the food museum

exploring and celebrating food


What's It About?

Organizations like Seattle Tilth inspire and educate people to garden organically, conserve natural resources and support local food systems in order to cultivate a healthy urban environment and community.

Seattle Tilth
"Promoting the art of organic gardening in an urban setting":

Rio Grande Community Farms

This organization preserves what is some of America's  oldest continuously farmed land.  The farm is in Albuquerque's North Valley, one of the first farming communities in the Middle Rio Grande valley,  now  heavily developed. One of the projects of RGCF is to provide forage crops for the migrating flocks of endangered sandhill cranes that winter in New Mexico. The cranes increasingly find it hard to find places to rest and eat during their final flight days to their winter quarters in and around Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve. For several years, the RGCF has grown a stand of corn that has a maze cut in it each year as a tourist draw and fund raiser. RGCF also is developing partnerships with area schools.

Community Shared Agriculture

At their most fundamental level, CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of organically grown produce to consumers during the growing season (approximately June to October). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don’t so much “buy” food from particular farms as become “members” of those farms. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm.


Food Injustice: Child Labor

Food Trends: Eating Bugs

Continued from Home Page

Insects now contribute to the diet of some 2.5 billion people worldwide. To name just a few of the almost 2,000 species of insects and other arthropods now consumed, sometimes as delicacies, sometimes out of necessity, there are: the caterpillars of emperor moths (also known as mopane worms because they attack mopane trees)jewel beetles, locusts, stink bugs, and termites in southern Africa; centipedes, crickets, fly maggots, and scorpions in China; caddisfly larvae, cicadas, and wasp pupae in Japan; bamboo caterpillars, crickets, giant water bugs, and silkworm pupae in Thailand; dragonflies and sago palm weevil grubs in Indonesia; mole crickets in the Philippines; honey ants and witchetty grubs in Australia; so-called ant eggs (actually larvae and pupae), crickets, grasshoppers, and red and white agave worms (the larvae of a moth and a butterfly) in Mexico; longhorn beetle larvae in Peru; and tarantulas in both Cambodia and Venezuela. (That’s not counting crustaceans such as crabs, shrimps, and lobsters, which are also arthropods but don’t seem to elicit the same “yuck” factor in Westerners.)


Stink bugs for sale in Laos

A growing market

Today, there is a creeping and crawling niche market in the United States. Bug biting and grasshopper gobbling is slowly—very, very slowly—making inroads into Western culture.

David George Gordon, a Seattle-based science writer, is the author of The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook: 33 Ways to Cook Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin. “In the fourteen years that I have been cooking insects,” he says, “I’ve certainly seen a steady build in the public’s interest in this form of food. People are generally slow to adopt new food sources, so I don’t think this will be an overnight change. Right now, I’d say it’s a bit of a craze.” His website includes recipes for grasshopper kabobs, cricket orzo, and scorpion scaloppine.

Another bug chef, David Gracer, holds insect cooking and tasting demonstrations. On his website, he promotes pesticide-free insects as a part of a healthy, sustainable diet and explores the myths and facts surrounding insects as food.

Buggy fare has been available at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans and at entertaining educational events such as BugFest at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Bug Bowl at Purdue University in Indiana, and Bug Fair at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which features a Bug Chef Cook-Off. Florence V. Dunkel, an insect scientist at Montana State University who hopes that insect eating will eventually become more accepted, has noticed that edible-insect treats are often the highlight of insect festivals at universities and science museums.

 Marc Dennis, an artist, professor, and amateur chef, launched an online resource for entomophagists, encompassing history, nutritional and scientific facts, and a selection of recipes, is a devotee of insect eating. Dennis has hosted insect-themed dinners in his home, free of charge, and he hopes soon to create protein bars, which he calls “Hoppin’ Good bars, with crickets, oats, grains and nuts—triple the protein with zero fat content.” While not as healthy, of course, chocolate-covered ants and cricket lollipops have been sold for decades as novelty items.

In March 2011, a multi-course “Grand Banquet of Rainforest Insects” was held at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History to garner support for rain forest protection. Thomasina “Tommi” Miers, cookbook author and chef of the award-winning London restaurant Wahaca, created a feast made up of barbecue-flavored oven-baked mealworms, sautéed crickets, grasshopper salsa, and fried locusts dipped in salted caramel and dark chocolate, to name just a few dishes. Miers, an avid environmentalist, feels strongly that we cannot sustain our current levels of meat-eating for much longer.

