The African continent is said to be the second largest landmass on earth and is home to hundreds of cultural and ethnic groups. As a result, a diversity in culinary traditions in terms of ingredients, preparation and cooking and serving techniques. Each region in Africa has its specialty; the mouthwatering Couscous in the North, delicious Bobotie in the South and the finger-licking Ugali and Fufu in East and West Africa respectively. Apart from these, there are other popular delicacies that are to die for; if you can muster enough courage to eat them.
In some parts of the Southern Region of Africa especially Zimbabwe, mopane worms are a staple part of the diet in rural areas and a delicacy in the cities. The worm is the large caterpillar of the Emperor Moth, named after the mopane tree it feeds on. The thought of eating caterpillars is quite revolting but if you are brave enough to try them, you will realise they are very tasty. They are dried out and eaten straight away; as crunchy as potato chips, or cooked in a spicy sauce and served with pap.
Crickets, grasshoppers and locust
They are a crunchy and delicious treat enjoyed in many parts of East and Central African communities. Grasshoppers are caught in dry open areas with lots of grass early in the morning when they are still cold and lazy, while crickets are hunted out of their holes at night. They can be fried, cooked or roasted and eaten as snacks.
Palm Weevil Larva
These yellowish or creamy creepy looking larva with a brown head is a favourite in most West African communities. It is hatched from eggs laid by adult palm weevils in the trunks of living palm tree trunks. They are filled with fat and can be eaten in a sauce, roasted, fried in their own oil or raw.
How Africans benefit from these bizarre delicacies
While some people are disgusted by the sight of these bizarre foods, others swear by them. These insects are the cheapest and most available source of protein and other essential foods for many Africans who cannot afford meat or fish. Insect farming is a source of income for many families in Africa. In Zimbabwe, the mopane worm harvest season is a peak period for many locals to make money. They pick, clean, dry and package their precious worms, which they sell in their community markets or in the urban areas at a higher price. Same goes for crickets, grasshoppers and termites, as they are available between October and January in some areas.
The Palm weevil larva on the other hand is a stable and year round source of income for those who farm them in small or large scale. Palm weevil larva farming was introduced in Kinshasa by Farm for Orphans, in partnership with Global Orphan Foundation and the University of Kinshasa, as a means to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment. These insects are a healthier, cheaper and more available source of essential nutrients and unsaturated fatty acids, making them an excellent food choice for malnourished children, leading to a decrease in malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and anaemia. They are definitely better and more rewarding than they look.