutes (or until it passes the toothpick test).

Let cool. Serve in slices.

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