Dried pane for sale along the road from Selebi-Phikwe to the border post at Martin's Drift.
Dried pane for sale along the road from Selebi-Phikwe to the border post at Martin’s Drift.

This is definitely one of the more exotic ingredients in the African pantry. Pane, or mopane in singular, is a moth larvae or caterpillar that is eaten in parts of Southern Africa. I generally associate it with Botswana but I have seen it in markets in the northern parts of South Africa too. It lives off the leaves of the mopane tree, and when in season the trees are usually full of the finger-sized larvae. If left to munch away they’ll completely strip a tree of leaves. People harvest the pane either from the trees or when they drop to the ground after having eaten themselves happy. Then you squeeze out the content of their stomachs (this doesn’t sound too pleasant, but think of it as similar to cleaning a prawn for example). You either boil it directly, or dry it in the sun and eat it dried as a snack or soak and cook it at a later date. I’m guessing pane is rich in protein. For people who like it it is a delicacy. I have only tried the dried version, which is quite crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and has a bit of a liquorice taste to it.

A live mopane in a mopane tree, Botswana.

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