Silkworms have been known for millenia as the source of silk but the silkworm pupae may also be a potentially nutritious food source for many.
The world’s population is steadily rising and with it comes an increased demand for high quality protein food. For some time insects have been a popular dish for many in the Far East. Insects have a high protein content but a short life cycle and one which is very rapid in growth rate too. Insects also contain many other nutrients including vitamins and minerals, and various fatty acids.
The silkworm pupae (Bombyx mori) is a very popular food source in China and Thailand. It’s production has been commercialised heavily in these countries and many others are not that far behind.
A kilogram of silkworm pupae contains 23,237 kJ of energy. The protein content is between 48 and 58 grams/100g dry weight. The fatty acid content includes oleic acid (26 to 37 g/100g dry matter). Of the minerals calcium (0.158g/100g dry matter) and magnesium ((0.207 g/100g dry matter) along with phosphorous (0.474 g/100 g dry matter) feature prominently. The main vitamin is niacin (950 micrograms/100g dry matter).
Product Development Opportunities For Silkworm Pupae
Researchers at the Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand, have been investigating the production of protein hydrolysates from pupae using various protease enzymes. They tested two commercial enzymes, Alcalase and Neutrase. The degree of hydrolysis by Alcalase (9.61%) was significantly higher than for Neutrase (2.91%). Their main findings were the protein hydrolysate derived from Neutrase treatment would have good antioxidant activity, with substantial water solubility and foaming properties. The hydrolysate produced by Alcalase had a high protein content, total amino acid content, and water solubility index (Anootthato et al., 2019).
Anootthato, S., Therdthai, N., Ritthiruangdej, P. (2019) Characterisation of protein hydrolysate from silkworm (Bombyx mori). J. Food Proc. Preservat. (Article)