Although the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" haven't changed in the past 109 years, baseball fans at Seattle's Safeco Field might want to try to figure out what rhymes with grasshoppers. Because this year, Mariners fans are less interested in lining up for hot dogs and boxes of Cracker Jacks than they are about getting a plastic tray filled with toasted grasshoppers. During this week's three-game home stand, the Mariners actually sold out of the chili-and-lime dusted insects, serving more than 18,000 individual insects.
The grasshoppers, which were just added to Safeco's concessions menu this season, are prepared and sold by Poquitos, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Poquitos customers can order a small plate of chapulines for $3, which is a buck cheaper than they're selling for at the stadium. Chapulines are a popular snack in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, but the Mariners apparently had no idea they would resonate with a ballpark crowd more than 3,100 miles away. (Although when your team is off to a 3-8 start, pulling stray antennae out of your back molars is probably a pleasant distraction.)
"The attention has definitely increased attention to the grasshoppers at the restaurant, which have been on the menu since day one, over six years ago," Rich Fox, the managing owner of Poquitos, told MUNCHIES. "We've had people call in to the restaurant asking if they can order some to go—the only problem is that we've taken everything we have to the stadium to meet the demand there, while we wait for our next shipment from Mexico." Fox said that he sources his chapulines from Oaxaca as well.
"We've sold roughly 18,000 grasshoppers," Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale told ESPN. "That's more than [Poquitos] sells in a year." Fox said that Poquitos has seen "a slight uptick" in both sales and guests at the restaurant, so everyone's winning, save for the grasshoppers. And the Mariners.
According to Hale, the Mariners will now put a cap on grasshopper sales, limiting them to 312 orders per game. The number was chosen in honor of retired seven-time All Star Edgar Martinez, whose career batting average with Seattle was .312.
So what do grasshoppers taste like? San Antonio chef and chapulines enthusiast Diego Galicia described them as having the same texture as Cheetos. "They have a really good flavor," he told Inverse. "You just have to get past the legs." Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times described the flavor as "a savory raisin," while adding that the insects can get a bit leathery, if you don't eat them during their summer-season peak.
Whether or not grasshoppers become a staple of American cuisine going forward depends on a lot of factors. According to Wired, grasshoppers are expensive—more than pork or chicken—it takes a year for them to grow to edible maturity levels, and trying to harvest them can be difficult, disorganized, or often completely illegal. In addition, there are no large—or even small-scale grasshoppers farming operations, so tracing the path an insect took from a field to your fork is almost impossible.
Wired notes that a company called Aspire is trying to develop workable methods for insect husbandry, including grasshoppers, crickets, and palm weevils. The company says that it is "actively working to normalize the consumption of insects in the western world." Apparently so are the Seattle Mariners, one tray of seasoned grasshoppers at a time.