What is it?, history, cultivation, nutritional value, uses, recipes, and more...
The Suri is the larva of Rhynchophorus palmarum (L. Coleoptera: Curculionidae), an insect abundant in the Amazon rainforest. This larva serves as a significant food source for various indigenous Amazonian groups, who consume it either raw or fried in its own oil. The larvae are highly valued for their taste and can be found in several local markets.
What is the Suri?
In the Peruvian Amazon, the term “suri” refers to the larva of beetles that develop in the fallen trunks of different palm trees, specifically the coleopteran species Rhynchophorus palmarum. In these Amazonian communities, a substantial amount of these larvae, sourced from the “aguaje” palm, is consumed. People often collect the larvae from fallen aguaje trunks and consume them directly or take them home to eat them roasted or fried.
The suri is essentially a plump, rough worm measuring between five and seven centimeters in length. It is cream-colored, legless, and features a dark, rigid head with conical mandibles. This edible larva represents the earlier stage of the rhinoceros beetle (Rhynchophorus palmarum), also known as “casanga” or “black palm weevil,” native to tropical areas of the Americas. This larva goes through nine to ten instars, each lasting 42 to 62 days (Hagley, 1965a).
This creature reproduces within the decaying stems of aguaje or palm trees and has become one of the most prized delicacies of the Amazon rainforest. It is especially popular in the cuisine of cities like Iquitos and Pucallpa, where it is consumed raw, cooked, or roasted similar to “anticuchos” (grilled skewers). The suri is an excellent source of protein, vitamins A and E, and minerals, in addition to being considered simply delicious.
History of the Suri
In many Western cultures, arthropods, including insects and other terrestrial invertebrates, have been regarded as important dishes for numerous communities. In tropical countries, more than 1000 species of insects are consumed by humans, with an average of 20 to 30 species forming part of the cuisine in each region.
Research has shown that these insects possess high nutritional quality and tend to provide quality proteins and supplements (minerals and vitamins). In some cases, they are even bred and sold to the population as a true delicacy.
This is the case for the larva of Rhynchophorus palmarum, a beetle of the Curculionidae family. In the Peruvian Amazon, it is known as “suri” or “chontacuro,” and it has been consumed as food by native populations of the Amazon rainforest for centuries. These indigenous communities collect the larvae from various palms in the forest, such as Maximiliana maripa (“cucurito”), Jessenia bataua (“seje”), and Mauritia flexuosa (“moriche” or “aguaje”).
The larva, known as “chontacuro” or “suri,” causes significant damage to palm plantations. However, it is an excellent source of protein, vitamins A, C4, and E, as well as minerals.
|Spanish||cucarrón, cigarrón, gorgojo, gorgojo de palma, casanga, picudo, picudo negro, picudo del cocotero.|
|Ecuador||chontacuro, mukint, mukindi|
|Venezuela||Gusano de palma|
|Cuenca amazónica||mojojoi, mojomoi, mojotoi, casanga, mujín, gusano de cogollo, ou, yoi-teguei, etc.|
Calandra palmarum Linnaeus, 1801
Cordyle barbirostris Thunberg, 1797
Cordyle palmarum Linnaeus, 1797
Curculio palmarum Linnaeus, 1758
Rhynchophorus barbirostris Thunberg
Rhynchophorus cycadis Erichson, 1847
Rhynchophorus depressus Chevrolet, 1880
Rhynchophorus languinosus Chevrolet, 1880
The term “Chenopodium” comes from the Greek words “χήν” (chen) meaning goose and “πóδιον” (podion) meaning foot, referring to the shape of the leaves. The specific name of quinoa is the Quechua transcription to Spanish of “kinwa” (occasionally Qin-wah), which means “mother of all seeds” (Antropocene, 2019).
Other sources assert that the term means “type of plant with edible leaves” (deChile, n.d.).
Habitat of Suri
The larva of Rhynchophorus palmarum is widely distributed in the neotropics, from southeastern California and Texas to Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, within an altitude range from sea level to 1,200 meters above sea level (Watanapongsiri, 1966; Jaffé and Sánchez, 1992; Sánchez and Cerda, 1993).
This worm is marketed in the markets and tourist centers of Amazonian cities in various forms: alive, cooked, and roasted, with an average of 3500 units sold per day, with weekends being the peak sales days. The larva of R. palmarum is highly valued as a protein source, and it is also appreciated for its exquisite flavor.
The suri can be found in various parts of the world, including North America (Mexico), Central America, and the Caribbean (Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Puerto Rico) as well as South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela).
In Colombia, it is present in all oil palm-cultivated areas. Additionally, it is found in forested areas. Its altitudinal range is also extensive, ranging from sea level to 1,200 meters above sea level (Jaffé and Sánchez, 1992). This indicates a high capacity for mobility and adaptation to various environments for survival (Sánchez and Cerda, 1993).
