Shortly after learning that I would be going to South Africa for my Peace Corps assignment, I filled out a short survey for a global Peace Corps project. Two of the questions were “What is something you are most looking forward to doing?” (my answer: hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains, check!), and “What did you most dread?” To the latter I replied, “Eating a Mopani worm.”
Mopani worms are actually caterpillars. The name Mopani (or Mopane) comes from the Mopani tree on which the caterpillars are most often found eating leaves. The Mopani worm is a much enjoyed snack food (and much needed protein source) throughout southern Africa.
The Mopani tree is found in large numbers in Limpopo Province (where I live, although I confess to having never seen a live Mopani worm) and thus helps to generate a large source of revenue for many people. The bagged worms (already dried or fried) are sold in stores, as well as in small individual stalls at most outdoor markets.
So, yes, I have eaten a few of these crispy critters. I am not fond of them, but they are not as bad as I had feared. It helps that they are dried and crunchy (think baked Cheetos). Another way to prepare them is to fry them with tomatoes and onions. I haven’t tried them that way, and I probably won’t.