Tenebrio molitor flour
Tenebrio molitor, risking a somewhat arbitrary translation from Linnaeus’ Latin, can also be called tenebrione miller; but yeah, “tenebrione”, it’s something that just sounds odd. Let’s fall back on the popular name: mealworm. Better? Why not?
Our gloomy little friend is a small beetle that is spread over most of the planet. It likes to stay in the dark, fly around, and infest the grain pantries of half the world.
Say what you will, but making flour from an animal that has spent the last few centuries spoiling the flour supply of so many poor devils seems to me a counterbalance, if not fair, at least ironic.
EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, is the European body based in Parma and designed to provide scientific advice on the calculation of possible risks in the human food chain, and has recently expressed its opinion.
Every new food product that circulates in the European Union is put under a microscope. They do the same things that people in white coats do in laboratories with slides and test tubes: they observe, measure, and finally taste. Well, they were very clear: “tenebrio molitor is edible and suitable for consumption by the general population.”
The subject of the application analyzed in Parma are thermally dried tenebrio larvae. These can be consumed whole or reduced to flour to be added to pasta and leavened products; no waste, the whole animal is consumed, it is useless to mention that we are used to eating protein sources from which it is usual to throw away half the weight of the animal involved during the production process. The possibility of having a product from which nothing is thrown away is therefore anything but a frivolity.
In an attempt not to make the technicalities of nutritional analysis too boring, it is enough to know that for every hundred grams of tenebrio molitor powder there are about 60 grams of proteins.
Followed by fats, mainly mono and polyunsaturated, above all oleic acid and linoleic acid, both very useful to the body to keep cholesterol levels in the blood regulated. Many fibers and many micronutrients: minerals and vitamins.
Mealworms have been eaten for centuries in Mexico, Thailand, and China. The Korean Food and Drug Administration, as early as 2017, endorsed their consumption in Korea. Same for the Australian, New Zealand and Swiss markets.
How many things do we eat every day that are the result of processing flours of a wide variety of types?
Protein flours are a trend which in the last few years has done nothing but grow, witnesses of this are the shelves of all supermarkets. Pasta with pea flour, lentil crackers and chickpea pancakes, there is a bit of everything available.
So why not imagine a near future where we can add a few tablespoons of Tenebrio flour to our pizza dough? To a nice pot of polenta? To a rice stir-fry with butter and parmesan cheese?
Do we really need the stakes of tradition that much? Is it so useful (and sustainable) to keep thinking that certain things can only be done one way?
We believe that qualities such as common sense and open-mindedness will be fundamental in the future of man and its diet, we believe that a source of excellent nutrients with a low environmental impact is always worth considering, and we believe that a great cuisine can always adapt to new ingredients with the enthusiasm and drive of those who are certain that they will be able to prepare healthy and tasty things.
Let’s conclude this article with a quote from Jonathan Swift, the author of “Gulliver’s Travels”. Well, in 1738 Swift wrote: “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”.
Here, maybe a little bit of boldness will be needed and rest assured we will have it too. If you feel like trying, the result will amaze you, we promise!