Eating Colombian Hormigas

One of the very best things about London is the fusion of cultures. I’ve been invited to homes of friends from places like Lithuania, Pakistan and Uganda for home-cooked meals of food from their countries, have had food cooked for me by Korean, Indian and Mongolian friends just as if they would make it in their own countries.  

Lately, W has been telling me about how his family in Colombia trap giant ants (about an inch long) which are called “hormigas”. They pull off the wings and legs and toast them for hours in a pot over an open fire. They are enjoyed as a snack and people keep whole jars of them to munch on. Reminiscing about the ant farm I had as a child, I cringed.

W comes from the Santander region of Colombia, a place where Guane Indians were the area’s indiginous people. They used to use the ants as part of a complicated mating ritual. It is still believed that “hormigas” are an aphrodisiac and have youth-giving powers. They are harvested during the rainy season, around this time, and sold in various forms on the streets and in the shops of the region. They have even made their way to the Europe where they have been called the “cavier of Santander”.

Colombian Hormigas 4

A few days ago, I was in Selfridges, browsing summer dresses with high hopes that the sun will soon return to London’s grey skies, and noticed some people making disgusted noises by a shelf nearby. I walked over to investigate and what do you know – there was, among scorpians and spiders, a jar full of edible, toasted “hormigas” from Colombia. I had to buy them for W because he wouldn’t believe it. £15 later, I walked out with a small jar of giant toasted ants in my bag.

Colombian Hormigas 1

When I presented W with my findings later that night, he was surprised I found his favourite snack in this country and promptly unscrewed the lid, pulled out a long brown body and tossed it into his mouth. I could hear the crunch. I covered my ears and grimaced. Then, of course, he held out the jar with a grin and offered me one. I looked inside.  A clump of hard brown bodies. Heads. Legs. No.

Colombian Hormigas 2

But he insisted and the adventurous side of me gave in. After looking at them for a while, trying to imagine they were not once flying around an anthill in South America with long wings and wiggling legs, I picked one up. It stared back at me with dead eyes. W was watching me intently, reaching for a few more to crunch on while I contemplated putting the little creature in my mouth. He said, “You can’t just swallow it either. You have to keep it in your mouth until you chew it all up and really taste it.”

Colombian Hormigas 3

Really taste it. Ok, in the mouth it goes. Crunchy. Crunchy. Soft inside. A few scratchy legs. Tastes like bacon? Crispy, fried bacon with a soft meaty centre and crunchy, salty, pop-corn textured outer shell. Earthy.

Not bad, actually. Believe it or not, I even took a second.

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55 comments on “Eating Colombian Hormigas

  1. Oh no… I’m going to have to take your word for it because i have seen those ants in action and they terrify me alive or dead!

  2. Buenos Dias,

    “Hormigas” is the Spanish word for ‘ants’ and these are some fearsome examples of the species!

    I wonder how they would be on ensalada? Perhaps sprinkled on soup (unless they get mooshy).

    A wonderful post. I salute your sense of adventure and your courage.

    Con regard,

    Athena

  3. Way to try something new-It’s always a pleaseure to read a culinary adventure even if it has a hit of National Geographic thrown in!

  4. That was interesting. I would try it. When I was transit in DFW airport there was a kiosk there that sold stuff like this. One item was a scorpion lollipop…go figure, LOL :)

  5. Having already eaten toasted grasshoppers (tasted like popcorn), eating ants wouldn’t be much of a leap. It’s great to read about people keeping open minds toward different cultures. Well done.

  6. Very adventurous!! Maybe as the world becomes more of a GLOBAL VILLAGE, we are going to be offered more and more exotic and personally challenging tasties.
    I remember leaving home in Australia and going all the way to Exmouth (in U.K. ) to finally try Emu and Zebra.

  7. The Shuar people of Ecuador also eat a type of giant ant as a delicacy. They harvest them at night after a fall rain, as that’s when the ants swarm out. While volunteering in a village there, I tried a live one, as well as salty fried ones. Trust me, the cooked ones are so much better. Kind of nutty tasting. But they didn’t look quite as scary as these!

  8. Bacon flavored ants..THATS DISGUSTING!….now if they were sour cream and onion thats another story! lol

    enjoyed the post. props to you for trying something new.

  9. *shudder* I’m sorry, I couldn’t do it. Adventurous side or not I just could not put the body of a scratchy bitey ant into my mouth….Just….No. Heh, good on you for trying though!

  10. You know, I’ve seen that shelf at Selfridges and never purchased those little guys…I just might try them, although I imagine having them enrobed in chocolate would make it easier.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  11. This is a delicacy and so many people in Santander can’t go wrong. I would try them. I think they are in the realm of pork scratchings (tasty), pop corn and yes, why not, bacon crisps.

  12. ChueH.
    I had fun reading this article. It’s amazing what people will eat around the world — things you would never even imagine. Well, I suppose ants aren’t too bad, I’ve heard worst — like gaint tarantula and there are others, oh yeah, you think of it, it’s probably on someone’s delicacy menu. It’s just hard to imagine that even ants can be eaten; they’re so small and do they even have any meat? I just hope you’re not chewing on a hard shell and bones. Well, I know that some people in Laos like to dine on wasp and bee lavae. They said it’s suppose to have a butterly taste; like butter? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tasted it. All this talk about food sure is making me hungry, but I think I would prefer a hamburger instead. Oh, but I’m not at all disgusted by this article. Last weekend, I was at a family event and we had a wonderful and traditional dish — the dish is made from cow dung. It is the most popular wish at the table, believe it or not. It was awesome, I always get seconds.
    Whatever we eat, I just hope that we don’t eat endangered species; like whales and elephants. I’m just afraid we’re going to eat an entire species to extinction. LOL.
    I wonder, do they sell these cooked gaint ants in the US? Not that I want to try some but just wondering.

  13. I once took some kids to an insect tasting day at the Life Center in Newcastle, they said they were very tasty..luckily I’m vegetarian so had a good get out! Still, the kitchen here at Witchmountain is being invaded by ants so I reckon I’ve eaten a few by accident!

  14. haha, I love the way you have written this post. It reminds me of a similar feeling I had when I watched my Taiwanese friend munching on dried fish and almonds out of a crisp-like pack. I did try one. But not a second.

  15. I don’t know that I could venture out and try them, unless of course they’re a last resort and I’m on Survivor.

    It’s kind of like eating that delicacy of “monkey brains” I’ve read about.

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  17. Amazing that they sell them at Selfridges! but then again, that is the beauty of London, not much that you cannot buy here…. you were very brave to taste them…. next time I’ll go to the Food Hall… I think I will still give them a miss…

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  19. Great article, I really cant believe you are that adventurous. London certainly brings out a different side in people

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