It is estimated that the world may start lacking protein from the usual animal sources within the next 20 to 30 years. Earthworms, meanwhile, grow fast and contain a lot of protein.
"In terms of nutritional value, 100 grams of earthworms contain 50 to 60 grams of protein. The rest is different minerals, and some fat, but very little. Most of it is protein," says LLU researcher Ilga Gedrovica.
They are researching two species, namely the Californian red worm and the dendrobaena worm, both of which were delivered from earthworm farms in Latvia.
It has already been discovered that the worms do not contain harmful substances, and now scientists are busy finding out what's the best way to prepare them for consumption.
"There are two ways of preparing: either to grind them to a mass when fresh, or to dry them. I think our mentality would prefer dried worms, as drying makes them quite neutral in terms of palatability, making it a good addition to the meals we're used to," the researcher says.
Currently the laboratory has earthworm powder and dried worms in store, and scientists say the taste is quite different depending on the drying method and the food the worms had been given during their brief sojourn under the sun.
The next year the laboratory will try making new products, perhaps protein cocktails and varieties of healthy worm snacks.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Dutch scientists, is to be concluded by autumn 2020. Scientists hope Latvia-grown earthworms could become an export product.