Me neither. When I crossed paths with this one on Thursday afternoon, I was on my way home from lunch with a full belly, so I passed.
What is it, exactly?
It’s not a colorful worm, nor is it an earth-toned caterpillar. It’s the larvae of the Rhynchophorus palmarum beetle, or South American palm weevil, which typically dwells in and kills the palm trees it’s named after. When a dying contaduro palm is found, the crawling nests are carved out and the larvae harvested.
They’re considered a delicacy, a protein-rich font of countless curative properties. The keeper of this one told me it’s to be swallowed raw when digestive problems pop up. But, she insisted, they’re just as good grilled or fried. Here it is again, for those of you who want a second, clearer look.
Fairly common throughout the tropics, they’re most prevalent in coastal zones of Colombia, where they’re also known as chontacuro, and in the Ecuadorean Amazon, which is how they made their way to a natural foods stall at the inaugural “Ecuador First” fair in Quito last Thursday, a showcase of domestically-produced handicrafts and specialty foods organized by the national government.
The motivation behind the fair, which took over large swaths of the Plaza Grande in Quito’s historical center, was to a large extent political, a response of sorts to the organizers of the nation-wide protests which would be held later that day. The Correa government wanted to spotlight local producers and small business owners, many of them from the country’s sizable indigenous population, as a counterweight to the indigenous groups who signed on to support the March 19 anti-Correa demonstrations.
Several hundred artisans answered the call, displaying and selling their wares under the shade of large tents and ubiquitous Alianza Pais party banners that prominently feature a portrait of the president.
Politics aside, I’m glad it was organized for whatever reason. The variety of products showcased was impressive, from organic food and coffees to those produced by jewelry makers and craftsmen. And a woman who raises exotic beetle larvae. I will try one one day.
A few more images below. You can also check out a small gallery of images filed for Demotix.
And for the record: today’s Pic du Jour, the 432nd straight on the site, was snapped on 19 March 2015, and also a fitting contribution for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme, ‘Fresh‘. Because it doesn’t get more fresh than a squirmy chontacuro.