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INSECTS

Austrians start insect ‘revolution’ for the kitchen

A seething mass of larvae in the kitchen is not everyone's cup of tea, particularly for squeamish Westerners. But for two young Austrian entrepreneurs, it's a food revolution that can help save the planet.

Austrians start insect 'revolution' for the kitchen
You can feed your mealworms with your kitchen scraps. Photo: Livin Farms

Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger, 25 and 28, have developed a device to breed in the comfort of your own home the protein-rich grubs of the meal beetle, to then eat.

“With this current design you can make 200-500 grams (seven to 18 ounces) of mealworms every week,” Unger told AFP at a recent tasting and fundraising event in Vienna.

“You freeze them and then you make them like any other type of meat. You can cook them, roast them, make them into burger patties and mix them into sauce for pasta,” she said.

Into the top of the sleek, white “desktop hive” go pupae which then hatch into adults. In the next section, the “loveshack”, the insects mate and their eggs fall into the next layer.

Helped by a controlled microclimate, the eggs hatch into larvae which gradually grow and descend to a drawer at the bottom where, around three centimetres (an inch) long and plump, they are “harvested”.

“Our team eats them almost every day,” Unger said, showing off some of her creations – Greek salads topped by toasted grubs, quinoa-and-mealworm meatballs and even chocolate (and worm) cake.

Scorpion lollipops

Eating insects — entomophagy — is not new. Humans have been doing so for thousands of years and today they are a common food in many developing countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people, with more than 1,900 species reportedly enjoyed worldwide.

In Europe, Romans and ancient Greeks ate them — Aristotle was partial to cicada larvae — and some European cheeses, like mimolette in France or the Sardinian casu marzu, contain or use insects.

A mealworm salad. Photo: Kurier/Juerg Christandl

A few insect restaurants have sprung up in Europe and North America in recent years, and some products, ranging from salt-and-vinegar crickets to lollipops with scorpions (actually arachnids), are available.

But for the most part, Westerners generally see bugs as a nuisance, not as nutrition.

This is a shame, Unger said, since insects are not only tasty but a more sustainable source of protein than traditional farmed livestock — and are vital to feeding the world's growing population.

“Compared to beef you need only 10 percent of the land to grow mealworms and you need only around a quarter of the feed that it typically takes to grow the equivalent amount of beef,” she said.

Indeed a 2013 by the FAO noted the “huge potential” of insects, not only for feeding people but also livestock, although it cautioned more research was needed.

The yuck factor

The mealworms are also nutritious, containing the same amount of protein as beef, more vitamin B12 than eggs and more fibre than broccoli, according to Unger and Kaisinger's firm, Livin Farms.

Alexandra Palla, a well-known Austrian food blogger present at the recent tasting event, plans to post a recipe of risotto with mealworm, calling the taste “nutty, or mushroomy”, but “not spectacular”.

But she said that it will take some time for people in Europe to get over the “yuck” factor and really embrace creepy-crawlies as food.

“The first step is mentally to get over the fact that you are eating an insect. Once you eat them you realise they're not so bad,” she told AFP. “It's about getting rid of the fear.”

“I think in the future everyone will eat insects, or at least almost everybody,” predicted Kaisinger, the co-founder of Livin Farms, which already has 200 pre-orders for its $499 (€459) hives.

“People actually consume around half a kilo (about a pound) of insects every year without knowing it, from tiny traces in chocolate to orange juice and the like.”

By Simon Sturdee

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FOOD & DRINK

Hugo, Almdudler and Radler: 5 drinks to try in Austria this summer

It is easier to face the summer heat with a proper cold drink in your hands. Austrians know that well and have created (or made popular) several delicious alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Here are five you should try.

Hugo, Almdudler and Radler: 5 drinks to try in Austria this summer

The debate of which is the perfect summer drink is undoubtedly a very controversial one.

While many people would argue that nothing can beat the Italian Aperol Spritz (which is also very popular in Austria), some would rather stay with a simple cold beer.

