Of all the wild foods in our forests, the huhu grub is perhaps the most delectable. A good fossick in fallen logs may reveal a wriggling colony.
Huhu is a delicacy in the traditional Maori diet, and Maori have a variety of specialised names for the grub. For example, when it is actively feeding on timber, it's called tunga haere or tunga rakau. When it is fully grown and has ceased to feed (the best time to eat it, when its gut is empty), it's called tataka.
The grubs were also strung on fibres from flax or cabbage tree leaves and ribbonwood bark and used as a bait for eel fishing - known as tui huhu.
With their high fat content, huhu grubs can be life savers if you're starving in the bush. Pull open damp and rotting fallen logs or branches to find them (the wood should be soft enough to stick a knife into easily). A full grown larva will be up to sixty millimetres long.
Eat them raw if necessary - they have the taste and consistency of peanut butter. Hold them by the head to eat, and don't eat the head. You can roast them by laying them on fire-heated stones for several minutes. When cooked, their crispy outsides have the taste of fried chicken skin, and their soft, creamy insides have a marked taste of almonds.
Some of the following publications may be found on the Discovery Centre bookshelves, or in Te Aka Matua Library and Information Centre on Level 4. Photographs of Te Papa collection items may be ordered from Images, on Level 4.
Bodenheimer, F S. (1951). Insects as Human Food: a chapter of the ecology of men. The Hague: W. Junk.
Holt, V M. (1988). Why Not Eat Insects? London: British Museum and E W. Classey. Reprinted.
Meyer-Rochow, V B. (1978-79). The Diverse Uses of Insects in Traditional Societies. Ethnomedicine: 3/4
Ricardo Palma, entomology curator, prepares to eat a huhu grub