Worms: A Zimbabwe snack, from tree to dinner table

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013
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HIGH PROTEIN

The mopane worm is a healthful and cheap source of nutrition.

A Zimbabwean nutritionist, Marlon Chidemo, says the worms are high in healthy nutrients and contain three times the amount of protein as beef. He says eating worms is less taxing on the environment than consuming beef because it takes far fewer leaves to produce worms than it does feed to produce the same amount of beef.

WORMY BUSINESS

Dried mopane worms have become a multimillion-dollar industry, even exported to countries like South Africa and Botswana. They can be found in African restaurants in Paris.

PREPARATION

Once they've been dried out, they can be eaten straight away. They can also be cooked in a spicy or peanut butter sauce and served with pap, a maize porridge.

Having grown up eating the mopane worms, I have never had the opportunity to see how they harvest and prepare them until now. While the process is rather disgusting, the worm can be a pleasure to eat as a starter or a side dish. The taste is reminiscent of salty potato chips. Malawi's first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda preferred his just like that, simply dried and then eaten as a snack like chips. Banda was known for carrying around pocketsful of worms that he would also offer to children.

A RECIPE

Here is a Congolese recipe that AP's special Africa correspondent Michelle Faul describes as "one of the tastiest" for mopane worms.

Mopani Worms for four people.

Ingredients: 500 grams dried mopane worms; three tomatoes, diced or 1 can of tomatoes; two onions, diced; 1/2 teaspoon turmeric; three fresh green chilies, finely chopped; three cloves of garlic, finely chopped; tablespoon of fresh ginger, finely chopped. Soak dried worms in water for 3-4 hours to reconstitute. Fry onions in groundnut oil on medium heat until translucent. Add turmeric, chilies, garlic and ginger. Fry for about five minutes. Add tomatoes and cook on low for about 20 minutes until spices are well blended. Add drained worms and cook until they have softened a bit but still are a little crunchy. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pap, called sadza in Zimbabwe. Enjoy.