Palm worms delicacy catches on

BY: Joycelyn Kyei-Baffuor
Palm worms sandwich
Palm worms sandwich

CAN you imagine eating a plate of worms? Well, the mere thought may seem bizarre but it is a delicacy right here in the country.The palm weevil larvae, also known as palm worms, are popularly referred to as “Akokono” by the Akans.

The larvae are harvested from felled palm trees, which farmers tap for their sap to make palm wine or the popular home-brewed local drink, “Akpeteshie.” They are categorised as edible insects and consumed in Western and Central Africa, and South-east Asia among others.

A young Canadian Lawyer and Founder of Legendary Foods, a food technology company, Ms Shobhita Soor, told The Mirror in a recent interview in Accra that she ventured into the edible insects business after she won a $1 million Hult Prize, which challenged the youth to solve some pressing issues through social entrepreneurship.

“I was interested in the market opportunities in the world of edible insects, so I decided to embark on a journey to democratise access to protein supply in Ghana. That was how the palm weevil larvae business started in 2020. The product has a large demand, is consumed in the palm belt of 14 countries in the sub-region and the industry has a lot of potentials, which can help improve food security in the country,” she said.

Improving access to nutritious foods
Ms Soor said that Legendary Foods was on a mission to produce cost-effective, nutritious, and more accessible forms of protein in the country.

“It is very affordable, unlike other sources of animal protein on the market, which are expensive to access, particularly in rural areas of the country; hence, some people in such areas lack sufficient sources of protein, our primary focus is to make the products the most preferred alternative source of animal protein in the sub region, this will help address malnutrition, improve food security, while improving livelihoods, palm larvae also have the potential to promote environmental sustainability,” she said.

Palm weevil larvae business
She has a commercial insect farm that delivers delicious and healthy palm larvae all year long.
“We supply to food joints and some pubs and we also have partners who sell our fresh products. Consumers are excited we exist. It has been an extremely rewarding experience which gives me great satisfaction to know that we are innovating the path to a novel source of farmed livestock and a new value chain that is poised to create new job opportunities”, she narrated.

Ms Soor also runs a restaurant in Kumasi, with the brand name, Akokono House, where she sells branded line of products such as cookies, pepper sauce, also referred to as “Shito” and khebab.

Salad made with palm worms

“For people who are not so familiar with it, I would encourage them to try it; it is very delicious and has the taste of shrimp, with the texture of sausage,” she added.

Health benefits

Touching on the nutritive value, an entomologist at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International in Accra, Ms Hettie Boafo, indicated that the worms had high amino acids, fatty acids, vitamin B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
She noted that the palm weevil larvae food-based intervention programmes were appropriate and offered long-term solutions for reducing malnutrition and its consequences.

Future prospects
The foodpreneur intends to scale up production.

Ms Soor with some clients

“We are looking to start distribution on a large scale in Kumasi and continue to expand in Accra as well. We also want to add on to our products, introduce Akokono flour to add to porridges and other cereals,” she said.