Category: Wild food

Edible Landscape – by Roelien Steencamp

Edible Landscape

By Roelien Steenkamp

There is an indigenous food revival happening at the Good Hope Gardens Nursery, 60km south of Cape Town. Here, Roushanna Gray and her family are reconnecting people with the land by teaching them how to forage, plant and enjoy wild foods which grow freely and abundantly in the Western Cape.

I once overheard an unsettling story. Somewhere abroad, a man went for a ride on his horse. They trotted along a beach where rotten kelp lay piled in thick heaps .The smell was nauseating; a mixture of raw sewage and urine. It was not long before the horse collapsed and died, and his owner passed out. An autopsy declared the death of the horse, and the unconsciousness of its owner, the result of toxic fumes emitted by seaweed.

I have heard similar stories from those living very close to the sea where kelp lies decomposing – keep your room well ventilated because if you don’t, you might never wake up. Whether this was at all true or not, it fuelled my dislike for kelp: it causes headaches, stinks, blocks launch sites, dirties tidal pools, breaks propellers, etc. Little did I know that a few years later, I would gaze upon this abundant seaweed in an appreciative manner, considering it one of my favourite superfoods. Kelp has been a fertiliser for aeons. Extracts are used in thousands of products around the world. It is a huge industry, but how could it be of use to us in its unadulterated, whole form?

Kelp, among other seaweeds and algae, is considered a wild food. So what exactly does this mean? And why is it so relevant to us in this day and age?

Edible Landscape

Image by Christoper List

When I heard Roushanna Gray of the Good Hope Nursery was hosting a coastal foraging session in Scarborough, I was quick to sign up. It was a sunny Saturday and a low tide had exposed exquisite rock pools. With permits in hand, twenty of us gathered around Roushanna with notes, scissors and plastic bags. Our mission was to learn something we’ve forgotten: how to forage, prepare and enjoy what was freely available, prolific and nutritious in our immediate surroundings. In this case, it was shellfish and seaweed. Unfortunately it was red tide, which meant that the mussels were filtering harmful algae through their bivalves and were therefore inedible at the time. So vegetarian it was!

After filling our bags, we headed back to a nearby cottage where we rinsed our harvest in a tub. We divided ourselves into teams and chose a recipe to work with. There was something for everyone: sea lettuce pine nut pesto, tahini wrack coleslaw, kelp lasagne and for desert: candied kelp and seaweed ice cream. A delicious forager’s feast which hardly cost us a thing!

I was also curious about land foraging and arranged to meet Roushanna at her nursery near Cape Point two weeks later. It was a hot day, with the screeching sounds of cicadas filling the air. As Roushanna led me to my seat, I was immediately calmed by her presence, a presence that matched the serenity of the fynbos mountains surrounding us.

Roushanna’s passion for wholesome food has been in her blood since she was a little girl. “I had no plant knowledge. Everything I know now, I learned through research, exploration and my love of food. I grew up with a mixed heritage, so there was a lot of ‘fusion food’. My life out here, and my passion for wild edibles, started when I fell in love with my husband Tom. My mother-in-law, Gael, is a botanist, so we would go walking and she’d teach me how to indentify plants. This nursery has been running for 30 odd years.”

Roushanna also ran a tea garden at the nursery before dedicating more time to motherhood. “We used to serve rooibos cupcakes and fresh salads full of edible flowers and fragrant garnishes.” She pauses and a rush of nostalgia sweeps across her face, “I love how those meals surprised people. They couldn’t believe that this food was foraged from the mountains and our garden, that it could taste that good and be so satisfying. A new world opens up for them.”

Or, perhaps, I think to myself, a very old world they have forgotten…

We talk a bit more about her life at the tip of southern Africa and how it has humbled her. I ask her the burning question, “Just what exactly is wild food and can you survive on it?”

“It would be difficult and would require a lot of patience to survive on it,” Roushanna answers. “Wild foods are foods which grow in the wild, but they can also be found in urban areas, along pavements and parking lots. They are not planted by man. They are dense with minerals and vitamins. I always tell people that wild foods should be one part of their meal, not the whole of it. It adds flavour and nutrients to a dish.”

There’s something different to the way Roushanna talks about food. For her, there’s more to food than satisfying hunger. “I have become fussy since I’ve been eating this way, it’s hard for me to see those sad boxed-up specimens in shops,” she says with a shy giggle. “I feel so good after eating my own food. It connects me with the land, the seasons, the moon, the tides. It’s also very empowering to be able to source, identify and create a meal out of them.”

