Sago Worm

January 8, 2016

Sago Worm

The sago worm is the larval stage of the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus). Sago worms have been enjoyed fried or fresh in Malaysia to Paupa New Guinea. They may also be boiled (as in soups) or canned.

Raw they are “creamy tasting,” and cooked they are professed to taste like meat or bacon. Roasted sago worms are also pulverized to create sago flour. The larval worms are quite large; they grow to six or seven centimeters dwarfing the parent beetle which usually maxes out at five.

These insects were originally isolated to Southeast Asia, but international trade have spread them throughout the tropics. In particular, they have come to damage the commercially important coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) and date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) crops. The action of the palm weevil larvae have damaged harvests as well as lesser known but agriculturally important areca nut palm betel palm (Areca catechu), sugar palm (Arenga pinnata), Asian palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer), African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), true sago palm (Metroxylon sagu).

Their range now includes Africa, Mediterranean countries–including Spain and France–, the Middle East, and United States.  Red palm weevils now affect half of all date-producing countries. They feed on date palms proper as well as related trees Canary Island date palm (P. canariensis) and silver date palm (P. sylvestris).

While the spread of red palm weevil is met with contempt by palm producers, its arrival also signals the cheap, plentiful protein. As with eating insects in general, insect cultivation uses a fraction of the water, requires less feed, and occupies a tiny fraction of the land to produce meat from livestock. Insects in the diet even excel when it comes to supplying iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and certain amino acids.

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