Meru Miso

Ferment on this by Jess Miller

Miso tastes bloody awesome and is pretty darn good for you too, it’s all about the ferment. Fermenting is so hot right now.

The other thing that is always hot in my book is collaboration, it makes things work…mostly. 

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It also makes things more fun when you can throw ideas around, watch someone with skills and toys you don’t have throw their creative flair into the mix and see what bubbles to the top. The food scene in Tasmania is ripe with great people who have chosen to live here because we have the space and a growing culture of collaboration to do things a bit differently. 

So where am i going with this whole ferment and collaboration? Insect garums.

Late last year I was invited to a food innovators briefing at Enterprise Tasmania presented by two people I’m lucky to have as collaborators and mentors in Dr Tom Lewis (RDS Partners) and Kim Seagram (Stillwater Restaurant, Abel Gin Tas Black Cow Bistro *overachiever). They are steering FermenTasmania and the Northern Tasmania food hub project. I turned up knowing the content would be brilliant, but not sure who else would be in the room. Fully expecting that awkward networking around the drinks table doing introductions.

Thankfully awkward is not how the evening went. Tom and Kim hosted the event like pros and introduced folks to each other with a stirling overviews of what we were all up to. It is from that introduction I started talking with Meagan and Chris DeBonno of Meru Miso about what happens when you ferment insects. Which led to how could we get some trials going where i supply the bugs and add the culture, the 3-6 months of brewing time and the tech to try out Tasmania’s first insect garum.

Insect garam is not a stock standard kitchen habit just yet. Or something that frequents the menu of Tasmanian restaurants, just yet. Lars Williams of the NOMA Nordic Food Lab fame started experimenting with it and sharing his results in 2009 using grasshoppers. HIs recipe and tasting notes are worth checking both online and in the sumptuously laid out ‘On Eating Insects. Essays, stories and recipes’ from the NOMA chefs. 

Seriously the pics are next level and their politics and practical myth busting about insects being the food source that can feed and save the world are timely. I digress; bringing it back to Tasmania, and collaborations. 

After a few conversations with Chris about our joint lack of practical knowledge in creating insect garums we went off and did a bit of research. I did a bit of bespoke insect rearing for garum goodies, and then in late December 2017 delivered a couple of kilos of mealworms and wood roaches to begin the trials. No crickets in this consignment as we had a feature event earlier in the month which had us down to breeding stock. Early this year we can start the cricket garum trials.

Where does this story lead? Not that far at this point, as it takes 3-6 months to allow the fermenting to do its work. To gauge how the ferments are going and then by June/July we will have matured samples to see if the umami is righ, and if the garum is go.

Who knows, by end of this year we could have Tasmanian insect garum as a feature of the Meru Miso range. There’s a bit of learning and tweaking to do before that point though.

Onwards and upwards with finding new ways to create foods #TassieStyle

Rebel Food Tasmania and Good Life Permaculture parlay by Jess Miller

I recently sat down with long time friend Hannah Maloney who with her partner Anton are Good Life Permaculture, to answer a few questions for her blog. We discussed where we were at with Rebel Food Tasmania, and our insect growing and vision for the coming years.

Hannah was one of the people I sounded out a couple of years ago when I was hatching the concept of growing insects for human food in Tasmania. Particularly her thoughts on food waste opportunities, how this could be a viable addition to our community and food systems...and just to see what she reckoned. She is pretty savvy and worth listening to.

Hannah Maloney, Good Life Permaculture

Hannah Maloney, Good Life Permaculture

Pasted below is part of the interview. To see the full version of the chat check out the full blog here . Good Life Permaculture have great advice for designing and growing nourishing food gardens, food systems and bees. Yes, they also have bee hives!

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Who is Rebel Food and what are you up to?

Rebel Food Tasmania is a new enterprise farming insects as human food. We’re doing things our way and a bit out of the ordinary as we’re working to a local food economy vision. We grow small herds in small spaces that we hope will have a big impact on food, reducing food waste, provide a new business in regional Tasmania, and bring a new premium product to the Tasmanian food scene.

Farming insects isn’t a new thing. Right now insect products are being sold in supermarkets in Europe, the USA and are starting to take hold in Australia. And of course, let's not forget that 80% of the global population eats insects as a normal part of their diet. We are in the minority overlooking this source of nourishment.

This past year we’ve been taking a fair bit of time to test our theories, learning from our mistakes and testing our insect end products with people who have expertise in nutrition, taste and what works out in the world. It's a big adventure, and so far we have been overwhelmed by the interest of other people and businesses who are interested in putting bugs on the menu.

When it comes to protein production, how is farming insects better for our landscapes than farming larger livestock?

There is a lot of media going around about insects being the super sustainable protein source of the future. The ability to farm these little critters in small spaces with minimal water, and on food waste is an amazing opportunity. 

That said we are also very mindful that what is used to power the temperature control systems is a major component of the energy and financial sustainability equation. It also needs to be named upfront that vertical farming systems can become intensive farming systems if done just for money, which does not do any favours to the animals being raised.

This includes using fairly run of the mill feed sources, such as commercial chicken feed and other highly processed commercial cereal mixes to get them fat and fried as quickly as possible. This flies in the face of producing a nourishing or sustainable insect food, so we're doing it our way - with fresh food, a bit of extra time and attention to learnings.

Part of the reason for doing a long period of research and development is to make sure we can actually grow and breed insects from farm waste, in temperature controlled systems that are viable and run on renewable energy, and that we are sure of both the quality of the insects on the plate, and that insect farming in Tasmania is actually a viable addition to the Local Food Economy. 

Pinhead crickets 

Pinhead crickets 

What insects are you farming and which one's your favourite to eat at the moment?

The primary focus is on the domestic cricket (Acheta domesticus), for a flour product that can be included into foodstuffs in the longer term, and also to supply some early adopter restaurants in here Tasmania and Sydney for bespoke bugs on their menu.

To add a bit of interest and variety, mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and wood roaches (Parcoblatta pensylvanica) are also being grown because, well - why not?! Not to mention they all taste pretty great.

As part of the research and development period, we are fact checking whether it's true that the insects take on some of the flavour profiles of what they have been eating. Short answer, yes they do. 

During pumpkin season and the apple season there was a detectable sweeter edge. Wine marc (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomace) was an absolute winner for plumper, sweeter crickets (maybe a bit drunk too, who knows) while coffee grounds with mustard leaf is still a reliable foundation feed for giving a spicy edge. Not to mention carrots and root vegetables, they love the carrots as a moisture and food source. 

In terms of cooking them up: I'm really enjoying whole crickets as part of dishes, and doing a lot of cricket flour inclusions into baked goods. I'm loving the cooking experiments with mealworms as they have a slight cheesy end taste to them which rounds off dishes beautifully. The surprise of the cooking experiments has been using woodies, they are umami (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami) powerhouses. A little bit goes a very long way.

 When can people start buying your product?

We're looking to be on menus at select Tasmanian and Sydney restaurants early 2018 with bespoke insects grown for their needs. We will be doing targeted events where the importance of flavour and how the insects are grown is part of the story, while scaling up our systems to be making clean, green Tasmanian grown cricket flour as a key ingredient people can incorporate into their everyday dishes.

 Early Adopters

We have some early adopters on the mainland and here in Tasmania including Meru Miso who are trialling fermenting our insects, Quartermasters Arms who have used all three of our insects species in pop up events and  some of our state’s best restaurants ready to incorporate insects into their menu - as soon as we are public and launched. It's all a bit exciting, and a bit overwhelming!

For full interview go to http://goodlifepermaculture.com.au/blog/