As we take a walk through the nursery, Roushanna points out several types of buchu and pelargoniums. We also taste some sour figs and purslane. It is a different taste, I admit to her, but it is an empowering taste which probes something long suppressed. After observing my responses, she says, “Our ancestor’s palates were accustomed to bitter foods, now our taste buds are numbed by all the sugar in processed foods. It’s about getting used to it again.”

For many, wild food brings up images of thorny berry bushes and dandelions – things we would consider weeds, or at least difficult to prepare and digest. Is it even possible to create a diverse menu from such foods? I observe the pictures of mouth-watering dishes on the walls of the room we sit in. It becomes evident that there’s a lot to work with: fruits, herbs, roots, flowers, leaves, spices, seaweeds, shellfish, seeds and nuts. Roushanna recommends taking a trip up the west coast for a taste experience, “Kobus van der Merwe, author of the recipe book ‘Sandveldfood: A West Coast Odyssey’, is a culinary genius. He would observe the shapes and colours of the sea and recreate that scene on your plate. I love going to his restaurant Oep Ve Koep in Paternoster.” Geographical location and seasons are important when it comes to foraging, she adds. We both agree that that’s an even greater excuse to travel our beautiful country – to search for food!

Roushanna also offers courses for children. Being a mother of two, she believes it vital to speak of the stories behind the plants: Where do they come from? Who ate them? How did they get their names? This helps the children, and adults, to gain a better understanding of the plants.

“My son grew up watching me forage and loves to go with me. If your children grow their own healthy foods, they are more willing to eat it. If they can associate it with something they love, that’s even better. I always add some wild edibles to all-time favourite snacks like pizza and scones.”

South Africa is a great place for foraging – from mushrooms and seafood in the wild Transkei, to the amazing fynbos and shellfish up the western coast, you’ll be busy for days. It’s worth doing some research on your next destination and speaking to locals. Searching for your own food can add an extra dose of adventure to weekends away.

Before I say goodbye to Roushanna, I ask her how she – a true forager – would describe her relationship with nature. She grows quiet for a moment, shakes her head as if in utter disbelief of how lucky she is and concludes,

“Without it, I’d be heartbroken. It is a big part of me, it is my therapy. I also enjoy watching my kids grow up in it. When I go surfing, I am humbled completely. I am in the present moment. All I think about are the waves. The act of foraging is similar. It brings me peace and happiness; it gives me a sense of place in this crazy world.”

As I leave the nursery, I drive along the cliffs bordering False Bay. It feels as if a thick veil has been removed from my eyes. I no longer just see shrubs flashing past me and rock pools in the depths below. I see an edible landscape.

Our ‘instant gratification culture’ has done a lot to disconnect us from nature. We are so used to heading off to the shops to quickly fill our trolleys with “ready to eat” foods. We have forgotten the greater gratification that comes from ‘Slow Food’ – taking our time to forage, plant, harvest, prepare and chew our food with thoughtfulness – savouring each mouthful, even if it’s something you never thought you’d ever like (in my case, kelp!).

Foraging was vital for survival before the advent of agriculture, but it is still vital today for a different reason: to reconnects us with the land.

To ground us.

Roushanna’s tips on how to eat wild:

1. Identification is the most important part! Ask an experienced guide or local. Observe, taste, smell, touch, make notes.

2. Plant the edibles in your garden. It will teach you how to identify them more easily out in the wild, as well as to develop a taste for them.

3. When in doubt, leave it alone: be 110% sure of edibility.

4. Know which parts of the plant are edible and which aren’t. Also know how to prepare the parts.

5. Never forage in a polluted space.

6. Tread lightly. Only take enough .The rule of thumb: harvest 1/3, leave 1/3 for re-growth and 1/3 for other animals.

7. Make sure it’s legal. A mussel permit which you can obtain from your post office allows for shellfish and seaweed collections, but it is illegal to forage plants. Never forage in a Nature Conservation Are, or private properties.

8. Indigenous edible plants are ENDANGERED; this is why it’s so crucial to tread lightly and to grow them yourself whenever possible.

9. Never forage shellfish during red-tide.

10. For seaweeds (kelp, sea lettuce, wrack), never gather loose floating pieces, always cut from ones fresh and attached to the rocks as close to the tide line as possible.

Roushanna’s top wild edibles:

1. Kelp (sea bamboo, Ecklonia maxima)

2. Num num (Carissa bispinosa)

3. Pine ring mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus)

4. Veldkool (Trachyandra ciliata)

5. Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea )

6. Pelargoniums (from the Geraniaceae family)

7. Nettles (from the Urticaceae family)

8. Sea lettuce (ulva & monostroma species)

9. Ice plant (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis)

10. Kei-apples (Dovyalis caffra)

11. Cape Chestnuts (Calodendrum capense )

12. Mussels (there are two edible mussels – Black mussel (Choromytilus meridionalis) and the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis). Always eat the Mediterranean mussel first – it’s an alien!

