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The Season’s Crunchy Snack is here – Nsenene

Nsenene also known as grasshoppers need no professional cook or expensive ingredients to prepare them since they secrete their own oil and anyone starting from children, vendors or parents can prepare them.

Every year in Uganda, the Nsenene season comes in twice; around April -May and also in November – December which are usually wet seasons.  Nsenene or grasshoppers provide a cheap and often free source of food as they are freely available in the wild for anyone willing and able to trap them.

Back in the day, people would make sounds and sing songs when collecting grasshoppers. They would shout out up on a hill “wuli wuli wuli” a loud sound to notify people on another hill that “here are a lot more Nsenene”.

Songs like Nkulubazi bajja bajja, omugadda guwere meaning Let the King or Queen come & call the the other grasshoppers (Nkulagala & Nkulusajja) so that the catch is big.

Tradition also called for women to present Nsenene to their husbands, who dutifully gifted them a dress in response as gratitude to their hard work since it involved getting one Nsenene at a time from the grass and keeping it in a cloth or bottle until a reasonable number was collected.
The Nsenene would be collected from banana plantations or picked from the hilly grasslands.

Modern traps today are made from metal drums and corrugated zinc sheets . This method started back in Nyendo- Masaka around 1992 or 1993. The Nsenene hunters leave high-wattage electric bulbs burning through the night; attracted to the white light, grasshoppers hit the sheets and fall into the drums. 

Types of Grasshoppers ;

  1. Nkulagala
    These are quiet, green and fatty and are the announcers of the Nsenene season. These are usually caught in the morning in green grass and are less noisy.
  2. Nkulabazzi
    These are red-green in color and are believed to be the King or queen. Usually have other Nsenene’s around them when found
  3. Nkulusajja
    These are brownish- dry banana leaf color and appear towards the end of the season. They are aggressive and such biters and known to be noisy

Today, the unlucky grasshoppers collected, have their wings and legs plucked off and then sold in markets starting from as low as UGX 1,000 for 2 tablespoons of grasshoppers.

Nsenene, whose scientific name is Ruspolia Nitidula, are not only a delicious and addictive dish of insects but also contain exceptionally high amounts of proteins, fat, ash and dietary fiber that supports regular bowel movement; helps maintain normal cholesterol levels ( hence lower risk for coronary heart diseases) and regular blood sugar levels as well as keeping the unwanted weight off. The dietary fiber is rare of any animal based foods and higher than that in plant sources like peas, bananas or avocado.

There are various ways the Nsenene are prepared. Here is one quick recipe:

  1. After wings and legs are plucked
2. Soak in water, rinse 2 or 3 times
3. Transfer the grasshoppers into the pan your going to use for cooking
4. Add Salt, garlic and chopped onions
5. Stir occasionally to prevent burning until golden brown over medium heat
6. Serve and enjoy the crunchy snack

It’s time to fry, sell (or not), devour and celebrate a Ugandan cultural delicacy, the seasonal crunchy Nsenene !