These beauties are incredible and we buy them from the Larrakia people, who harvest them ethically. These ants taste like citrus crossed with coriander seed and are an amazing and exciting garnish.
The Green-Tree Ant, also known as the Weaver Ant is found in open woodland in the Northern Territory and the far north Queensland of tropical Australia. These ants form colonies with multiple nests in trees, each nest being made of leaves stitched together using the silk produced by the ant larvae. Their nests are often suspended above the ground and can inflict a number of short painful bites if disturbed. The ants make their nests - Gambul yangga - by folding up leaves and fixing them together.
They are named after the vibrant colour of its abdomen (the large, tail-end of the ant body). The green ants are edible with a lemon flavouring which creates a uniquely foodie experience.
◎ Common Name: Green Ant, Green Tree Ant, Weaver Ant
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Oecophylla smaragdina
◎ Comparison: Coriander seed and citrus
◎ Seasonality: All year frozen
◎ Region: Widely grown
◎ Taste Profile: The abdomen of green ants can be eaten. The taste is impressive for such a small item. You get a powerful lemon flavoured burst. Not suitable for a meal due to the small size, the abdomen of green ants is more like a breath mint. The entire ant can be eaten too, but usually not whilst living, unless you want them to pinch your tongue and mouth.
◎ Types: The green tree ant belongs to the ant genus Oecophylla (subfamily Formicinae) which consists of only two species; O. longinoda and O. smaragdina. Oecophylla smaragdina is found in the tropical coastal areas in Australia as far south as Rockhampton and across the coastal tropics of the Northern Territory down to Broome in West Australia.
- Research shows that the Green Ant is High in Protein, High in Vitamin C, High in Iron, have amino acids, Zinc, Magnesium and outstanding levels of vitamin B12. All of these vitamins and minerals provide vitality.
- Green Ants were traditionally used within the Indigenous diet & medicines. The Green Ants would be caught and added to water and left to ferment and then the lemon flavour drink was ingested. This drink was mostly used when a cough was starting to be present.
Aboriginal & Traditional
The abdomen of the Green Ant has been regarded as a traditional food for many years by Australia's indigenous community. Aboriginal people ate the white larvae found inside the leafy nests. It has a lemon taste. The ants and larvae were also pounded and mixed with water to produce a lime flavoured drink to relieve colds, headaches and sore throats.
Western & Modern
Green ants are gaining momentum in culinary circles, with growing interest from influential Australian and international chefs as both a garnish and key ingredient, as well as a new favourite flavour among boutique gin brands.
Yangga, green ants, have many medicinal uses and are still widely used to combat coughs and colds. They are either eaten alive, or crushed and inhaled like a vapour rub to open up the sinuses. They can also be rubbed into the skin, or taken as a drink with water.
Mothers with infants rub green ants on their breasts to make the milk flow, and many believe that, taken in high concentrations, green ants act as a contraceptive.
Studies have shown the ant's abdomen to be high in protein and Vitamin C and has a citrus taste. A traditional remedy for coughs and colds is to immerse an entire green ant nest in hot water, crush it and boil it and then drink it. Green Ant bites can also reduce the symptoms of fever.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble