“Ensenene” Edible Grasshoppers in Uganda

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Very ready Ensenene
Very ready Ensenene

About Nsenene (Cricket Bush Grasshopper) delicious insect snacks

They are mainly “the November suspects” one special delirious edible insect, particularly in Uganda. Back in infantry time of villages, as farmers eagerly waited for the rain for the great sowing season, never knew that the November month was for the bigger nature catch of Nsenene insects. But I remember always running through the stem elongated maize plantations to search for grasshoppers that are hiding in the main leave joints or at the top opening of a bud.

Though we used to spend almost half of the day searching around for the insects to the extent of some days missing out on school, the catch was ever impressing. The long-horned grasshoppers being season may not be the case, but their exceptional taste makes these insects something else to meditate about.

Studies indicate that these special insects are very natural gifts to the people surrounding Lake Victoria through Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In the case of Uganda, traditionally the Baganda people of Buganda Kingdom have a kind treat to these insects, being that one of the clans in the kingdom was formed to these insects.

What is the “Nsenene”?

E’nsenene is a Luganda word used to mean the long-horned grasshoppers commonly known as the “Bush-cricket grasshoppers”. These are seasonal insects mainly seen during the rainy seasons of March, May April, and November, testifying the bushcricket grasshoppers have surfaced mainly in the month of November. Ugandans can’t imagine a month of November without tasting Bush Cricket Grasshoppers (Nsenene).

Buganda Kingdom customs on Nsenene (Grasshoppers)

E’nsenene is among the clans that make up the Buganda Kingdom, and they’re many customs that are related to these edibles making them staple food. Every tribe in the Buganda kingdom have responsibilities (Duties) to fulfill before the king, and the Nsenene clan with different leaders they perform three duties which are;

  • Kajubi Batema holds the responsibility of cutting down trees at the royal palace of Kintu at Nnono. During the crowning ceremonies, Kajubi Batema wraps a string of beads (olukwanzi) around the left arm of the Kabaka while pronouncing the words: “Ggwe Kimera!” meaning: “You are Kimera!”
  • Masembe of Maya is herdsman to the Kabaka’s cow named Nnaamala. During the coronation of a Kabaka, Masembe presents a gourd of milk before the Kabaka while uttering the warning: “I am the herdsman of your cow Nnaamala. From this cow, your grandfather Kimera got his milk.”After the Kabaka tastes the milk, Masembe removes the gourd of milk.
  • Kalibbala was responsible for capturing a live antelope to be used in the preparation ceremonies of a new king in the assumption of royal duties. The antelope was used in a mock hunting session to remind the new king of Kabaka Kimera’s use of hunting powers in his ascent to the throne.

Nsenene is a taboo to a certain group within Buganda, the practice of eating Nsenene snacks has always been a custom of Baganda people, as well to various groups of people across the African continent. In Tanzania by the Haya people from Tanzania, DRC, Zambia, and Kenya.

However, the Baganda people the biggest ethnic group in Uganda adopted the insects to decorate their traditional and cultural beliefs. Have treated these delicious insects as taboo to women and infants and all members of the Nsenene clan. Women can only collect the insects from bushes and fry them for their husbands and their grown-up sons but no chances of tasting as they can give birth to babies with crafted heads like that of Nsenene. This traditional belief however was diluted by the modern traditions where women across the kingdom are found eating nsenene exclusive to the nsenene clan strongholds.

Collecting (harvesting) of ENsenene

Leaving the first village way of collecting the insects, grasshoppers catching has become so commercial were many people leaving in cities, towns and urban centers are always eagerly waiting for ready snacks. A number of Nsenene harvesters are always prepared with all the collecting materials which include deeming lights, new reflecting iron sheets, barrels, wooden scaffolding, and sacks.

set Ensenene trappers (Grasshopper collection)
set Ensenene trappers (Grasshopper collection)

When the rainy season comes, harvesters are ready to undertake all processes. Across the country particularly in central regions in areas of Masaka (Buddo) southern of Kampala city simple lighting cities are set not for outbound events, rather collect the November suspects. A number of barrels are lined up, iron sheets are organized in the way entering into the barrels, and deem lights are tied on woods up fleshing on the iron sheets which in return reflect the lights to make an attractive city for the insects.

Now, the all process of catching the Bush Cricket Grasshopper happens at night, without knowing their origin, these insects are night flies and at night are seen following lights. Reaching the set Ensenene city, all crowd at the iron sheets sliding straight to the barrels, where they are just collected at once and packed in sacks. Packed on tracks to the urban centers for the row market selling which prepares the last set of edible snacks.

The major markets around Kampala become spots for Ensenen including the Busega market, Katwe market highly stands to be the major center where one can access row grasshoppers for the farther process of preparation.

On a day of a great catch, ensenene can be just be cooked with their wings, and these are semi-processed for the lower market.

Fully processed nsenene snacks, wings, longhorns (antennas), and tails are removed, being naturally oily, they are fried until they’re okay. Well packed according to the market they’re going to be presented for both domestic and regional and international market as Nsenene are always exported for eaters that are outside the country.

The price of Nsenene depends on where one has bought them and the quality of preparation. In downtown, they’re relatively cheaper but the hygiene here is doubtable, but they can be accessed in various supermarkets across the Uganda cities.

set Ensenene trappers (Grasshopper collection)
set Ensenene trappers (Grasshopper collection)

Nsenene is not food, rather snacks and one can eat as many. Very fitting snacks when watching a movie, football, as well can grab a silver plate of Nsenene to break your boring moments when driving.

Nutritional Benefits of Nsenene (Grasshoppers)

Though many people in the country wait eagerly for the insects, when asking for their benefits it then becomes so hard to spot out one person who can testify about the benefits behind this delicious snack. Grasshopper (Nsenene) these strongly recommended for its high A, B, and C vitamin and protein content. They are even richer in protein than milk and fish, plus they provide more energy than wheat. Chapulines are also rich in fiber and provide magnesium, calcium, and zinc.

 

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