EDIBLE ANTS: CHICATANAS FROM MEXICO
Scientific Name: Atta mexicana
Chicatanas are flying ants and the queen ants are a pre-Hispanic delicacy dating back centuries.
During the rainy season in central Mexico, Zapotecs would gather the queen ants that emerge from the ground only during a few months each year. Today, the tradition is carried on by people throughout central Mexico.
Chicatanas are not easy to harvest. Not only are they only available for a short period of time but gathering them is a feat in itself. They fly, and they bite. This may be one reason they are one of the more expensive edible insects. The other is that they taste great and are perfect as a snack or an ingredient.
Chicatanas are the main ingredient of a popular salsa called “Salsa de Chicatanas” (surprise), which is prepared with chilis, onion, and garlic. It’s not hard to make. Grind the chicatanas in a molcajete (mortar and pestle), grind the chilis, then mix with the garlic and onions, pan-roast to taste. Keep in mind, if you roast for a longer time, the chills will lose some of their heat, and the salsa will develop a smoky flavor.
If you want to try these flying ants but are a bit timid, mezcal is traditionally used to bolster confidence. The more trepidation you feel, the more mezcal you need.
Note: Chinicuiles are the “worm” found in mezcal and their sweet taste, along with the chicatanas, will enhance your mezcal experience