©Roelien Steenkamp, 2015

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Coastal foraging photos and course dates.

Last month we had a fantastic day of discovering, tasting, experiencing and feasting. We were lucky to forage at new moon  on a very low tide with a very small swell, allowing us maximum exploring time in the inter-tidal rock pools at Scarborough beach.  A huge thanks to Jean-michel Maurel for these beautiful images he captured on the day.

Coastal foraging at Scarborough beach

Seaweed reflecting in the rockpool

Coastal Foraging in Cape Town

Coastal foraging

Coastal foraging - seaweed

Mussels

Coastal foraging

Dead mans fingers - seaweed

Collecting mussels

Scarborough waves

Coastal foraging in the Cape

Coastal foraging course

Edible seaweed - coastal foraging

Beach cottage

Edible seaweeds - coastal foraging course

Preparing edible seaweed

Kelp and tomato salad

Edible seaweed meals

Garden art

Coastal foraging lunch

Mussel pot - coastal foraging

Coastal foraged ingredients in our delicious lunch

Forage Harvest Feast

Kelp and cocoa ice cream with candied kelp and almonds

Please join us on one of our LAST COURSES FOR THE SEASON! Don’t miss out – it really is as exciting and delicious as it looks…

Saturday the 21st of March – 9am-1pm

Saturday the 4th of April – 9am-1pm

*Possibility of a May date TBC

For info or to book please contact roushanna@hotmail.com

Why should people learn to forage?

Why should people learn to forage?

Wild food foraging

I have been asked this a lot lately. I have tossed this question around in my mind, thought about the positive and the negative views of foraging, the realistic need for survival skills, the idealistic romantic dreams of gathering your own wild food and the sustainable issues in between. So far, I have come up with this.

I think there are two parts to this question – 1. Why should people LEARN to forage and 2. Why should people learn to FORAGE

The first question is as important as the second.

Its is a skill that you have to learn by the physical act of learning from someone with experience, it’s not just a skill you can learn off the internet or read in a book. The tradition of passing down the knowledge of foraging is rare in our modern-day world, yet for most of our human existence we have sustained ourselves through this skill. Without learning, foraging can be deadly dangerous – if you can’t positively ID the plant you want to forage, you could get seriously poisoned. Since the rising trend of foraging, there have been numerous cases of food poisoning and even deaths. You have to know what time of year to harvest, what part of the plant to eat, how much to pick and how exactly to prepare it. Where you are foraging from is very important as you are not allowed to forage on private land or nature reserves, and should be aware of pollutants. Sustainability plays a huge role when foraging become fashionable. Lets face it, if everyone started foraging again, it would be detrimental to our environment by threatening its biodiversity and by unintentional disturbance to its ecosystem. That’s why we encourage people on our foraging courses to plant indigenous edibles into their gardens for a more sustainable and practical solution : backyard foraging. Our indigenous plants are more suited to this harsh African climate than regular fruit and veg anyway and should definitely be included into all food gardens. A lot of our Indigenous berry bushes and fruit trees make great security hedges and windbreaks and the wide variety of perennial wild herbs are pretty much maintenance-free once established.

Indigenous herbs

The second question is a bit more personal…why do I think people should forage once they have learnt?

Its delicious, its nutritious, it’s a free form of clean, organic local food. I love the different range of wild flavours, the excitement as the season finally nears a favourite wild edibles time for harvesting, experimenting with new recipes and the delight in others enjoying the meal. Plant study is an ongoing love affair that never ends – the more you learn, the more there is to learn. There are so many wonderful stories, myths and muthi, power and traditions, behind our plants. Its empowering to have the knowledge to be able to feed yourself. It’s a joyous celebration of connecting with nature, understanding the seasons, being in touch with the tides and the moon phases. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to teach your children. Its indigenous food revival!

Foraged lunch at Good Hope Gardens Nursery

Coastal Foraging course dates – Summer 2014/15

Imagine an icy turquoise sea, fresh salty breezes, a long white sandy beach and rock pools filled with food.

Idyllic, yes?

Yes. But wait – there’s more….

On a Saturday closest to the new or full moon (to ensure the lowest tide for optimal forage time) a group of like minded foodies, armed with permits, relevant equipment and new found sustainable harvesting techniques, all forage in a group along the inter tidal zone for their lunch.

Does this make you hungry for knowledge, keen to awaken your inner hunter-gatherer and try out some exciting new dishes?

