In the desert of the Australian outback, the roots of the witchetty bush hold a secret treat inside their roots—thick, white, thumb-sized worms. These are technically the larvae of the cossid wood moth. But they’re more commonly known as witchetty grubs, a staple of indigenous Australian diets.
Women and children, the primary harvesters of the grubs, unearth them from inside the woody roots of the witchetty bush (although they can also be found in the roots of the river red gum tree and the black wattle tree). The grubs are favored for being high in protein and easy to digest.
The grubs are traditionally eaten raw or skewered and barbecued. The latter results in a nice, crunchy skin. Many tasters liken the cooked grubs to scrambled eggs, while others say they have a nutty flavor when raw. Some even compare the flavor of barbecued witchetty grubs to chicken or prawns with peanut sauce.
The larvae have also begun to crawl into kitchens outside the desert. In bush tucker (indigenous cuisine) restaurants, witchetty grubs are usually served as a grilled entrée, alongside the likes of kangaroo tail soup, emu fillet, and flathead fish.
Need to Know
The summer is the best time to harvest witchetty grubs. They can usually be eaten on tours of the outback. If you want to forage for them yourself, look for witchetty bushes with mounded soil or shed larvae cases at their base. Be careful when extracting the grubs, as they tend to secrete a brown liquid when punctured.