At the local market, mopane worms are popular with residents who buy a cup or two of them and eat them immediately. The market is abuzz with activity, with most stalls strategically displaying the delicacy so people cannot miss them. Vendors offer free samples. The mopane worms are graded according to size and the area where they were harvested. Picky buyers ask about their provenance before buying, favoring worms from one district over another because of barely discernible — at least to all but the connoisseurs — differences in taste.
The mopane worm is a healthful and cheap source of nutrition.
A Zimbabwean nutritionist, Marlon Chidemo, says the worms are high in healthy nutrients and contain three times the amount of protein as beef. He says eating worms is less taxing on the environment than consuming beef because it takes far fewer leaves to produce worms than it does feed to produce the same amount of beef.
Dried mopane worms have become a multimillion-dollar industry, even exported to countries like South Africa and Botswana. They can be found in African restaurants in Paris.
Once they've been dried out, they can be eaten straight away. They can also be cooked in a spicy or peanut butter sauce and served with pap, a maize porridge.
Having grown up eating the mopane worms, I have never had the opportunity to see how they harvest and prepare them until now. While the process is rather disgusting, the worm can be a pleasure to eat as a starter or a side dish. The taste is reminiscent of salty potato chips. Malawi's first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda preferred his just like that, simply dried and then eaten as a snack like chips. Banda was known for carrying around pocketsful of worms that he would also offer to children.