Toronto chef trying to open up more taste buds to edible insects

Insects are practically everywhere — especially at this time of the year. So why not take advantage of the abundance and put them in our food?

Why not try something healthy and high in protein?

Cricket brittle, otherwise known as crittle, is one of the foods made with insects that can be experienced in Toronto. (Cookie Martinez/CBC)

Insects are practically everywhere — especially at this time of the year. 

So why not take advantage of the abundance and put them in our food? After all, many are edible, high in protein and have a nutty, meaty taste when roasted. 

According to one Toronto chef, they should be. Not only does Natalia Martinez insist they are healthy, she also considers them to be the food of the future, especially as a sustainable food source.

"It uses less water," Martinez told CBC's Metro Morning on Thursday. 

"It takes so much water, for example, to raise any meat. It takes a lot more water than an insect."

Martinez owns Cookie Martinez, located at the Market 707 shipping container near Bathurst and Dundas streets. The Colombian street-food shop provides home-style cooking using local and organic ingredients. 

The menu includes delicacies such as cricket empanadas. On her visit to Metro Morning, Martinez brought in cricket pate, ant salt, chocolate-covered crickets and roasted crickets.

"You can do it from savoury to sweet," Martinez says of cooking crickets.

Eating insects is new for Canadians and many are understandably apprehensive. That's part of the reason why Martinez decided to launch the Eating Insects Tasting Series, which takes place Thursday at 6 p.m. — depending on weather conditions. 

For $25 plus tax, you can try food items you've likely never had before. Dishes being offered include:

  • Cricket empanadas
  • Mealworm ceviche
  • Spicy cricket Thai spoons
  • Cricket pate with crostini
  • Chocolate-covered crickets
  • Guacamole with water bug paste and crushed ants with plantain shavings

Martinez says she has three types of customers: those that just won't try a bug, those that will on a dare from a friend, and others that are keen on making sustainable food choices.

"The way that I do it mostly is not showing them the bug," she said. "And then when they taste it, they say they were expecting it to be different."

Asked which is her favourite bug, Martinez replied: "Mealworms. I really like them. They're quite tasty."

Natalia Martinez offers Colombian-inspired street food featuring home-style cooking using local and organic ingredients. (Cookie Martinez/Facebook)