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Green Tomato Hornworms


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15 replies to this topic

#1 chappie

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 03:49 PM

Sunday, while relaxing at my friend Nicole's parents' house, her dad was showing me his heirloom tomato plants, when we noticed they weren't looking too keen. Something had eaten the tops and several leaves, and I noticed a few tiny green fruits with what looked like deer-sized bites missing.

We searched the three plants and removed about 20 fat, pinkie-finger-sized hornworms. The writhing mass filled two cupped hands. As people gathered to observe and debate what to do with the vermin, I wondered aloud if they were edible. Nicole disappeared, fired up the internet and procured a recipe (though her printout was only page 1 of 2, so I thought perhaps it was a joke).

We decided to try it, so we heated some olive oil in a cast-iron skillet, then tossed the writhing creatures in alive. They squirmed in agony for a brief moment before rigor mortis rendered them into plump green sausages.

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The recipe had warned not to cook them too long or at too high a temperature, lest they burst, but, this being my first attempt at sauteed hornworm, I ignored the advice and fried them a little longer. They did rupture, oozing a dark green substance into the oil.

After a quick drain on paper towels (which were stained dark green), we salted them and brought them outside for tasting.

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Six people tried them, and everyone was amazed: the worms tasted like fried green tomatoes. Their texture was not unlike softshelled crabs, and I detected a hint of the "mustard" that is inside a crab's shell. Next time I'll be more gentle so they remain plump. I'm thinking Green Tomato Hornworm tacos, and I'm also considering placing a classified ad in the local paper for people infested with these delicious blights to call me.

Sorry the pictures aren't better, but all I had was my cellphone. I'll report any future experiments with better documentation...

#2 mrbigjas

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 05:04 PM

now that's what i call adventures in eating! nice job, chappie.

#3 ...tm...

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 10:00 PM

So I guess I should be excited if I get a hornworm infestation this year. Green tomato flavored giant larvae sound pretty good to me.

#4 Smithy

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 12:46 PM

Given the present unripe state of my tomatoes and the cool weather (you call this summer?), those worms might be my best chance at eating tomatoes this year.

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#5 docsconz

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 01:49 PM

Do you have the link to the original recipe? I found those same caterpillars (I think) chomping on my parsley.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#6 sladeums

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 02:09 PM

there's a recipe here:
click for 'Fried Green Tomato Hornworms' recipe



on a related note, here is a recipe here for hornworm feed if you would like to raise your own larva:
click for Tobacco Hornworm Artificial Diet recipe
...I thought I had an appetite for destruction but all I wanted was a club sandwich.

#7 chappie

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 02:11 PM

The original recipe is here:
http://www.olympus.n.../EatASample.htm

You might want to do a photo search online to make sure you have the same worms.

#8 chappie

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 05:30 PM

Also, if anyone else knows of tasty insects ripe for the picking, please feel free to share.

#9 chappie

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 05:31 PM

If tomato hornworms taste like tomatoes, could you pinch a tobacco hornworm between your lip and gums and get a nicotine buzz?

#10 therese

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 05:35 PM

If tomato hornworms taste like tomatoes, could you pinch a tobacco hornworm between your lip and gums and get a nicotine buzz?

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Remember the tomacco episode on the Simpsons?
Can you pee in the ocean?

#11 mrbigjas

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 06:14 PM

lisa: i thought you said it tasted terrible!

bart: it does. but it's smooth and mild, and refreshingly addictive...



and once again, a simpsons quote for every situation...

#12 chappie

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 02:38 PM

Is there any reason these worms wouldn't make a suitable candidate for pickling? I've been making all sorts of pickles lately using the lacto-fermentation method described in Nourishing Traditions. Why wouldn't it work the same for a firm, juicy caterpillar? This might take some bravery to actually taste, however.

On a sidenote, someone told me that on a recently aired episode of Fear Factor, contestants had to chew up green tomato hornworms and spit their juice into a container. Based on their flavor with a quick trip to the sautee pan, I'm guessing they aren't all that bad raw, either.

#13 ellencho

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:17 AM

As graduate students years ago, we would be in charge of feeding the mealworms that were used to feed all of the other animals. They were fed mostly on a diet of granny smith apples and granola (don't ask me why we fed them graham crackers). Apparently mealworms are sort of like hornworms in the fact that they will taste like the diet they feed on, because one of my colleagues used to pop them in his mouth every now and then because they tasted like trail mix.

Another student I knew ate fruit flies, she said they tasted like grass.

Edited by ellencho, 08 July 2005 - 07:19 AM.

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#14 sparrowgrass

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 12:42 PM

Do you have the link to the original recipe? I found those same caterpillars (I think) chomping on my parsley.

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Your worms are probably parsley worms AKA black swallowtail butterfly larva--those big gorgeous butterflies we love to watch.

See this link for a picture.

I believe swallowtail butterflies are very bitter, so birds won't eat them.

Generally, brightly colored bugs are bitter.
sparrowgrass

#15 docsconz

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 01:45 PM

Do you have the link to the original recipe? I found those same caterpillars (I think) chomping on my parsley.

View Post


Your worms are probably parsley worms AKA black swallowtail butterfly larva--those big gorgeous butterflies we love to watch.

See this link for a picture.

I believe swallowtail butterflies are very bitter, so birds won't eat them.

Generally, brightly colored bugs are bitter.

View Post


Thanks for the link. I believe that you are correct. Here is a photo of my "worms". I'm glad I didn't try to fry them :laugh:


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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#16 Mallet

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 08:44 PM

Great picture!
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