The world of gourmet food gets wackier by the day with the growing popularity of a soft goat cheese (chevre) topped with green ants.
Made in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia by Woodhill Cheese Wrights, the quirky cheese made has previously been available in limited numbers in Australia but is now set to be exported to the United States.
New technology to extend the shelf-life of the product has been implemented and the company is hoping to send the product with its next shipment to New York in about two weeks' time pending final FDA approval.
Sourced from Crocodile Dundee country in the Top End of Australia, green ants have been eaten by indigenous Australians for thousands of years and are becoming increasingly popular as a native food.
Head cheesemaker and CEO Kris Lloyd (pictured) described the taste of the ants, also called weaver ants, as tasting like a combination of kaffir lime and lemongrass “that give a little citrus pop almost like having a sherbet”
“It just comes together beautifully, there’s this great marriage of acid flavours that just work,” Lloyd said. “There’s no other cheese in the world that has green ants on it and it tastes amazing.”
The Adelaide Hills, about 30 kilometres east of the South Australian capital Adelaide, is emerging as a world-renowned region for premium wine, cheese and fresh produce.
Woodside Cheese Wrights began using native Australian ingredients in their products about 15 years ago and have cheeses infused with a range of bush foods including lemon myrtle, saltbush, pepper berries and edible flowers.
The company's cheeses are sold in New York, Connecticut, Michigan and California through retailers including Dean & DeLuca.
“I want to be creative by taking ingredients from our own backyard and use them in our cheese making – it’s what we should be doing in Australia instead of copying everything that the French, the Greeks and the Italians are doing." said Lloyd.
“I’m new world, nobody is telling me I can’t put ants on my cheese. I haven’t got an appellation of origin control that tells me that the cow needs to be pointing this way and the moon needs to be shining that way before I can milk and make our cheese.”
Lloyd is hopeful the green ant cheese will be well received by Americans and drive further export growth, possibly into other markets such as the United Kingdom and Asia.
“For us to grow in the United States it will just come down to our ability to maintain the high quality of the products,” she said.
“The appeal is there, the cheeses they have chosen are quite unique and if we are going to put Australian food culture on the map this is probably the way to go about it.”