Chapulines, plural for chapulín ( tʃapu'lin (help·info)), are grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium, that are commonly eaten in certain areas of Mexico. The term is specific to Mexico and derives from the Nahuatl word chapolin /t͡ʃaˈpolin/ (singular) or chapolimeh /t͡ʃapoˈlimeʔ/ (plural). In Spain and most Spanish speaking countries, the word for grasshopper is saltamontes or saltón; this however is disputed due to the influence of El Chapulín Colorado (see below).
They are collected only at certain times of year (from their hatching in early May through the late summer/early autumn). After being thoroughly cleaned and washed, they are toasted on a comal (clay cooking surface) with garlic, lime juice and salt containing extract of agave worms, lending a sour-spicy-salty taste to the finished product. Sometimes the grasshopers are also toasted with chili, although it can be used to cover up for stale chapulines.
One of the regions of Mexico where chapulines are most widely consumed is Oaxaca, where they are sold as snacks at local sports events and are becoming revived among foodies. It's debated how long chapulines have been a food source in Oaxaca. There is one reference to grasshoppers that are eaten in early records of the Spanish conquest, in early to mid 16th century.
Besides Oaxaca, chapulines are popular in areas surrounding Mexico City, such as Tepoztlán, Cuernavaca and Puebla. They may be eaten individually as a botana (snack) or as a filling, e.g. tlayuda filled with chapulines.
In 2007, several American media reported concerns over lead contamination in products imported from Zimatlán, a municipality in Oaxaca, including chapulines. In California, an investigation among community residents in Monterey County showed a larger risk for lead poisoning on people who either were from or reported eating food imported from Zimatlán.
Contaminated chapulines which were found for sale in California were also identified in samples from Zimatlán. Lead levels found in the chapulines were as high as 300 times the maximum recommended lead dose for children under the age of 6 and pregnant women.
In popular culture
- One of the most famous Mexican comedy characters is El Chapulín Colorado (Mexican Spanish for "The red grasshopper").
- Chapulines have been featured in PBS cooking/travel programs with Burt Wolf and Rick Bayless.
- The name of the Mexico City landmark Chapultepec Castle derives from a Nahuatl phrase meaning "Grasshopper Hill". The nearby subway station of the same name features a grasshopper in its logo.
- A chapulín is the mascot of the Mexico City public theme park La feria de Chapultepec.
- Chapulines are eaten by the mechanics on the Discovery Channel show Turn and Burn in the episode titled "Memory Lane".
- Chapulines in Oaxaca and Los Angeles were featured on the Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.
- List of Spanish words of Nahuatl origin
- Chapulín de la milpa (Sphenarium purpurascens), a grasshopper species found in Mexico and Guatemala
- See the article Chapulines and Food Choices in Rural Oaxaca by Jeffrey H. Cohen, Nydia Delhi Mata Sanchez and Francisco Montiel-Ishino in Gastronomica, Vol (90)1: 61-65, 2009.
- Fray Bernadino de Sahagun, General History of The Things of New Spain: Floretine Codex, Book 11 Earthly Things
- American Journal of Public Health, May, 2007
- International Journal of Epidemiology, December, 2007
- "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: Blogs from the Road". Retrieved 2007-08-23.