WHIDBEY RECIPES | No tricks, just some squirmy ‘goodies’

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I was in the back yard doing a bit of digging out, and discovered a treasure trove of possible Halloween treats. We have enough earthworms inhabiting our few vegetable beds to make dozens of delicious cookies and plates of luscious candy, and still not deplete our own personal supply.

Don’t give me any of that “she’s kidding, right?” stuff; earthworms could solve many of the world’s hunger problems, if properly farmed, harvested and put to use as a food stuff.

And, have you checked out the outrageous prices on those meager sacks of Halloween candy? With times getting tough, financially, for many families, I am hoping today to help out with some healthy, inexpensive alternatives.

Dig as many earthworms as you can find, putting them carefully into a plastic bag until you have a substantial number.

Take them indoors, rinse them quickly under cold, running water, then place them in a container of moistened cornmeal.

Be sure the container has a lid and, if necessary, poke a few holes in the lid to allow some air to get in. Put the container in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This is called “purging your earthworms.” Refrigerating them will also slow them down when you are ready to begin preparation.

Earthworms eat and expel material equal to their own weight every 24 hours, so after that period of time, your worms will be cleansed of whatever they were feeding on outdoors and have only cornmeal in their works, which is no problem. They can be kept refrigerated this way for a few days, if you aren’t ready to finish preparation right then.

To eliminate any dead worms before you go on with preparation, dump them out, a handful at a time, onto waxed paper and watch for movement. Remove any that aren’t moving and put the rest in a colander.

I recommend a colander with very small holes, or a sieve, otherwise they may crawl through the holes. Rinse well under cold water, place on paper towels and pat dry. At this point, you can freeze them for later use or boil them to make them ready to use in recipes.

Earthworms should be boiled for at least 10 minutes before using them in any recipe, and some chefs recommend boiling them two or even three times, 10 minutes each time. After boiling, the worms are ready to use, or if you prefer to use them dried and chopped, place them on a cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven for 15 to 30 minutes, depending upon desired crispness. Earthworms, boiled and dried in this way, can even be turned into high protein flour in your blender or food processor.

I’m not sure whether earthworms are considered acceptable for inclusion in a vegan or vegetarian diet, and I don’t think my one vegetarian granddaughter would give me a rational answer to the question (yuck! Grammie; no way!), but they are pure protein, with no fat, no bones and no tough muscle.

They are considered edible in many other cultures and, considering how quickly they reproduce

(1,000 earthworms could become 1,000,000 in less than a year under the right conditions), earthworm production could, as I mentioned, solve some of the world’s hunger problems.

So, you might want to consider concocting a healthy alternative to that Halloween candy, and if you’re plagued by hordes of trick-or-treaters, as one of my friends is, this could cut the numbers down considerably, if the word should somehow get around about the “special treats” you’re handing out.

We’ve had very few doorbell ringers on Halloween night the past two or three years. I wonder why?

RECIPES

This recipe for a crunchy toffee-like candy calls for earthworms that have been oven dried and chopped. You can either put them in the bottom of the dish and pour the candy mixture over, or incorporate them into the candy, whichever you prefer. Stirring them into the toffee actually disguises the “special ingredient” more.

TOFFEE

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter

1 cup dry roasted earthworms, coarsely chopped (see preparation instructions above)

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate, grated

Butter a 9-by-9-by-2 baking pan or dish. Heat butter and sugar in a saucepan to boiling; boil over med. heat for 7 min., stirring constantly to avoid burning.

Remove from heat; stir in chopped worms. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the hot mixture and cover with aluminum foil so the contained heat will melt the chocolate.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the candy and while still warm, cut into small squares. Refrigerate until firm.

Often, adults are at the door with their young children. You might like to offer them a quick bite as they make the rounds. Have a platter of chips handy to go with this spicy dip.

CHIP DIP

½ cup dried, chopped earthworms (see preparation instructions above)

½ cup cottage cheese

3 T. chopped jalapeno peppers, or to taste

2 T. chopped chives

2 T. cilantro, minced

2 t. lemon juice

1 t. cumin

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Chill. Serve with crackers or chips, or with crunchy vegetables such as jicama, celery, broccoli flowerets, etc.

For your own Halloween supper, because you’ll probably be busy answering that doorbell, you might want to try this quick, easy sauce to serve over rice or pasta of choice. This recipe is from an interesting book, “Urban Wilderness, A Guidebook to Resourceful City Living,” by Christopher Nyerges.

EASY SUPPER SAUCE

1 cup earthworms, boiled and baked (see above instructions)

Flour, sufficient to coat amount of earthworms you intend to use

1 to 2 T. butter

Salt, to taste

¼ cup chicken stock or broth

½ of a med. onion, chopped

½ cup mushrooms, sliced

1 cup sour cream

Noodles or rice

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Coat earthworms with flour; brown in melted butter and salt to taste. Add chicken stock or broth and simmer for ½ hr.

In a separate pan, saute the chopped onion and sliced mushrooms. Add to the earthworm mixture then stir in the sour cream. Serve over noodles of choice, or steamed rice, sprinkled with parsley garnish. Serves 2.

Happy All Hallows Eve to all our readers.

Margaret Walton can be reached at falwalcal@msn.com.

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