A new group of locusts crossed the border from the Sinai region on Sunday,
ending up in the area of Moshav Be’er Malka, in the Ramat Hanegev region, the
Agriculture Ministry reported.
After entering Israel, the insects split
up and continued their flight, with one faction heading toward Ashalim and
another toward Ofakim, the ministry said.
Once these swarms land on the
ground, ministry workers will map out their locations in order to spray them
They expected to begin their spraying at the first signs
of light on Monday morning, the ministry said.
This latest swarm of
locusts follows a second that entered the country from Egypt on Friday in the
Nitzana region, after which the Agriculture Ministry sprayed pesticide heavily
throughout the weekend, both by air and on the ground.
Initial groups of
the bugs swooped into the country on Tuesday near Kadesh Barnea, after taking a
break from storming the markets of Cairo and the Suez region last weekend. While
that swarm has largely been eradicated, people have sighted remaining
individuals from the group all over the country, including in the Center and the
When news broke of locusts swarming over Egypt, farmers began to
tremble in their boots.
Locusts can cause millions of dollars of damage
to crops as they chomp through fields.
But when Jerusalem chef Moshe
Basson heard about the locusts, he had two thoughts: schnitzel, and social
Schnitzel, because that’s his favorite way of eating locusts. A
light dusting of bread crumbs, fried up in olive oil, served with a touch of
salt. And social justice? “Locusts eat the rich peoples’ food, and poor people
eat the locusts, and they get an excellent source of protein for free,”
explained Basson, an award-winning chef who owns the Eucalyptus Restaurant in
Jerusalem that specializes in local heritage and biblical foods.
many clients clambering for a taste of the crunchy pest, you won’t find the
local locusts on the menu at Eucalyptus.
That’s because they exist in a
kosher grey area.
Previously, Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardi
chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled that the locusts, part of the Acrididae family
that includes grasshoppers, are kosher for everyone who has a tradition of
eating them. That includes Yemenite Jews, who used to eat them skewered on
shish-kebabs and baked with a light sprinkling of salt.
Because there is
no record of the kashrut of locusts in religious texts, their status is unclear,
according to Yosef. Basson was born in Iraq, but that doesn’t stop him from
frying up locusts for dozens of curious clients, including foreign
“The whole restaurant is about local, traditional, biblical
food,” he said.
This swarm of locusts first appeared near Cairo on March
After massing near the border, the locusts descended on Israel on
March 6, and the Agricultural Ministry took aggressive steps to stop the swarm
from continuing northwards. A few locusts have been reported in northern Israel
and Tel Aviv. One of Basson’s workers found a locust near his home in the Old
City’s Armenian Quarter, but he was too afraid of it to bring it to
Which is too bad, since Basson is running low on locusts. After the
pesticide spray, it’s been hard for him to get fresh ones. Those he has now were
collected a few days ago by farmers in Ramat Hanegev, and brought exclusively to
Basson. But after three days in boxes in Basson’s kitchen, they have lost most
of their meat.
When the chef drops the live ones in boiling oil, they
make a hissing sound, just like shrimps, as the air escapes from their hard
shells. Their brown bodies turn a brilliant red as they cook.
Basson decided to make both savory and sweet locusts. In one dish, he sautéed
deep fried locusts with a yellow sauce made from pickled lemon and saffron,
mixed with a salsa of roasted red pepper and freshly blended almond
For the sweet one, he created a candied locust caramel. After
removing the head and the wings (parts of the locust with no nutritional value
that only serve to get stuck in your throat, Basson explained), he poured
boiling caramel over the bodies and detached legs of the locusts, creating an
amber-colored locust candy that inspired references to edible Jurassic Park
After breaking up the candy, he stuck it in a mound of whipped
coconut cream decorated with beet leaves.
The truth is, locusts don’t
really taste like anything except crunchy air. Both dishes I tried tasted
exactly like the sauces Basson used to cook them in.
As I teased the
squeamish photographer with locust legs poking out of my mouth, I couldn’t help
but think, if Israel has to experience one of the Ten Plagues before Passover
this year, I’m sure glad we didn’t end up with lice.