During the receding or rising stage of the rivers, indigenous groups engage, to varying degrees, in the collection of wild fruits, palm drupes, mushrooms, mollusks, and small terrestrial animals such as amphibians, and especially insects. To collect this larva, at least one week must have passed after its incubation period for it to be considered food. It must also have reached a weight close to 12g and have an approximate finger-like thickness. Another ideal indicator of evolution for harvest is its color, which should range from cream to brown.
In a cultivation or "protocultivation" effort, as described by Ramos-Elourdoy and Viejo (2007), a person cuts down the palm, makes an incision of approximately 10 by 10 cm in the fallen trunk, and leaves a mark to identify it. Two months later, they return to the site, knowing what to look for and where (Ortiz-Quijano, 1993).
The life cycle of this animal under normal conditions lasts around 122 days: 3.5 days as an egg, 60.5 days as a larva, 16 days as a nymph, and 42 days as an adult (González and García, 1992; Pérez and Innacore, 2006; Ramos-Elourdoy and Viejo, 2007).
Geographic Distribution of the Suri
In the Peruvian Amazon, the peak collection period for suri extends from July to October, both in the Lowland and Highland regions.
Amazonas, Iquitos, San Martin, Ucayali
Seasonal Availability of the Suri
Nutritional Value of the Suri
The larvae of Rhynchophorus palmarum serve as a source of proteins and fats used by native indigenous communities in the Amazon to supplement their diets. They have a protein content of around 76%, higher than that of beef, which ranges from 50% to 57%.
Similar patterns are observed in fat content, where meats range from 17% in fish to 19% in beef. In the case of the larva of the coleopteran Rhynchophorus palmarum, this value varies between 21% and 54%, featuring a superior composition.
The skin, in particular, is rich in unsaturated oils such as linoleic, linolenic, and other polyunsaturated fatty acids (Cerda et al., 1999; Cerda et al., 2001; Bukkens, 2005; Ramos-Elourdoy, 2005; Váldez and Untiveros, 2010; Sancho, 2012; Landívar-Valverde, 2012; Vargas et al., 2013; Sancho, Álvarez, and Fernández, 2015).
In terms of total caloric value, beetle larvae present calorific values around 560 kcal/100 g, higher compared to beef at 430 kcal/100 g (Costa-Neto and Ramos-Elourdoy, 2006).
Health Benefits of the Suri
The composition of the R. palmarum larva holds high nutritional value and is rich in proteins and vitamins E and A, serving as an invaluable local resource for indigenous populations. It is also considered a remedy for malnutrition. Its oil is used in traditional medicine to treat bronchitis and rheumatism, applied by extracting the oil from the suri and rubbing it onto the affected area.
Contraindications or Side Effects
There is no evidence to date suggesting adverse effects or interactions with medications resulting from its consumption.
|10 Porciones por Kilogramo|
|Tamaño de porción||100g|
|Cantidad por porción
|Cantidad por 100g|
|Grasa Total||12.7 g|
|Carbohidratos totales||74.9 g|
|Carbohidratos disponibles||73.8 g|
|Fibra Dietaria||1.1 g|
|Vitamina A||0 μg|
|Tiamina (B1)||0.04 mg|
|Riboflavina (B2)||0.04 mg|
|Niacina (B3)||0.50 mg|
|Vitamina C||0.00 mg|
|Acido Fólico (B9)||●|
|Fuente: Tablas peruanas de composición de alimentos – Centro Nacional de Alimentación y Nutrición – Ministerio de Salud – Perú|
Derived Products and Consumption Methods of the Suri
Uses of the Suri
While its primary use lies in gastronomy, where it is presented in various forms, the suri also offers medicinal benefits that should be taken into consideration.
Culinary Use of the Suri
Indigenous people consume these larvae alive or dead, roasted or fried. In urban areas of the Amazon, they are often served fried in their own fat or roasted directly over a fire.
It is recommended to remove the rear end of the larvae before consuming them raw to reduce the pungent taste, perhaps due to the digestive juices of the larva.
More sophisticated urban cooks present this gastronomic product in salads, wrapped like "tequeños," or skewered like Turkish kebabs. This is the case in restaurants in Iquitos, Peru, Puyo, Ecuador, Leticia, Colombia, and Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela.
Other chefs have incorporated the larva into some typical preparations of regional cuisine in the Peruvian Amazon. This has led to the creation of "juane de chonta" (heart of palm), which combines heart of palm, the tender edible inflorescence of certain Amazonian palms, with suris or palm worms (Chirif, 2016).
Medicinal Use of the Suri
Many Amazonian natives use the oil extracted from the suri for the treatment of respiratory diseases. It is known that chontacuro or suri has curative properties that alleviate cough and asthma.