This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue.
Bread Worms (or Bread Bugs) are a group of related species native to a mildly terraformed garden world, with their preferred environments being jungles and temperate forests. They all share the same body plan of a low to the ground, multi-segmented body resembling a giant, armored Terran centipede, ranging from 10-15cm in length for the smallest, to over 100cm for the largest, with widths usually around a third of their length. Their most notable feature is being edible by humans and related lifeforms, and delicious with a flavor (and texture once baked) most often described as good bread with a hit of umami. This has lead to them being farmed on their native world, and a very niche export that has lead to them being unleashed onto other worlds, where they can easily find compatible food sources due to their durable and adaptive digestive tracts.
In their native environment, bread worms scavenge for seeds, rotting fruit, dead animals (including their fellows), and fungi-analogues; often crawling up trees and other obstacles to seek their food. They’re seldom disturbed in this, as most other native species find them mildly poisonous, usually a severe laxative and mild emetic. A few predators have evolved to easily handle this, which renders them a threat to humans. Females spawn five to six clutches of eggs during the wet season, averaging 16 eggs per clutch, but domesticated ones will breed more frequently, usually 3-4 times a year. Juveniles will grow to full size in approximately 6 months if presented with enough food.
All the subspecies have a decent carapace, able to handle many natural hazards, but only the largest ones have any significant mandibles capable of attacking another creature – when dealing with native creatures or ones that resemble them, they check Flee before attack. However, since humans and many compatible animals smell vastly different, they will check Attack first when dealing with them, which presents as crawling all over the target and taking little nibbles to see if they're dead.
As a farm animal, they’re used as an equivalent to pigs, eating compatible kitchen scraps and food waste. There are multiple local fungi-analogues that get used for sewage processing, meaning that a treatment plant will also double as a farm, with the final product being remarkably sanitary and disease free. The preferred preparation method is steaming, slicing through them just below the carapace to remove the organs, peeling off the carapace, and a final bake before serving, with the internal cavity stuffed with all the things one would find in a sandwich. A local favorite is to slice along the primary nerve channels and include a sauce rich in acetic acid (commonly found in vinegar); this stimulates the baked nerve endings when they are exposed to it, leading the flesh twitching and squirming while being chewed and digested. For the largest species, the legs (and their soft armor plating) are saved, typically being treated as one would small chicken wings, with a hot sauce dressing making them a favorite appetizer or snack at bars and restaurants. Organs other than the heart are typically not saved, as their taste and texture most closely resembles soured oatmeal mixed with rancid cottage cheese.
As one might guess, they’re not very popular off-world, especially since the best flavor and texture is found when fresh. The most appealing preparation for off-world export is as a sausage casing – the organs are removed via the mouth, then the body is stuffed with meat, spices, and some local vegetables, and then smoked for up to a month with the carapace on, before the carapace is removed for cold-room aging. Once aged and vacuum-sealed, the sausages can last for up to a decade in typical dry storage conditions before they are no longer suitable for direct eating; they can go up to five more years if the plan is to use them in a soup. Live worms can be taken close to frozen for up to five months, pushing them into hibernation, before they must be allowed to thaw and recover for a week per month spent in hibernation. Steamed ones can be frozen for 2 weeks before the frost damages their cells and causes them to turn to mush when thawed.
|“Breadworm”, Omnivore/Scavenger, Temperate Forest or Jungle|
|Animal||Length||Mass||Hits||Armor||Wounds & Weapons||Action|
|“Roll”||10-15cm||1kg||1/0||Jack +1||0 *pincers||A8F5S¼|
|“Hoagie”||20-30cm||3kg||2/0||Jack +1||0 *pincers||A8F5S¹⁄₃|
|“Loaf”||40-60cm||6kg||4/1||Jack +1||1 *pincers||A8F5S½|
|“Party”||70-90cm||12kg||6/3||Jack +1||1 *pincers||A8F5S¾|
|“Giant”||100-140cm||24kg||6/6||Jack +1||2 *pincers||A8F5S1|
|Note: Actions are vs. human/human-compatible life forms; against native life-forms, check Flee before Attack.|
The common designations for the multiple subspecies are based on size ranges, with additional names based around the expected flavor nuances they have been bred for. Fractional speed is as it appears to be, weight and length are a low average for wild examples – farmed examples can be up to 35% larger, with some specific subspecies being bred or engineered for size.