Where it’s found: Exclusive to the deserts of Outback Australia.
Uses: Essential vitamins and nutrients.
Serving suggestion: Eat fresh of the Aussie Barbie.
Taste: Cross between chicken and prawn.
Don’t think of: Slurping on a garden worm.
Witchetty grubs are the small, white larvae of the ghost moth, which is native to Australia. They are dug out of the trunks and roots of gum trees during the summertime, and although the very though of eating grubs may be frowned upon by Europeans, witchetty grubs have been an essential part of the Aboriginal diet for centuries.
Origins and history
For the Australian natives who live in the bush, a balanced diet consists of a wide variety of vegetables, roots and creatures which can be found in the wild. Known as ‘bushtucker’, the culinary traditions of the Aborigines are gaining popularity in the cities: ants, spiders, goannas, locusts, snakes, emus, kangaroos, crocodiles and yabbies are beginning to turn up on the menus of the most exclusive restaurants.
Although many may not consider grubs to be a great delicacy, for the Aborigines the swarms of flying, squirming creatures which arrive with the seasons are cause for great celebration and feasting. The ghost moth arrives in southern New South Wales between November and January, and it used to attract hoards of people from different tribes, all eager to partake of the nourishing grub. It’s usually the women and children who forage for grubs, though Aboriginal men are no less fond of the fat, fleshy creatures.
Witchetty grubs are traditionally eaten live and raw. Their meat is rich in protein and makes for a highly nutritious snack if you’re tramping through the bush. Raw witchetties have a subtle, slightly sweet flavour and a liquid centre.
Barbecued, witchetties are often eaten as an appetizer. They are cooked over a fire on pieces of wire, rather like shasliks or satays. It takes about two minutes each side for the meat to become white and chewy and the skin crusty. Barbecued witchetties taste quite like chicken or prawns with peanut sauce.
If you don’t fancy foraging for your grub, these days it is possible to buy tins of witchetty soup in supermarkets across Australia.
Cyber tour of Australian cuisine
By Jess Halliday
main image: c/o By User:Sputnikcccp – Wikipedia en, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1488500