Grasshop­pers a tasty, nu­tri­tious hol­i­day treat in Uganda

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TASTE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Kam­pala, Uganda

Chil­dren scam­per in the bush, jump­ing here and there to catch grasshop­pers be­fore they fly away. On a good day, many will walk away with plas­tic bags filled with the in­sects to fry and eat as a snack.

Grasshop­pers, known in the lo­cal Lu­ganda lan­guage as nsenene, are a del­i­cacy among many in this East African coun­try who look for­ward to this time of year, when mil­lions of the bugs hatch with the sea­sonal rains. Peo­ple say jok­ingly there will be damna­tion if the grasshop­per sea­son comes and goes without tast­ing the bugs.

“Th­ese nsenene, I’m buy­ing them be­cause my wife has sent me to buy them for her,” says O.J. Ger­ald at a road­side seller in the cap­i­tal, Kam­pala. “She re­ally loves them. You fry with some onion and a lit­tle bit of salt and it’s very tasty. Very crunchy in your mouth.”

The grasshop­pers, when fried, turn from green to golden brown and give off an earthy aroma beloved by en­thu­si­asts.

Grasshop­per hunt­ing has be­come a com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity in Uganda. Some rig bright lamps to at­tract the in­sects, which then crash into strate­gi­cally placed sheets and slide into bar­rels where they are trapped overnight.

Hun­dreds of grasshop­per traps can be seen across Kam­pala, of­ten in vi­o­la­tion of the city’s safety rules as the in­stal­la­tions can lead to po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous short cir­cuits. The in­sects are in sea­son from Novem­ber un­til Jan­uary, when the coun­try usu­ally gets heavy rains, and again in April and May.

Street ven­dors do brisk busi­ness, sell­ing half-kilo­gram plas­tic mugs of ready-to-eat grasshop­pers for about $2.75.

To pre­pare them, the wings, legs and an­ten­nae are plucked off while the in­sects are still alive.

Cooked grasshop­pers have high amounts of pro­tein and fat, as well as sig­nif­i­cant amounts of di­etary fiber, says Ge­of­frey Ssepu­uya, a Ugan­dan nu­tri­tion­ist re­search­ing grasshop­pers as part of his doc­tor­ate stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Leu­ven in Bel­gium.

“Grasshop­pers are very nu­tri­tious,” he says. “They are ac­tu­ally richer in com­par­i­son to con­ven­tional sources of pro­tein.”

At a busy mar­ket stall in Kam­pala, Sylvia Namwanje fries the in­sects with oil, onions and gar­lic, cre­at­ing a dis­tinc­tive scent that can be smelled me­ters away. Motorists park their SUVs and wait to be served. Ugan­dans from abroad who crave grasshop­pers are among her clients.

“The nsenene are so de­li­cious,” Namwanje says. “They are only in sea­son at cer­tain times of the year. Peo­ple will eat them be­cause they know that’s the only pe­riod they can eat the nsenene. It’s way more de­li­cious than chicken, or any meat for that mat­ter.”

Namwanje says the sea­sonal trade in grasshop­pers is an im­por­tant part of her yearly in­come.

“With my earn­ings I have man­aged to ed­u­cate my chil­dren, take care of my mother and fam­ily,” she says proudly.

It’s way more de­li­cious than chicken, or any meat for that mat­ter.” Sylvia Namwanje, pro­pri­etor of a mar­ket stall in Kam­pala that serves grasshop­pers

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