8 February 2024
In southern Africa, caterpillars of the emperor moth Gonimbrasia belina (or Imbrasia belina) are commonly called mopane worms because they feast on the leaves of mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane). Their final instar is shown above, adult below.
During my trip in southern Africa I did not notice the trees but their oddly shaped leaves caught my attention.
I had no idea of their significance as a place to find food.
Mopane worms are prized as human food. When they reach full size women and children avidly pick them from the mopane leaves, squish out their guts and take them home to boil and sun dry. When fully prepared the mopane worms look like this:
I had the opportunity to sample mopane worms at Dusty Road Township Experience, an award-winning restaurant in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we ate traditional food.
What did mopane worms taste like to my naive palate? Earthy. Crispy. Very earthy.
Perhaps the flavor was so earthy because I ate the head first. In Zimbabwe this makes no difference but in Botswana they take the heads off before they eat them because the heads change the taste. I wish I’d known so I could have tried it both ways.
Learn more about mopane worms and how to cook them in this video by Emmy @emmymade. She tastes them both ways and describes their flavor at 3.5 minutes into the video.
(credits are in the captions)