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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Casu Marzu (Maggot Cheese)

Image via Wikipedia

Casu marzu, which means "rotten cheese", is found in Sardinia, Italy, and is notable for containing live insect larvae.

Derived from Pecorino Sardo, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down of the cheese's fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from the Sardinian for "tears") seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 8 mm (1/3 inch) long. When disturbed, the larvae can jump for distances up to 15 cm (6 inches). Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.

The cheese comes with dangers including intestinal larval infestation

Piophila casei larvae can pass through the stomach alive (human stomach acids do not usually kill them) and take up residency for some period of time in the intestines, where they can cause serious lesions as they attempt to bore through the intestinal walls. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea.

Because of these dangers, thcheese was illegal until 2005. The only reason it was legalised is that the cheese is now made with raised, not wild, flies.

Would you be brave enough to try some?



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