For the majority of the people in the western world, eating insects is welcomed with feelings of aversion and disgust.
Yet for a lot of other people, entomophagy or the consumption of insects and bugs are part of their staple diet.
Considered a true delicacy, the mopane worm is widely consumed in rural areas of southern Africa. It is highly nutricious and an important source of protein for a lot of households in rural areas.
Scientifically known as the Gonimbrasia Belina, the mopane worm is in fact the brightly coloured spiky caterpillar of the Emperor moth. They are one of the larger caterpillars, nearly as long as a finger and as thick as a cigar.
The mopane caterpillar mainly feeds on the leafs of the mopane tree, hence its name. During harvest time which takes place a few weeks into the rain season, hundreds of families hand pick them from the trees. The innards of the caterpillar are carefully squeezed out whereafter they are dried in the sun, smoked or boiled. The dried mopane worms can be stored for usage throughout the year and mostly sold at local markets in rural areas or in supermarkets in the bigger cities.
For most of these families it is an easy and cheap obtainable source of protein. Albeit, it is also considered to be a million dollar industry in Southern Africa, even exported to some european countries.
How to eat the mopane worm:
The mopane worm can either be eaten dried as a crispy snack, traditionally cooked in a delicious stew or fried to perfection. The eye is literally the eye catcher and will be eaten as well, except in parts of Botswana were the eye is removed before consumption.
The Boma restaurant in Victoria Falls serves many mouth watering local dishes and fried Mopane worm is one of them. The brave ones that will try at least one, will receive a special certificate.
I have tried my first mopane worm in this restaurant and I did manage get the certificate. The worm was grilled and looked very well done, and this is also how it tasted, as burned steak. Not bad, but I did not try a second one at the time.
A few years later I visited a rural village in Zimbabwe with some tourists and we were invited to join them for a lovely traditional meal. We got served sadza (mais porridge) with lot’s of Mopane worms bought at a local market. The whole village was very eager to see if we would like this dish and were standing around us to watch us taking our first bite. I still remembered the worms not tasting too bad in the Boma restaurant, so I did not mind eating them again. But we each got at least 15 of these creepy crawlies on a plate and that was even for my taste buts too much. Especially the one big black eye was looking at me and it still seemed to be alive, fried or not. I think I managed to eat about 5 worms and then invited the rest of the village children to join me. Full of joy they attacked the plate and were very happy for this delicious meal…and so was I.
For the ones wanting to try a true local African dish, treat yourself to a delicious meal of mopane worms, cooked to your liking.
Travel tip shared by The Travelling Chilli