Caterpillars, also known as mopane worms in South Africa, are a valuable source of protein that is also environmentally friendly, requiring no additional water or land. They breed and feed naturally on mopane trees, which grow in hot and dry areas of southern Africa.
Mopane is consumed in many communities throughout South Africa’s Limpopo province. It is frequently cooked in an onion and tomato sauce. According to AFP, one South African entrepreneur wants to export the delicacy to the rest of the world, but not in the form it is commonly consumed in South Africa.
Wendy Vesela, a chemical engineer by trade, is turning caterpillars into tasty snacks. The black and green mopane caterpillars are transformed into savory biscuits, sweet chocolate protein bars, cereals or smoothies, and pizza toppings. She works with rural women who gather the mopanes before gutting, boiling, and drying them. She explained to AFP that they can then be used whole or milled.
According to AFP, she ventured into turning caterpillars into snacks in order to change the way edible caterpillars are viewed and eaten, particularly in Western Europe, where many people still have fears about eating insects.
Vesela claims that her organic products have garnered national and international attention. The caterpillars are “a healthier protein option,” she told AFP. And it isn’t a worm. So people just need to get over their fear.”
Vesela recently pitched her products to potential customers in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton district. Over the years, health experts have stated that mopanes are a better source of protein than many other foods consumed. They contain a lot of protein, healthy fats, and minerals, especially iron.
Since Vesela started her venture nearly three years ago, there have been rising demands and she plans to expand her business and have multiple harvests a year.