Botswana is the place of origin of this unusual food. Mopane Worm, the larva of Imbrasia belina is commonly consumed insect through out Africa. It is one of the world’s largest moths. These are bright in color and are collected from the mopane trees. They are shaken off from the trees or hand-picked and is the most edible insect sold through out the world. These are the base of a multi-million rand trade. These edible insects provide a livelihood for many traders, harvesters and their families. Droughts causes major problems in this industry. Mopane Worms are harvested in Botswana,South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Namibia,Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi and probably many other countries. Economically, it is one of the most important insect of South Africa.
Mopane worms are cooked in various ways to give them a different flavor each time. Traditionally, these were cooked in a stew with tomatoes and onions.These are squeezed primarily to take the solid content out of them and are boiled in water or fried in their own body fat.This undertaking is quite messy. The insect’s spines can cause scratches and can sore the hand of the picker. Generally, they are dried in sunlight for preserving them for a long time. These dried caterpillars can also be eaten raw as snacks. Sometimes consumers rehydrate the worm by soaking it in little water before frying it with onions and tomatoes. Few people serve it with pap, tomato gravy, onion and chili sauce. Their taste is not as good as it looks, that is why most commonly it is served with sauces such as chili, tomato, peanut and cheese. When cooked, these worms have salty and juicy taste.
The wacky tinge
A person who has never had any insect dish before,Mopane Worm meal might be a weird concept. The thought of eating something with little legs makes people little grossed up. The wacky tinge about the most popular African cuisine is that, it is made up of worms. This worm is one of the longest worm in the world with multiple legs. The thought of eating this might be a nightmare for many people.
1 cup of dried mopane worms
1 onion, chopped
2 green peppers, sliced
6 tomatoes, diced
1/2 garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 litre water
Soak worms in water for at least half an hour. Put some butter in a pan and melt it. Add chopped onion over low heat till soft and translucent. Then turn up the heat and add garlic, green peppers in it. Stir them for few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients in it. Stir fry a further five minutes and then add Â½ cup of water and seasoning. Cook it for another 15 to 20 minutes till tender. If required add a little more water but do not let the dish become too watery.
These worms are a cheap way to stay healthy. They boost nutrition level in an individual. Entomologists claim that they act as diet supplement. A worm comprises of 61% protein, 17% crude fat and 10% minerals. These are the major source of protein for people in Africa. These worms are available only for a short season. That is why they are collected in abundance in the season and dried for eating rest of the year. If you serve Mopane worm to a patient then it is equivalent to a nutritious diet of 1000 rands a month given to him. The protein content in them is three times that of beef.
The destruction of Mopane woodlands by their over collection for trade has marked a threat to this species.They had already extincted in some areas where they use to be in common. Climate change and drought are also some of the causes which are ruining the habitats of this precious insect. It is important to leave at least 10% of the worms to complete their life cycle by forming the moth and laying the eggs. This will ensure the future of the Mopane industry and the species.This worm is an icon for teaching of sustainable harvesting, indigenous knowledge, food security and conservation.