REAL LIFE

I’m Serving Crickets For Chrissy!

Mum-of-three Skye makes family dinners that fly off the plate
  • Skye Blackburn, 40, from Parramatta, NSW, launched Circle Harvest to sell edible bugs
  • She’s created all sorts of quirky creations, from mealworm rocky road to cricket corn chips
  • She and her family love to add edible bugs to their Chrissy lunch

Here Skye tells her story in her own words.

It was a busy morning, as I yelled out to the kids for breakfast.

‘Can I have spiders with milk?’ Marley, 11, asked cheekily as her siblings Saxon, nine, and Connor, eight, giggled at the table.

‘Nah, just plain old cereal today,’ I said.

While spiders weren’t a typical ingredient, we did like to include a creepy crawly or two in our diets.

My love for bug tucker began when my husband Lloyd, then 31, and I were in Thailand back in 2007.

Aged 24, I’d just finished a degree in entomology – the study of insects – and one in food science.

But I’d been mad about bugs since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

In Thailand, where eating bugs was the norm, I didn’t hesitate to join in.

Lloyd giggled when my face contorted as I bit into a cricket at the market.

‘It’s really crunchy, spicy and oily,’ I said. ‘I don’t like this at all!’

Spying some bamboo worms, I wondered if they’d be better. They were cooked in ginger and lemongrass, and I was pleasantly surprised.

‘They feel like rice bubbles,’ I said, enjoying the way they popped in my mouth.

‘Not bad,’ Lloyd agreed.

It’s about how it’s prepared, I realised.

Back home, Lloyd and I had an education company, teaching kids about science, nature and insects.

We ran a stall about bugs at a pet and animal expo in Sydney and, hoping to draw attention, I filled our stand with big cockroaches, tarantulas and scorpions.

Lloyd and Skye
Lloyd and Skye (Credit: Supplied.)

My brother Todd, then 15, helped me make 1000 edible insect lollipops made from crickets, mealworms and ants. Flavours included apple pie, strawberries and cream, and lemon meringue pie.

‘Are these real insects or is it just jelly inside?’ customers asked.

When I confirmed they were the real deal, they were amazed.

‘They taste great,’ people said, fascinated by our crunchy confectionery. Within two hours, we’d sold out!

Four weeks later, I was selling my quirky creations online.

To check the nutritional value of edible bugs, I sent some crickets and mealworms for testing, and I was so surprised by the results.

They were packed with protein and micronutrients, with four times the calcium of milk, three times the iron in spinach, more omega-3 than a piece of salmon, and twice the amount of potassium as a banana.

‘How aren’t these a source of food in Australia?’ I said to Lloyd.

With that light-bulb moment, I combined both my degrees and started my business, Circle Harvest, to sell edible bugs.

While Indigenous people have used bugs as a source of food, my biz was the first to farm bugs commercially for consumption.

Starting up an insect protein farm in a shipping container in our backyard, I rented out a nearby commercial kitchen to experiment with treats.

First we farmed crickets and mealworms. Our farm, funded by our education venture, required lots of cleaning and we monitored the insects to make sure they grew right, using trial and error to adjust the temperature and humidity. Then we processed them into food.

Making batches of chocolate-coated bugs and other candies for markets, I got my workmates, friends and family to be testers, and they loved the taste of my crunchy critters.

After launching my online shop in 2007, I expanded to a bigger warehouse farm. We kept selling online, at food expos and even museums.

Our fan favourites were the lollipops, and corn chips made from cricket protein powder.

Skye Blackburn mealworm rocky road
Christmas Rocky Road with mealworms, macadamia and strawberry eucalyptus (Credit: Supplied.)

At first we weren’t making much money, but as time rolled by, we began turning a profit. People were getting more interested in insects!

And when our kids came along, they chewed on crispy crickets as soon as they’d cut their teeth.
So crunchy! Marley said.

Saxon was always very sensory with meals, disliking wet foods such as pasta and cooked vegies. Worried about nutrition, I gave him the cricket corn chips.

Every day, he wanted them for lunch and didn’t leave a crumb!

While most people would spray or swat a bug or insect found in their pantry, my family licks their lips. Of course, the ones stored in our cupboard are properly prepared and safe to eat.

At kids’ birthday parties, there’s always a bowl of cricket chips for them and their mates, and ant candy in the party bags. Their friends love them.

At Christmas, we make gingerbread bickies with cricket protein powder, and decorate the gingerbread house with mealworms and crickets.

As for Chrissy lunch, we love my chickpea salad using whole crickets instead of croutons for crunch.

Skye Blackburn family
Skye Blackburn and her family (Credit: Stained in Ink Photography)

On Boxing Day, I whip up cricket protein burgers. They have a mushroom base and, after I add the powder and cook them on the barbie, they taste just like regular burgers!

‘This is delicious, darling,’ says Lloyd.

I want to educate everyone about adding edible bugs to our diets.

It’s a step to an environmentally sustainable system and food security for future generations.

Now, I’m selling everything from cricket protein pasta and granola to choc raspberry cricket powder brownie mix.

Who knows what’s next!

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