Photo/IllutrationTaro Mito (Photo by Shinichi Iizuka)

Would you like crickets with your “takoyaki”? The deep-fried octopus balls and other dishes could soon be served up like that if Taro Mito gets his way.

Two-spotted crickets, when freeze-dried and pulverized, taste “great” as a topping, according to Mito. The entomologist is ambitious to promote the use of the insects, which measure around 2 centimeters long, as food for humans.

Mito, 46, an associate professor with Tokushima University, is working with a colleague in hopes of setting up, as early as this summer, a university venture for developing and marketing cricket powder and processed foodstuffs made of it.

No products will have a “buggy” feel to avoid putting off potential consumers, said Mito, who was fond of collecting insects and other creatures as a boy when growing up in Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture.

His career as a developmental and evolutionary entomologist all stems from his curiosity about why insects look how they do.

He learned about entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, three years ago from a fellow researcher. He looked into the subject and learned that a U.N. body has recommended the consumption of insects, which are rich in protein, as a solution to a possible food crisis to be caused by the explosion of the human population.

Mito also learned that crickets, among other species, are often used as food.

He had accumulated sufficient know-how in breeding, and otherwise taking care of, two-spotted crickets, which he uses in his experiments. That is how the idea that he could be of help came to him, the entomologist said.

Mito, however, could not initially bring himself to think of crickets as an ingredient for food. Half in doubt, he tried eating crickets that were deep-fried and cooked otherwise, finding out that they have a shrimp-like flavor.

“Wow, this is tasty!” he said he thought at the time.

He also discovered that the flavor of crickets can be improved by giving them fragrant feed, such as dried shiitake mushrooms. Mito has already made his third prototype mass-production equipment, whereby the insects are watered and fed automatically and can also be “harvested” easily.

Mito said his wife has never agreed to eat crickets, even in powder form, but that has not thwarted his desire to analyze their nutritional value and promote their health effects, for starters, to a broad audience.

“I hope cricket powder will be used as commonly as wheat flour,” Mito said, adding that his ambitions extend to helping improve the food security of Japan, which relies on imports for a large part of what it consumes.