You may have heard of this Colombian delicacy, specifically from the Santander region. But if not, be prepared to be an expert.
First and foremost, what ARE hormigas culonas? The direct translation means fat-bottomed ant. Yep, ants!
-These small creatures live mainly in the Barichara, Bucaramanga & San Gil areas
-These female ants leave their hill only once a year to go mate, and once they’re full of eggs, it’s time to catch them!
-They are a type of leaf-cutting ant that lives in symbiosis with a particular mushroom. (Symbiosis: when two different organisms live in a close physical association, typically to the advantage of both)
-They feed leaves to the mushroom and then eat the mushroom to feed themselves. When they’re captured, the mushroom is often taken too.
So how did they become a part of the cuisine here? And why do people enjoy eating them?
Every year in April & May, farmers and families from this region travel to seek these ants, as this is the only time you can capture them – and they’re worth a pretty penny! One pound can sell for up to $40USD. This tradition has occurred for centuries and is a large part of the local history, being passed down from cultures & generations as a symbol of fertility. Many times, these will be given as wedding gifts in Santander to bestow the gift of fertility & many children to the newlywed couple.
What’s the best way to eat them & how do I find them?
When the season is right, you’ll see them at street vendors either fried or roasted and generously salted. Roasted is recommended for a smokey flavor, as fried can sometimes be greasy and soggy. With a taste of crunchy popcorn, you can buy them by the bag as the perfect snack. They are rarely enjoyed out of season, especially not by locals. But they can sometimes be found at upscale restaurants in sauces and on top of expensive cuts of meat!
So what do you think? Would you try these little delicacies if you had the chance? What kind of recipe might you use them for?
By: Alexx J. for The Adventures of Pili
Cited sources: colombia.com, thebugtrotters.com, theculturetrip.com