Fat, salty, crunchy

mopane worms

I grew up in Limpopo. Fat Baobabs cast shade in dusty daytimes, giving way to drawling Acacia silhouettes and bright orange sunsets. Before the evenings succumbed to bright starry skies that expanded for eons, we went foraging. I’d tag along with the older kids and grownups as they headed into the bushveld on the prowl for deliciously plump mopane worms. Painted in speckled neon blues and yellows they reflected the night above. We’d pluck them from the branches of trees and shrubs, and shove them into cans, bags, sacks and pockets. Once, one escaped and crawled up my leg – I shrieked, thinking it was a snake, and performed some kind of crazy terror dance to shake it off. I was freaked out for a while after that. When our squirming bounty was overflowing, we’d return to the village to process the worms, which entailed carefully squeezing out their innards and then leaving them to dry in the sun. They could also be smoked or boiled for preservation. Sometimes we’d eat them as a crunchy snack with salt and other times we’d rehydrate them in warm water, cook them down with salt, add onions and tomatoes, cook a little more, and then serve and enjoy. As an adult, far away from the generous stars of childhood, I still love a bowl of mopane worms… and sometimes, I still feel one crawling up my leg.

Storyteller: Pulane Queen Lebeya 

Editor: Andrea Zanin


  1. Reminds me of how I used to sneak into the kitchen n pick 3 or 4 mopanes brought home from the village and I’d munch them in bed. I’ve never seen a life one n the thought of it gives me shivers down my spine. I’d rather have mine ready to eat, dried, fried or in tomato stew anytime anyplace. I still keep a pack of 2 in my handbag as a yummy biltong snack

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