Other reasons to eat bugs

Indeed, novelty and fundtemraising are far from the only motivations for broadening one’s culinary horizons. Today there are a billion hungry people on the planet. That number is going to grow, and the cost of food is already soaring. Over the past year, real food prices (adjusted for inflation) have risen by 33 percent, and according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a further 20 to 30 percent increase is expected in the next ten years.

 Based on a medium level of average fertility, the United Nations predicts a global population of 9.3 billion people by 2050 (a rise of more than 2 billion) and, taking into account already existing levels of malnutrition, estimates that food production will need to increase by 70 percent. Reaching that goal at today’s level of crop productivity would require at least 3.5 million square miles of new farmland.

But economist Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, calculates at most that given environmental and practical constraints, we might be able to add only a ninth of what is needed. As it is, agriculture is already a driver of ecological problems, fueled by what appears to be an insatiable demand for meat and dairy products (not to mention the new dedication of some cropland to producing biofuels).

So where is all this much-needed food going to come from? Well, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Wildlife Fund’s website, bugs are a possible solution to the world’s growing food problem. Many provide as much protein—weight for weight—as beef or fish, so they are a possible alternative to eating meat, not only for the future sustainability of the planet, but for the sake of health as well.

In Mexico, farmers who used to spend money on pesticides have realized that by selling the insects, candy-coated or fried, they can make larger profits.

At a 2008 conference in Thailand, where nearly 200 different insect species are eaten, The FAO highlighted insects as an environmentally friendly alternative source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Insects have the potential to supplement the growing demand for protein, both for humans and for animals because they convert feed into protein much more quickly and efficiently than traditional livestock, according to Afton Halloran at the FAO’s Edible Insects Program. In fact, so nutritious are some insects that the South African entomologist Rob Toms recommended that HIV-positive people eat mopane caterpillars to boost their nutritional levels.

According to Dennis Oonincx, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, insects may be a more efficient source of protein, and points to a need for
 a thorough life-cycle analysis—a method for determining the environmental impact of a product—for edible insect species. Oonincx has also pointed out that “there is a much lower likelihood of disease contamination from insects than there is from meat.” Because physiologically humans differ more from insects than from our fellow mammals, the chance that a pathogen will jump from insect to human is smaller than the chance it will jump from mammal to human.

Oonincx also compared the greenhouse gas emissions from five species of insects with those of cattle and pigs. His results showed that insects emit significantly smaller amounts of greenhouse gases for the amount of protein they produce—less methane and carbon dioxide per unit of mass gained—than pigs or cattle.

 Six-legged gold

Entomophagy also has the potential to increase incomes in poor communities. In Mexico, farmers who used to spend money on pesticides to keep bugs off their crops have realized that by collecting and selling the insects, candy-coated or fried, they can make larger profits. And in South Africa, approximately 9.5 billion mopane worms are harvested annually from 7,700 square miles of mopane forests. They are worth $85 million, of which approximately 40 percent goes to producers—primarily poor rural women.

It would be sheer madness to use chemical pesticides to kill insects that are possibly more nutritious than the crops they prey on.

Unfortunately, as in all harvesting of wild creatures, over-exploitation can occur. In southern Africa there are areas where the mopane worm has already been extirpated. Tshireletso Lorraine Lucas, who studied the harvesting of mopane worms in central Botswana, found that their numbers are declining, and that this is due both to climatic factors and to overharvesting, with harvesters motivated increasingly by commerce rather than subsistence. And Leah Snow Teffo of the University of Pretoria and her team, working in South Africa, have shown that the demand for edible stinkbugs already exceeds supply.

One solution is insect farming. In Thailand, for example, approximately 20,000 farmers are raising crickets and locusts. And according to the FAO, it is possible to treat insects “as mini-livestock”:

Some arthropods are already reared on an industrial scale such as edible scorpions in China. Others,
such as crickets and water beetles,
are reared on a semi-industrial scale. In temperate zones insect rearing companies already produce insects as feed
for reptiles and primates. In the Netherlands three such insect growers have set up special production lines to produce for human consumption. In other parts of the world attempts are being made to rear insects artificially such as palm weevil, mopane worm, and wasps.

