‘Hillbilly chicken’: Cicadas and other spring delicacies emerge in Columbus back yards

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Curried, dipped in butter, fried with teriyaki or nestled in rhubarb pie? Those are some of the ways to eat cicadas from Brood X, says a Columbus wild crafter and forager.

Wild crafters, the people who know what to harvest and what to avoid when they are out in nature, are lining up recipes to sample Brood X. Simon La Bozetta, who learned to forage from his mother, says he hasn’t eaten cicada yet, but he’s heard they are a delicacy.

“I’ve heard them referred to as mountain lobsters, I’ve heard them referred to as some sort of type of popcorn,” said La Bozetta. “I’ve heard them referred to as hillbilly chicken, so they go by various names depending on the region.

“And as I’ve been doing some research I’ve found different recipes titled various ways, so maybe we’ll try one of these recipes, and I’ll find something old timey, and we’ll try something like that. Maybe something more modern, or as simple as dipping in butter, like lobster.”

La Bozetta is an experienced forager, and harvests dandelion plants, wild chives, ramps, cattails, and white pine needles for tea — among many other plants and herbs. He’s been researching recipes to get ready for the emergence of Brood X.

“People cook them in various ways, from saute to stir fry, even rhubarb pie with these little buggers…It turns out there are historical recipes for [cicadas]. I’ve heard them described as having a nutty flavor, I’ve heard them described as tasting like chicken or shrimp,” said La Bozetta. “I imagine it must have something to do with preparation — perhaps they are very good curried, or with teriyaki sauce, I don’t know. I’m going to find out this year!”

People who are new to foraging need a knowledgeable guide to help them understand plants. And they need to start with an easily identifiable plant, and go very slowly, says La Bozetta.

“I would caution any body to take it slowly. It can be very dangerous depending on what you’re collecting. A lot of people like to go collect wild mushrooms, different various fungi, and while that’s very fun, and very rewarding — this time of the year we have morels coming into season, and that’s a coveted mushroom — but there are some lookalikes, and sometimes it can be very dangerous, sometimes it can give you bad gastro-intestinal issues.

“I’d always advise anyone who wants to participate or learn more about foraging, is to learn one thing at a time, learn it very well, and learn how to responsibly collect that particular variety.”

Thorough understanding will keep you safe from look-alike plants, along with plant identification tools like field guides and clear pictures on the internet, as well connection with other foragers on Facebook.

Once the cicadas emerge, NBC4’s Cynthia Rosi will catch up with Simon again to cook and eat a sampling of cicadas from Brood X. Liberty Park in Powell is one of the places marked for emergence on the University of Connecticut’s map, although topsoil stripping and development in the surrounding area may affect how cicadas emerge.

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