Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fried Green Tomato Hornworms

eatbugs Here’s another idea for a Christmas gift for eco-friendly gardeners. You can let the recipient decide whether it is a gag gift or not. I know it almost made me gag when I first read about it.

I was poking around on Facebook the other day and saw a conversation about eating Hornworms.

Now, I’m all for finding alternative means of garden pest disposal, since I don’t believe in using chemicals on my property.  I usually do hand pick our hornworms and, on some occasions, have probably gotten enough for a nice hardy snack. Still, I doubt that I’ll ever be  tempted to take a nibble out of my hornworms, any more than I’m tempted to eat crickets, grasshoppers, bees or any of the other bugs mentioned in The Eat A Bug Cookbook: 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin, by David George Gordon (aka The Bug Chef).

Gordon says that eating protein rich bugs is good for you ("Crickets are loaded with calcium, and termites are rich in iron), and good for the earth ("Raising cows, pigs, and sheep is a tremendous waste of the planet's resources, but bug ranching is pretty benign").

Gordon collected info from bug-eating cultures around the world and includes information on how to cook each bug and which wine to drink with them. He even provides tips on how to catch your own insects – a great eco-friendly means of pest control!!

I think I’ll buy a copy of the book just so I can have it laying on my coffee table. It will certainly be…ahem…food for thought.

If you do decide to try any of the deep-fry recipes, just remember to can the grease when you are done. Putting grease down the drain can eventually mean clogs for you, potential backups into your basement and sewage overflows in the local sewer systems.


So please do your part by disposing of fats, oils and grease the proper way. 

  1. Pour them into a can;
  2. let them cool;
  3. then throw the can into the trash.
  4. And keep the can covered so it doesn’t spill while you’re waiting to add more grease.

(If you are a WSSC customer, you can even get free lids to store your canned grease.)

For more about the Can the Grease campaign, visit these websites: Arlington, VA and MWCOG.

By the way, while reading about the book I noticed that a local restaurant, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana on 7th Street in DC sells  Chapulines: The legendary Oaxacan specialty of sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila and guacamole for $5.00

Recipe for Fried Green Tomato Hornworms, printed with permission of the author, David George Gordon

What does a tomato hornworm taste like? Well, what would you taste like if you'd been stuffing yourself solely with tomato leaves for the better part of a month? Hornworms are ridiculously chlorophyll-rich. They taste great with just about any summer vegetable, but my favorite recipe draws inspiration from the cuisine of the Whistle Stop Cafe, that fictitious Alabama diner made famous by novelist Fanny Flagg.

"You'll think you died and gone to heaven," boasts Flagg of her recipe. To which I add, "If you do go to heaven, ask the Powers That Be to keep the tomato hornworms out of my vegetable patch."

3 tablespoons olive oil
16 tomato hornworms
4 medium green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
Salt and pepper to taste
White cornmeal

In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil. Then lightly fry the hornworms, about 4 minutes, taking care not to rupture the cuticles of each insect under high heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Season tomato rounds with salt and pepper, then coat with cornmeal on both sides.

In a large skillet, fry tomatoes until lightly browned on both sides
Top each round with 2 fried tomato hornworms.
Garnish the paired hornworms with a single basil leaf.

Yield: 4 servings

George Washington - Founding Native Gardener

I am NOT a history buff. Trying to wade through the details of what happened ages ago, regardless of the impact those events had on present day life, isn’t something that would normally hold my attention. The same is true of most biographies. So before I picked up Andrea Wulf’s book, Founding Gardeners: the Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, I have to admit that I knew very little about George Washington, other than the fact that he was the first president of the United States. But now I feel as if I know the man intimately. Why? Because now I know how he felt about his gardens.

“His love for his country was deeply rooted in his passion for nature, agriculture and gardens.” To me, one of the best ways to get to know someone is to walk with them through their gardens, listening to their stories of how they discovered certain plants, the struggles and secrets they have learned in growing them, and why they particularly like one species over another. Ms. Wulf has provided all of that information, not just about George Washington, but about some of the other Founding Fathers of our country such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. But nothing in this book is as staid or boring as many history books. Wulf is an elegant writer that brings the details of history to life through the eyes of devoted and dedicated gardeners who seemed to be forever planning their gardens, even when miles away fighting for our country. “…the condition of his soil and the new shoots of spring were far closer to Washington’s heart than any strategy of war.”

In 1776, while Washington is preparing to defend Manhattan from 32,000 invading British troops, Wulf writes: “Washington brushed aside his generals and his military maps, sat in the flicker of candlelight with his quill and wrote a long letter to his estate manager and cousin Lund Washington at Mount Vernon, his plantation in Virginia. As the city braced itself, Washington pondered the voluptuous blossom of rhododendron, the sculptured flowers of mountain laurel and the perfect pink of crab apple. These “clever kinds[s] of Trees (especially flowering ones,” he instructed, should be planted in two groves by either side of his house.”

Wulf goes on to describe WHY thoughts of his garden were so dominant in Washington’s mind. Washington was planning an American Garden. “Washington’s new garden was to be truly American, a radical departure from the traditional colonial plots, for it was the first ornamental garden to be planted almost exclusively with native species.”

“Only American natives should be used, he instructed, and all could be transplanted from the forests of Mount Vernon. As the young nation faced its first military confrontation in the name of liberty, Washington decided that Mount Vernon was to be an American garden where English trees were not allowed.” So Washington’s “native” garden was as much a political statement as it was for any other reason.

I had never really thought of state or country loyalty when listing all the benefits of native plants. (I prefer them primarily for their ease of maintenance and wildlife value.) But if you are a history buff, an avid gardener, or both, I encourage you to read Founding Gardeners, or give it as a gift to the good little gardeners on your list. And once you receive it, I encourage you to go outside, find a quiet spot, and allow yourself to be immersed in the history of our Founding Gardeners.

“Washington recommended that the troops make “regimental Gardens” in order to produce vegetables for army rations and also because he believe it would be healthy and comforting for his men – what we would call therapeutic.”

Now its your turn to answer the question. Why do you have native plants in your landscape?

Website by Water Words That Work LLC