Jumiles (eating stink bugs) in Taxco, Mexico:
Full disclosure: Jumiles are stink bugs! They are one of 1900 types of edible insects. But even still, why would I eat them? Well, shortly after Leticia and I got together, she asked me whether I’d like to meet her family in Taxco, Mexico. Of course, I readily agreed. That’s when she laughed and said “if you want to be a member of the family, you’re going to have to eat Jumiles.” (that seemed innocent enough)
I’ll be honest and admit that when Leticia first presented the challenge, I didn’t actually know what Jumiles were. I assumed that it was going to be some kind of ancestral Mexican dish handed down from generation to generation.
Jumiles are a type of stink beetle indigenous to Taxco, Mexico. There is a festival held during the fall of every year where residents of Taxco, Guerrero hike around the surrounding foothills in search of this insect.
Apparently they’re found at the base of the trees during the months of October and November. The beetles are gathered up by the thousands, and served in a variety of foods. The most common of which is Mexican salsa that is garnished with whole Jumiles. But apparently the secret family recipe involves mixing everything together in a blender! (it’s actually quite tasty)
Recipe for Salsa de Jumiles:
Throw all this stuff into a blender and pulse:
1 handful of jumiles (live or dead)
1 clove garlic
4 ripe tomatoes
Chiles (to taste)
But the Salsa Jumiles came much later!
When I walked through the front door of the house, I was blessed with a lot of hugs and a big bag of stink bugs. Oh, yay! That’s exactly what I’ve always wanted! And I’m positive that the look on my face served as confirmation.
There was a lot of laughter and what I’m pretty sure were some challenges regarding my manhood.
So, you know what I had to do next. Right? Walk out on to roof of the hotel and challenge my gravity by eating a few bugs.
Now the funny thing is that the family was initially impressed by this feat. After all, according to everybody present I broke the family record. But when the video made its way around to the extended family, my title as Rey de los Jumiles was challenged.
Apparently the (suspiciously updated) family tradition requires that I eat live stink bugs! Never mind the fact that there was no mention of this being a requirement. Nor does it apparently matter that Lety’s family provided the Jumiles Seco (dried Jumiles) in the first place! This video has been declared as an invalid entry to the family, because those stink bugs weren’t live. So we had to return to Taxco to stage another competition.
Eating Live Jumiles is a Real Challenge!
Now if you think it’s difficult to choke back a bag full of dried stink bugs, wait until you’re staring a bunch of live ones in the face! You buy them in bags. I bought a big bag of Jumiles from this woman who was selling them in the local market. Lety assured me that whatever I didn’t eat, they’d use to make salsa?
As it turns out, stink bugs are just one of many interesting delicacies you’ll discover in the local mercado! While we were weaving our way in and out of the catacombs of the market, Lety spotted her favorite tacos! “Oh, you’ve just got to try them!” she said. Of course, they looked delicious! Perfectly toasted taquitos with chicken inside and covered in green salsa which was nice and spicy! I polished off the first order and went back for seconds! It was easy to see how Lety could love these tacos so much!
So we’re wandering our way back up to the street level of central Taxco, when Lety asks me whether I’d like some ice cream. The thing is that Lety prefers cakes and cookies over ice cream, so a big red flare went off in my head. I suddenly had that feeling of deja vu. The one you get when your mom says she’ll take you for ice cream (right after you endure something horrible).
Like Brain Tacos in Salsa Verde de Jumiles!
Um, yea, and Lety can’t stop laughing. In fact, she’s laughing so hard that I’m pretty sure she’s going to pee herself. And I’m good with that, because I just ate six brain tacos without disclosure. Sadly, I have to admit that they were good. In fact, they were really good and I’ve eaten them on every return trip to Taxco.
The ice cream is also really good. Surprisingly, the local cremeria does not offer Jumiles infused gelato. Apparently green pistachio is very popular, but they don’t think there is much demand for gelado de jumiles. This might be because the gelato shop is located right in the middle of the tourist zone.
Now you might be wondering whether this rant is an attempt to stall the inevitable consumption of live stink bugs. There might be some validity to that theory. I was prepared to suffer through the consumption of three or four servings of gelato in order to coat my stomach.
With my Big Bag of Live Stink Bugs in hand…
It was time to return to the family casa and regain my standing as Rey de los Jumiles! The taxi driver kept eyeing the bag as they were crawling around inside. I swear that they were doing so to taunt me as if to say, this is going to be your stomach!
There is actually video of me eating all those live stink bugs. I’ll get around to editing it one of these days. In the mean time, know that live jumiles taste totally disgusting. It definitely took the right mind set to toss them in my mouth like M&M’s and crunch down one one after the other.
The inside of my mouth burned for hours from the yodo that they release when you crunch down on them. Just in case you are wondering, that cute little word “yodo” is local slang for urine. I couldn’t taste my tongue or really feel the inside of my mouth for two weeks! Eating dried jumiles is an entirely different experience. They taste more like really strong cinnamon Altoids on steroids. Which is not to say that cinnamon Altoids taste like dried Jumiles.
In this blog post titled 10 Terrifying Foods (that are actually healthy) the writer for Pacific Prime Insurance wrote: “This is the Taxco version of picking a cockroach up on the ground and chowing down. Larger Jumiles are said to have an almost overpowering taste of iodine; a taste which connoisseurs assure us needs to be acquired.”
For the record, there’s no way that I’m going to eat a cockroach! Don’t worry mom! (she couldn’t watch the video). As it so happens, I did eat one of the larger size jumiles live. That was a serious OMG moment.
