The Mopani tree is actually part of the legume family and is indigenous to the far northern parts of Southern Africa, including the Limpopo region of SA. There’s robust demand for Mopani and the whole dried caterpillar is usually cooked up in a rich tomato gravy and eaten with pap. A vibrant informal trade in mopani criss-crosses the borders of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
Mopani caterpillars are rich in protein (our samples show approx 58% protein content), but the chitin – the exoskeleton of the caterpillar – is known to limit amino acid absorption (chitin, however, is a good source of fibre).
As far as micro-nutrients go, mopani offer a feast of minerals, with high levels of potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc and iron. Because Mopani are key source of income – and nutrition – for often-impoverished rural communities, there are big challenges to be addressed around sustainability. Over-harvesting can have a damaging impact on this important resource. Climate change is not helping either. That being said, properly managed, there’s a growing sense that Mopani have the potential to become an African superfood. Harvested sustainably and at scale, they could become an important part of the region’s (protein) food chain in the 21st Century. See this link for some excellent research into the potential of mopani.
In the wellness world, Mopani are a novel additional protein source for those following the Paleo hunter-gatherer diet. And for those who want to break through their cultural prejudices and the “yuk” factor of eating insects, our Mopani Salt is an easy – and dare we say tasty – way to introduce insects into one’s diet.