Pre-Hispanic cuisine is a significant part of Mexico's cultural heritage, and it has been shaped by the diverse ethnic groups that have lived in the country for centuries. One of the most notable features of Mexican cuisine is the use of unconventional ingredients, such as insects, which have been an essential source of protein since ancient times.
Among these insects are worms, which are still consumed today in many rural communities in Mexico. In this article, we will explore the different types of worms that are part of Mexican cuisine and how they are prepared and eaten.
Types of Pre-Hispanic Worms
Different types of worms are consumed in Mexico, and each has its unique taste and texture. The most popular ones are:
- Barrenadores: These are the larvae of a moth that bore into the wood of trees, particularly oak, and mesquite. They are usually eaten toasted or roasted, and they have a nutty flavor.
- Cupiches: These are the larvae of a butterfly that live in the roots of maguey and agave plants. They are usually eaten boiled, fried, or grilled and have a mild, nutty flavor.
- Chimicuiles: These are the red worms that live in the roots of maguey and agave plants. They are usually eaten grilled or fried and have a meaty, earthy flavor.
- Padrecitos: These are the larvae of a beetle that lives in the wood of mesquite and other trees. They are usually eaten toasted or roasted and have a nutty flavor.
- Tenanas: These are the larvae of a beetle that live in the wood of oak and mesquite trees. They are usually eaten roasted or toasted and have a nutty flavor.
- Zatz: These are the larvae of a butterfly that bore into the wood of trees, particularly pine, and oak. They are usually eaten toasted or roasted and have a nutty flavor.
- Maguey worms: These are the white larvae of a butterfly that live in the low stalks of maguey plants. They are usually eaten grilled, fried, or toasted and have a meaty, earthy flavor.
Preparing and Eating Pre-Hispanic Worms
The preparation of pre-Hispanic worms varies depending on the type of worm and the region where it is consumed. For example, the maguey worms are caught one by one using a wand with a small hook, and they are cooked in a parchment made from the maguey stalk over coals, in ashes, or toasted.
They are commonly eaten in tacos with tortillas spread with guacamole, and in restaurants, they are fried until golden brown, so they taste like pork cracklings. On the other hand, the xinicuiles or chinicuiles, which are smaller worms that live in the root of the maguey, are made into tamales or fried in butter or olive oil.
In some regions, such as the Mezquital Valley in Hidalgo and the State of Mexico, the nopal worm is a delicacy. This worm is the larva of a white butterfly that lives in the leaves of the nopal cactus. It is usually cooked in a sauce made from chili peppers, garlic, and tomato, and it is served with tortillas or as a filling for quesadillas.
Pre-Hispanic worms are part of Mexico's cultural heritage, and they are still consumed in many rural communities as a source of protein. While their consumption may seem unusual to outsiders, these worms have been a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries and have a unique taste and texture.
If you are adventurous enough to try them, you may find a new favorite dish and gain a newfound appreciation for the unique flavors and ingredients that make up Mexican cuisine. Who knows, you may even impress your friends with your newfound love for pre-Hispanic worms!