Amid danger of being accidentally killed by oncoming vehicles or falling in gutters, inhabitants of the Northwest Region of Cameroon have engaged in frenzy occasioned by the lure of “Mungwin”, a light-chasing green seasonal grasshopper that has over time served as supplement and flavour to most of their diets.
To this effect, locals there are making amazing treasures out of green grasshoppers. The hopping insect known in local parlance as “mungwin” has become either supplementary or indispensable as it forms partof or whole meals.
Green grasshoppers are flying insects that set in during October and disappear by December. Their naturally green colour turns brown when cooked for eating. The hunting of this insect is common in localities like Bali, Bamenda Bambili, Bambui, Babanki and Chomba. For people who cherish eating green grasshoppers, they eat them in varied forms in various combinations such as mungwin/corn fufu, mungwin/bread, mungwin/sweet-yams, mungwin/fried-plantain, mungwin/cocoyams.
In some cases, others eat green grasshoppers exclusively without necessarily combining with other foods. Divine Foy, is a constable who works with a telecommunication company. He expressed that “During mungwin season, I eat mungwin at least twice a week in place of roast cow meat. Mungwin has its season which if you miss eating it, you have missed but other forms of meat would always be available. I like it because it is delicious and I know that it has nutritional benefits even if I don’t know the specific nutrients it contains.”
In the opinion of Robert Munga, retired civil servant, mungwin has no bones and it is easy to chew “I like eating green grasshoppers because it is very easy to chew. The insect tastes so good and has a lot of natural oil even though it is not cooked with oil. I see it like meat without bones. I don’t really consider eating it as food but I just consume it as a chewable. I cannot deny eating it because I have seen other people enjoying it.”
It is also funny to note that some people dislike green grasshoppers because they regard it inferior. Brunhilda Bih Bong, is one of those who think that “green grasshoppers are similar to cockroaches and ants. I cannot eat something that flies around and creeps on the ground. I just pity people who eat them because they have not bothered to find out whether it is harmful to the system or not,” she complained. The green grasshoppers could be spotted along streets and in markets sold in minute quantities at minimum FCFA 100 and in buckets at FCFA 2,500.
Hunters of green grasshoppers trap the insects at night with the use of white florescent lamps, corrugated roofing sheets and basins of water. The trap is set in a way that the lamp attracts the insects. The insect flies around the lamp and settles on the corrugated sheet. The corrugated sheets are set in the form of a slope, so when the insect settles on the metal, it slides into the basin of water and the hunting is complete. After hunting, the hunter treats it as desired. It is either sold to consumers or consumed by the hunter. Health experts have revealed that green grasshoppers are nutritious and healthy because they are rich in protein and minerals and lower in cholesterol than beef or pork.
By Mildred Ndum Wung Kum