Quid Pro Quo (not in this lifetime)
Having completed the challenge to join Lety’s family, it was time to create a challenge of my own. Uncle Mark used to try and convince us to lick the banana slugs found in Grammy’s backyard. He used to tell us that they taste like banana pudding. Which makes sense, right? Why else would they call them banana slugs if they don’t taste like pudding? Don’t argue with the logic, just go with the story.
I spent months selling this idea to Lety, prior to our trip to the United States to visit my family. Every time she told one of her friends that I ate a bunch of jumiles, I reminded her that the custom in my family was that she eat a banana slug. My siblings and Uncle Mark were totally on board. Needless to say that every member of Lety’s family was telling her that she didn’t have to do it. But she kept saying, he did it for me, fair is only fair. Exactly, I couldn’t agree more.
Now imagine my girlfriend Lety, sitting in my grandmother’s victorian style living room. I walk in from outside, where I’ve been hunting for banana slugs amongst the redwood trees. And I’ve found a real beauty, which I proudly present to Lety.
She bravely, albeit hesitantly brings it up to her mouth and sticks her tongue out for a taste.
And then mother and grandmother scream “Noooooooooo!”
Which was followed by “Todd Lincoln Gray! What do you think you’re doing?!?!”
My attempt to explain that “they taste just like banana pudding” was shot down immediately. Vehemently denied in fact. Just who’s side are they on anyway?
Cuidado con las brujas mexicanas!
Shortly after returning from the United States, it was time to return to Taxco to visit Lety’s family. It had been about six months since we’d been there, so everybody was happy to see us. There was the usual huge family dinner, which OMG is amazing! And then Lety’s aunt produced a bag of dried jumiles and asked whether I’d like some. Naturally I ate a few to be polite, and then I was invited to eat a few more.
While we were there, I began to experience a little bit of lower back pain. A friend of ours who’s a doctor told me that I needed to drink more fluids. I was reminded that it’s necessary to drink a lot more water while living in Mexico because of the heat. That makes perfect sense, right?
Naturally this new development comes up over dinner in the course of conversation. There’s some discussion back and forth amongst the women. My grasp of the Spanish language still leaves a lot to be desired, so I don’t catch all of it. But the next day Lety and I head back to the market, where she buys a little bag of red tree bark. She opens the bag, pulls out a couple of pieces, and drops them into my water bottle.
It’s safe to drink the water in Mexico?
One of the obvious concerns that I’ve got as a Gringo in Mexico is the water. Now imagine somebody tossing a piece of red tree bark into your water and telling you to drink it. Naturally I make a joke about “La aqua medicinada de las brujas Mexicanas” and take a sip. Not surprisingly, it was bitter and nasty tasting, it puckered my face right up! I might as well have been sucking on the most bitter lemon on the planet.
The woman in the booth starts laughing and begins to explain all about the medicinal properties of herbs and tree bark. I mumble something about brujas and witch water.
The conversation takes a turn and wanders into the realm of Mexican witchcraft. In the spirit of the conversation, I suggest that feeding jumiles to men is probably some kind of mind control. She laughs, nods her head in wholehearted agreement and reminds Lety that she needs to dose me about every six months! I freaking knew it!
For the next few days, I test out my new theory on the men and women of Taxco. I’ll tell you this, they don’t deny it. Most of the time the men nod their heads in silent acknowledgement and kind of shrug their shoulders. It’s like they’re saying “we know, but what can you do about it?”
And the women just laugh. Not one of them denied it! And more than a few of them told Lety that we should go visit Juchitan in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. To which Lety said “Oh honey, that would be so romantic?”
So you know, I Googled it and we’re definitely not going there! Apparently the whole pueblo is run by women?!?! I’m not sure how that’s actually different, but somehow it seems scary? I mean after all, who do you think came up with this guacamole recipe?
Guacamole de Jumiles recipe:
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalepeño chiles (or habanero)
1 small handful fresh cilantro
1 handful of jumiles (live or dead)
Salt to taste
Dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Chope the cilantro and chiles.
Cut the avocado in half. Give it a twist. Pop out the seed. Spoon the avocado out into a bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together (the jumiles too) and you’re good to go!
When is the best time to eat Jumiles?
Based upon the conversation that I just overheard between Leticia and her mother, whenever the effects wear off. In my particular instance, I’m guessing that this is about every six months. Evidently, merely writing a blog post that alludes to the effects, warrants another dose! Obviously, I’m in control of my mental faculties and that is clearly unacceptable. She actually asked her mom to send a bag of jumiles via overnight delivery!
Should I be worried? Not at all. This is Mexico. Nothing gets delivered on time. Packages get lost all the time. And for $200 pesos in the hands of our local delivery guy, I guarantee it!
But even if the package does somehow miraculously manage to arrive, those little suckers are full of vitamins and minerals! Which is why I’m going to generously share them with the neighbors! And then there is always the fact that Lety was right about the whole stick in the water thing. My kidneys did feel a lot better after I drank the water with that stick in it?!?!
Now it’s your turn to eat some Jumiles!
I hope that you enjoyed reading about my experience eating Jumiles in Taxco, Mexico. Be sure to give them a try the next time you visit Taxco. Challenge Your Gravity and try something new!
I’m curious whether you’d be willing to try them? You could always hypnotize yourself into thinking that they’re like Brown M&M’s
How do you think I ate so many? (self-hypnosis is an amazing tool)
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!