I guess I’ll go eat worms!
We should begin by admitting that, just like our adventures in garlic mustard ice cream, we’ve made several attempts at cooking invasive earthworms with limited success. We can offer a few tips on collection and preparation though, and we hope that some of our more daring readers will experiment with some recipes and report back to us! One great guide to getting started we’ve found is “Entertaining with Insects” by Ronald L. Taylor and Barbara J. Carter which has a great appendix on collecting and preparing earthworms (which the authors admit are not insects). Here, we summarize their tips as well as some of our own experiences on worm collection and preparation.
If you’ve been outdoors in a rain storm, then you know earthworms can be easy to collect because they come up out of the ground when it gets too wet. If you’re looking to satisfy your worm craving in dry weather, you can use a garden hose to simulate rainfall on a small patch of land. To further enhance your worm hunt, you can sprinkle mustard powder on the ground before you start watering– the mustard powder acts as an irritant to the worms’ skin and will encourage them to come to the surface more quickly.
At invasivore.org, we can’t stress often enough the importance of knowing the history of the area in which you are hunting and foraging. Earthworms spend their entire lives eating decaying material in the ground, so be sure not to collect from areas with a history of pollution, pesticides, or other chemical treatments you wouldn’t want to ingest.
The old adage, “you are what you eat” applies throughout the animal kingdom, and since earthworms essentially eat dirt, you will want to purge their guts before eating them. We have found that earthworms will live for at least several days in cool conditions in moist flour or cornmeal while replacing the dirt in their guts with something more palatable. “Entertaining with Insects” reports that earthworms eat and excrete their weight every 24 hours, so a day or two of purging should be plenty.
When you’re ready to cook, “Entertaining with Insects” recommends boiling earthworms for 10 minutes before adding them to your recipe. We’ve had some success simply breading and deep-frying earthworms, but earthworms may also be an excellent ingredient in stews, pastas, and even omelets. What recipes will you come up with?