Monday, October 24, 2011

The NESTING Series, Part Four: Edible Nests

Today I bring you the next chapter of my Nesting Series: Edible Nests!

Image from ANET

The edible-nest swiftlet is a bird native to South-east Asia whose name says it all; the nests they build are a delicacy in China, highly prized (and priced) for their supposed health benefits. Constructed by the male of the species, the nests are made from interwoven regurgitated strands of the bird’s saliva, solidifying into half-cup shaped nests that are attached to cave walls, ceilings, and in the eaves of roofs.

Recently in Indonesia there’s been a big business in building brightly colored “birdhouses” where owners blast birdcalls over a loud speaker to attract the swiftlets to roost inside.

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

The nests are built in a human-scale house that has anything a bird could want—bird feeders, birdbaths, and protection from predators. Even air-conditioning (of sorts) in the form of misters that simulate the cool, cave-like environment the birds are used to. 

Once collected, the nests sell for upwards of $1,000 a pound. They are dissolved in water to make a gelatinous cure-all soup that can purportedly do everything from strengthening one’s immune system to stimulating the libido and helping new mothers regain their figures after childbirth. And how!

I don’t know about you guys, but if “regurgitated saliva” didn’t get your mouth watering, I bet “gelatinous” sure did!  

- Cathleen


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