They give us clues to medical miracles. They warn us about environmental dangers by being our canaries in the coalmine. They sing us to sleep in the areas lucky enough to still have robust populations of them. They bring color and quirkiness to the world. And when times are tough, they can even sustain us. Can’t say I ever want to sample salted frog, but here’s the story from Vietnam. Excerpt:

Tho An was always poor, dirt poor. All of its residents were subsistence farmers scratching out a dusty living by any means necessary. But, that all changed when an adventurous local decided it was time to put the common toad to good use.


According to residents, Le Van Quy was the first to harness the power of the amphibian as a means to escape from grinding poverty. Quy’s family was so poor his grandchildren were malnourished. Quy had had enough. Catching toads in the fields soon became catching toads and salting toads. That turned into catching, slating and shredding toads. Before long, his grandkids were no longer hungry, and the effects of being malnourished were replaced with strapping, healthy children.


Realizing he was onto something, Quy brought the novelty to Hanoi to sell as a street vendor. Salted shredded toad meat has quickly become a specialty and a diet recommended for treating malnourished children.