About the Food of Botswana

Photo courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Today is a great day. While learning about the food of Botswana, I raised my eyebrows at least five times. I love days like that. Plus, I almost convinced my husband we were going to be eating worms.

That’s right. Worms.

You should have seen his face.

The people of Botswana prize Mopane worms as a national specialty. This unusual delicacy is actually a caterpillar who earned its name by feeding on the local Mopane tree. The worms are eaten fresh, dried, or canned with tomato sauce or hot sauce. Most families are able to harvest them from the trees near their homes. Luckily we don’t have any Mopane worms in our backyard, so we won’t be eating any for this week’s Global Table. Keith is relieved, to say the least. I hope you’re not disappointed.

Speaking of points… take a look at this thing!

Mopane Worm Photo by Arne Larsen

In general, meat is saved for special occasions, including beef, goat, and chicken. Preparation is simple – pieces of meat are slowly simmered with onion until very soft, then pounded into small pieces. The taste of the resulting “chunky gravy” depends on the cut of meat. The higher the fat, the richer the flavor.

Most meals include stewed produce such as spinach, pumpkin, squash, tomato, cabbage, or beans. Availability varies by region.

Falkirks (pots) used for special occasion stews. Photo by Arne Lawson

Both vegetables and meats are eaten with the African staple pap, a stiff maize or cornmeal porridge that resembles soft polenta. Maize is grown in Botswana, making pap a viable option for all households. The porridge is usually scooped up with fingers and then dipped into the stew or sauce for flavor.

Next to no information is available about prepared desserts in Botswana. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll have to settle on fruit this week. In fact, I was surprised to learn that Botswana may be the original home of the watermelon. This juicy fruit – present at nearly every family picnic I’ve ever been to – is said to originate in the dry Kalahari Desert which spans Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. Juicy watermelon is perfect refreshment in scorching hot weather and has the added bonus of not needing refrigeration for storage.

A variety of tasty drinks are available in Botswana. You will find tea from the bush called rooibos tea, English tea – from Botswana’s days as a British protectorate, fruit juice, soda, home-brewed beer, and commercial beer.

Photo Courtesy of CIA World Factbook


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