In some cases insect harvesting could even serve as a method of biological pest control. Swarms of millions upon millions of locusts can wipe out entire crops in Africa. It would be sheer madness to ignore this flying protein or to use chemical pesticides to kill insects that are possibly more nutritious than the crops they prey on.

Furthermore, cultivating and harvesting insects requires that forests be preserved, not felled. In the end,sustainable insect farming and eating may result in a win-win situation for people’s stomachs and bank accounts, for local agricultural crops and forests, and for the planet.


Dawn Starin is an honorary research associate at University College London and has spent decades doing research in Africa and Asia. Her articles have appeared in publications as varied as Critical Asian Studies,The EcologistGastronomica, the Journal of the Royal Society of MedicineNatural HistoryNew InternationalistNew StatesmanThe New York Times, and Philosophy Now. Previous versions of this article appeared in Natural History magazine, The Solutions Journal, and Yes! Magazine.



The Bees of Berlin

Buying Fresh, Buying Local: Harringay Market, London

 Via VitalityTV

Food Revolution--Is There One?

Continued from Home Page

By the 1990‘s, many had decided that saving farmland from being developed into housing, creating ways of growing food that was sustainable over time, and making possible local outlets for farmers would mean better quality food for us all.

Farmers Markets, once housed primarily in 19th c. buildings in large cities, began to appear all across the country. 

We returned to gardening, to try to grow our own tomatoes, squash and herbs, in pots, in window boxes, in small plots created when we decided to raise edibles to feed ourselves and our families, rather than grass. Some of us even became “guerilla gardeners,” tossing zucchini seeds into the soil in front of the library in the dark of night, or planting lettuces in the cracks in the pavement next to the fire station.

 In large cities we took over empty lots, and created Community Gardens---we shared our labor, and our harvests. 

 Local, fresh, sustainable!  

 We have pushed back against the seed/fertilizer giants like Monsanto that tried to patent seeds grown locally around the world, that invested millions in GMO plants and inadequately tested methods. 

 We have advocated for proper labeling, not only of ingredients, but also of so-called “natural” products, establishing guidelines for what is organic and what is not.

 And we eat better---we eat dishes from Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and Persian restaurants, we cook from scratch, we not only grow veggies and compost, but we gather wild plants, we hunt wild game, and now we realize that we        rarely go to the “supermarket” for food.

 We finally recognize that food is fuel for people, ( as well as animals,) and that we are indeed “what we eat.”

 Today we are exploring what our children are eating at school. We lobby against soft drink vending machines, and bring in cooks to make healthy innovations in our school lunch programs. More schools now have their own gardens, and children recognize that carrots grow below, and beans grow above the aromatic soil.

 We organize to bring small healthy food shops into so-called urban “food deserts,” and we ponder how to convey what we have learned about healthy food, and food systems, to those for whom this information has not been a priority. 

 And yes, some of us have become enamored of cooking shows on tv, ( perhaps too much,) and celebrity chefs, and recipe blogs, and diet crazes, and supplement fads, and “precious” restaurants where three peas, a dab of squash, and a sliver of chicken comprise a dish. All of this is the “foodie” excess, one might say, that is yet another aspect of a decades-long revolution in food.

 Still, Viva La Revolution!

Meredith Sayles Hughes





Seattle to Create Urban "Food Forest."

Imagine " urban oasis of public food: Visitors to the corner of 15th Ave S. and S. Dakota Street will be greeted by a literal forest — an entire acre will feature large chestnuts and walnuts in the overstory, full-sized fruit trees like big apples and mulberries in the understory, and berry shrubs, climbing vines, herbaceous plants, and vegetables closer to the ground.

Further down the path an edible arboretum full of exotic looking persimmons, mulberries, Asian pears, and Chinese haws will surround a sheltered classroom for community workshops. Looking over the whole seven acres, you'll see playgrounds and kid space full of thornless mini edibles adjacent to community gardening plots, native plant areas, a big timber-frame gazebo and gathering space with people barbecuing, a recreational field, and food as far as you can see."

Via Crosscut

Artwork via Lou Brooks