If you are team Spritz, then you should know that Austria has a love for things g’spritzt, with their own versions of sparkling drinks (with or without alcohol). However, for those who prefer a beer, the alpine country is home to several famous brands, including the Styrian Gösser, the Viennese Ottakringer, and Stiegl, from Salzburg.

READ ALSO: Five Austrian destinations you can reach by train to escape the heat

In any case, when living or visiting a new country, it’s always fun to try out the traditional dishes and, in this case, beverages.

Here are five drinks you should try during the Austrian summer.

Hugo drink summer drink austria

Hugo is a very popular (and sweet) summer drink in Austria (Photo by Greta Farnedi on Unsplash)

Hugo

Some say this is the Austrian answer to the Aperol Spritz, but its sweetness from the elderflower syrup makes it quite different from the bitter bright orange Aperol.

There is also a bit of controversy as to where this drink, which Austrians love to drink during a nice summer afternoon, originates.

Internationally, it seems to be widely accepted that this alcoholic aperitif comes from South Tyrol, a German-speaking region of Italy with deep Austrian roots. Ask any Austrian, though, and they will tell that just proves the drink is from Austria.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to talk about the heat like a true Austrian

Italian or Austrian, the sweet drink is made with prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer and mint leaves. Serve it with lots of ice in a large glass, and you have a perfect summer drink.

white wine drinks party

Mix your white wine with sparkling water and you get a refreshing gespritzt (Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash)

weiß gespritzt

This is extremely popular, relatively cheap even in fancy restaurants, and somewhat controversial, but take some white wine and add a little sparkling water (sometimes ice) and you get a weiß gespritzt, or a g’spritzter.

READ ALSO: The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Not everyone appreciates mixing your wine with water, but it makes for a refreshing and lighter drink. In Austrian restaurants, you might be asked whether you want a summer gespritzt, which means it has higher water content and, therefore, is lighter, or a “normal” one.

It is by no means an Austrian drink, and you may have to ask for a Weinschorle instead of a Gespritzter in Germany, but it is a popular drink in the German world.

gösser radler drink

Austrian brands sell some of the most popular Radlers in Europe (Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash)

Radler

A Radler is another drink that though not from Austria, is extremely popular here. Not only that but some of the most popular Radlers are sold by Austrian brands.

Traditionally, all you need to make a Radler is to mix beer and lemonade. However, the drink is also found bottled and sold by beer companies such as Gösser and Ottakringer. The mix has also expanded and you can discover Radlers with a citrus or berry mix.

READ ALSO: Austrian old folks toast success of ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ beer

It is a lighter and sweeter beer, perfect for enjoying the summer with a fresh drink that is not so alcoholic.

Mixing apple juice and sparkling water creates a perfect non-alcoholic summer drink. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Apfelspritz

Following the Austrian love for adding sparkling water to drinks, a very common and non-alcoholic beverage is the Apfelspritz.

It is a mix of apple juice and (you guessed it) sparkling water. It is popular in Biergarten as a non-alcoholic alternative, with kids joining in on toasts with their apple and soda mix.

The drink is also very common in Germany (where it is known as Apfelschorle), Switzerland and Hungary.

READ ALSO: Cash and Schnapps: A guide to visiting pubs and cafes in Austria

almdualer gerhard schilling

Almdudler’s CEO Gerhard Schilling holds a bottle of the traditional Austrian drink (© Philipp Lipiarski)

Almdudler

Another option for a summer light and non-alcoholic drink is the Almdudler, which is technically the name of the Austrian brand that sells the famous carbonated soft drink.

The drink is a blend of 32 “natural alpine herbs, beet sugar and soda water”, according to the website. It has a very distinctive logo and can be found in almost all Austrian households – being one of the most popular beverages in the country.

Did we forget about your favourite summer drink? Then let us know in the comments below or send us an email at [email protected]

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