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CCFB News» April 2024

Downwind"Treats Anyone?"

04/01/2024 @ 8:30 am | By Bob Rohrer, CCFB Manager

17 years ago…sure, I remember it well. Normally, a question about what happened 17 years ago would receive the “blank” look from me. Where was I seven minutes ago?

 

However, in recent weeks, I have noticed an uptick on articles related to the 17-year cicada including these headlines:

 

Will 2024 be the year of the cicada in Illinois? All signs point to yes Science News

Why Illinois will be the cicada capital of the United States in 2024 – Peoria Journal Star

Two cicada broods will emerge in Illinois in historic event – Chicago Tribune

 

So, what is a cicada? Let me summarize…

 

  • This big-winged insect with large eyes that crawls out of the ground and sheds its exoskeleton.
  • The cicada hangs out in the yard for a few weeks, makes a lot of group noise, frolics in the sun, tries to mate, lays eggs. Dies.
  • Eggs hatch, nymphs dig in the ground, suck on a tree root, and wait for the exit calendar.
  • Repeat

 

There are cicadas that emerge from the ground annually. There are also different cicadas that are periodical, emerging in 13- and 17-year cycles. Several articles mentioned that once every 221 years, both cycles appear at the same time. Yep, coming soon to a place near us in 2024.

 

Outstanding…Bonus Bugs!

 

Proving that I do occasionally have some long-term memory, I went back into the Co-Operator publication files from 17 years ago and looked in the Downwind archives. In June 2007, I wrote about the 17-year cicada. Part of the column centered around a conversation I had with Mr. Jim Schuster, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator working down the hallway in the Farm Bureau building at the time…

 

Here is a portion of what I wrote 17 years ago…

 

  • In northern Illinois, the 17-year periodical cicadas crawl from the ground 17 years after the egg was laid.
  • May 22 is the scientifically predicted “mass emergence” day.
  • Cooler weather could delay that emergence into the month of June.
  • Emergence continues for a couple weeks and the cicadas then remain active for 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Cicadas will not damage mature trees but new trees may receive some trunk damage.
  • During the 1956 emergence, there were over 300 cicada holes per square yard found in some areas around Chicago. This translated to 1.5 million cicadas per acre.

 

Reading on, apparently the most important fact I picked up from my research 17 years ago was that “cicadas are good eating.”

 

I wrote:

 

Yes, the periodical cicadas are edible. Some say they taste like almonds. The North American Indians apparently use them in their diets. The Internet is packed with various helpful hints, cooking tips, and recipes which I’m sure you will want to download today. National Geographic’s site says cicadas make good eating deep fat fried (What’s not?), stir fried, on cicada pizza, and cicada candy. If you boil fresh cicadas (those just out of the ground) for a minute, they taste like asparagus or clam flavored potato.

And check out these attributes, cicadas are low-fat, high protein, no carbs and have a good set of vitamins. The University of Maryland Cicadamaniacs has an entire recipe book including cicada dumplings, tacos, cookies, and chili. I especially like the disclaimer which says, “The University of Maryland and the cicada maniacs do not advocate eating cicadas without first consulting your doctor.” They don’t specify which kind of doctor.

 

Good stuff. And now,17 years later, I’m out to dinner with my daughter and two young grandsons. Recalling that my daughter was not a fan of the cicada in her youth and knowing I would probably write this column, I bravely asked my daughter if she remembered the cicadas from 17 years ago. I ducked.

 

Her venomous response, “Of course I do - I DID NOT leave the house for three weeks!”

 

That, of course, provided me with a great lead-in with the grandsons to suggest various food recipes that they could (and should) try out using the cicada.

 

It was fun to hear some “ewws” and “yuck, Grandpa”. Then, it was equally fun to watch their imaginations come up with their own new cicada food treat ideas.

 

My daughter did not offer to prepare any of these enlightened new recipe options.

 

The Commodity/Marketing Team is working on its annual recipe brochure… seems like we may be able to offer some new options this year?

 

Certainly, the local wildlife will be fat, sassy, and happy this summer! I’m thinking a fishing dream! I have not seen any concerns about Cicadas damaging field crops or gardens. Young trees may be impacted. Those concerned about the inflation in the grocery store may say "manna from heaven”.

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