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Cochinilleluizen op het menu in Tenerife

Cochineal on the menu in Tenerife?  

Last week, the Canary Islands Parliament submitted a proposal to the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to recognize cochineal as a foodstuff.

In a podcast of the Spanish radio station Cope, Nayra Alemán, the PSOE representative of the Canary Islands Parliament, declares that it is indeed the intention for these insects to be on the menu in the near future.

What is cochineal? 

The cochineal insect originally comes from South America and Mexico, where the Aztecs and the Mayans eagerly utilized the splendid reddish dye produced by this insect, better known as carmine. Carmine is a natural dye that, as number E120, provides color to many food items.

Think of glazed donuts, Campari, red lipstick, and strawberry yogurt. The pink color of your favorite yogurt has nothing to do with strawberries but is - if E120 is listed on the packaging - derived from finely ground cochineal insects.

Cochineal on the Canary Islands 

In the second half of the 19th century, cochineal cultivation was introduced to the Canary Islands in an attempt to alleviate the prevailing agricultural crisis. This coincided with the rise of the textile industry in Europe, leading to a substantial demand for the dye carmine. Consequently, the value of dried cochineal increased to such an extent that it was occasionally used as currency.

Unfortunately, this goldmine came to an end with the invention of synthetic dye. From that moment on, bananas and tomatoes took over as the primary export products of the Canary Islands. 

How should one imagine such a cultivation? 

The cochineal mainly lives on the leaves of the prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica). The insects are scooped with a special spoon from the prickly pear and then sun-dried in designated containers. The remaining live cochineal is redistributed back into the plantation to serve as breeding stock.

The remaining cochineal is cleaned and sorted after drying using a sieve. Afterwards, it is processed into dye suitable for coloring beverages, food, cosmetics, and textiles.

Environmentally friendly source of income 

The proposal from the Canary Islands Parliament will undoubtedly put cochineal back in the spotlight. Whether we'll actually be served a plate of mashed cactus lice seems unlikely, but it might not be a bad thing for cochineal cultivation to be revived. 

The prickly pear cactus, where cochineal thrives, requires very little water. Additionally, the cactus absorbs CO2, and its dried leaves are excellent for use as biofuel. The prickly pear fruit is a beloved delicacy in the Canary Islands, being very juicy, sweet, and packed with vitamins. Furthermore, the leaves of this cactus can be eaten as vegetables. Combined with the cultivation of the highly demanded natural dye carmine, this presents interesting opportunities.

That's all for now about the local culture. Stay healthy and...

¡Hasta Pronto! 

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2 thoughts on “Cochenilleluizen op het menu in Tenerife?  ”

    1. Vielen herzlichen Dank für dein liebes Feedback! Es freut mich sehr, dass dir der Beitrag gefallen hat und dass du ihn als interessant und lehrreich empfunden hast. Vielen Dank nochmals für deine Unterstützung!💖

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