Monday, February 7, 2011

They Eat Caterpillars, Don't They?

Yes they do. In Botswana a certain type of caterpillar called a “Mopane (Mo-pah-nee) Worm” is a delicacy. They only appear a few months out of the year and last month, they were everywhere. I would see them crawling around whenever I went outside. They are quite beautiful and very colorful.

Since peak Mopane season just passed, all the street vendors have mounds of cooked mopane worms in front of them. People ask me all the time if I have tried “the worm” yet. I shake my head and always say that I will try them at some point while I am here.

“At some point” turned out to be the other day. I was walking along the main street in town and noticed a woman selling beans and other dry goods. She also happened to have a large pot of dried Mopane worms. I figured that now would be as good a time as any to try one and I asked her how much they were. It was 10 Pula for a cup but I had no intentions on eating an entire cup of caterpillars. I asked her if it would be possible to only buy a few and she offered me a half a cup.

After I bought them she asked if I had ever tried them before. I told her that I hadn’t and upon hearing this, she immediately broke the head off one and ate it. She was showing me how to eat them. She handed me one and told me to try it. I reluctantly broke the head off, put it in my mouth, and slowly started to chew.

The taste is pretty unique but I imagine it would be similar to the taste of a bunch of dried grass. I chewed and swallowed it in front of the woman and then said my goodbyes. I’m glad I tried them, but I am not sure that Mopane worms will make up a large portion of my diet in the future.