Then join us on one of our Coastal Forages this summer. Here’s a look at what we got up to over the past few weekends…

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Coastal Foraging Cape Town

Wrack coleslaw salad - Coastal Foraging in Cape TownKelp salad - coastal foraging in Cape TownArtisan bread from Cape Point BakerySea lettuce and couscous salad - Coastal Foraging in Cape TownCreamy white wine mussels - Coastal Foraging course in Cape TownWrack and flower coleslaw - Coastal Foraging in Cape Town

 

Feast! Coastal Forage in Cape Town

Mussel pot - Coastal Foraging in Cape Town

Coastal Foraging course in Cape Town

We would love you to join us one one of these delicious experiences, details below…

Coastal Foraging in Cape Town

COASTAL FORAGING

Our half day Coastal Foraging course will introduce you to some of our local edible seaweed, explore the magical world of rock pools, meet like minded people, learn how to prepare your macro-algae and have a delicious feast!
We will start off the day meeting at Scarborough beach, and after an intro we will make our way down to the tidal pools where we will forage for edible seaweeds and mussels. This beautiful coastline is abundant with food! As we always forage sustainably, we will be focusing only on the seaweed that is prolific in the area, stressing how to treat the wildlife with respect. After our morning on the rocks, we will head to Gael’s Beach Cottage on foot with our foraged food to prepare and create an outdoor lunch feast. Notes include intro, identification, recipes and tide charts. 

Price: R400 per person or R300 for a group of 4.

Bring: Beach gear, slip-slops or booties, your mussel license (essential – available at your nearest post office), cameras, water bottle, a sense of humour and an appetite! Also please bring your drink of choice for yourself to enjoy with the meal (beer, juice, spring water, wine etc whatever you prefer)

Dates:

Saturday 21st Feb 10am – 2pm
Saturday 7th March 9am – 1pm
Saturday 21st March 9am – 1pm

April dates TBC


To book or for any queries, please email roushanna@hotmail.com 

WIN with ILUNDI and GOOD HOPE GARDENS NURSERY

Summer is here!

And its competition time….

Join our Facebook competition and stand a chance to win an ILUNDI signature sling

PLUS

2 x tickets for a Coastal Forage with us!

Click HERE to enter.

Good luck!!!!

Win an Ilundi signature sling plus Coastal Foraging tickets

The Secret Garden Feast

The Secret Garden Feast

We invite you to come and experience this once-off pop-up event dedicated to sustainable cuisine that will tantalise all of your senses.

The meal will be created by the Forage Harvest Feast team, using fresh seasonal ingredients and locally produced products, transforming them into delicious foods.
Vegetables, herbs and wild foods will be picked and prepared on site that day from the Good Hope Gardens vegetable gardens. We will also be using indigenous edibles, seaweeds, floral foods and local artisan products.

Quality not quantity is to be observed and that means limited spaces! There will only be 50 seats available at the Secret Garden Feast so please book soon to avoid disappointment.

For your entertainment, you will be able to feast your ears and eyes on the five-piece Middle Eastern/Gypsy/Balkan fusion band, Ottoman Slap. Bringing you original compositions and traditional music with a twist – from Middle Eastern, Kletzmer, Andalusian, Romanian folk songs, and finally, to a mesmerising Tribal Fusion belly dancer to leave you enchanted!

The Secret Garden Feast will be held outdoors in the Indigenous plant nursery at Good Hope Gardens in Cape Point on Sunday the 12th of October at 4pm.

Tickets: R400 per person

Expect: edible center pieces, dancing, connection, community, real food and the unexpected.

To book contact Roushanna Gray at roushanna@hotmail.com

The Secret Garden Feast

 

Forage Harvest feast – August

This weekend we held one of the last Forage Harvest Feast fynbos forages of the season with amazing people, beautiful weather and delicious food.

Reconnecting with our food and gaining knowledge about our edible Indigenous landscape evoked interesting conversation that flowed around the like minded crowd.

Coleonema oatcakes and Salvia goats cheese

Coleonema “confetti bush” oatcakes and Salvia goats cheese

Buchu brandy

Buchu brandy

The forage classrooms table

The forage classroom.

Forage Harvest Feast

Washing and sorting the forage and harvested goods.

Edible flowers

Edible flower power.

Forage and Harvest course

Sorting the harvest.

Reconnecting to your food

Slow Food – the sweet life.

Wild herb cheeses

Wild herb cheeses

CWild food community meals

Making rainbow salads.

Wild garlic rolls

Wild garlic rolls.

Cooking lunch at Forage Harvest Feast

Cooking up a storm.

Wild food Feast

Feast!

Honeybush and lemon Pelargonium cupcakes

Honeybush and lemon Pelargonium cupcakes.

If you would like to join us on our last Forage Harvest Feast of the season, or bring your kids to join our Kids Forage and Harvest mornings, contact us soon as spaces are filling up quickly.

Forage Harvest Feast

September the 13th – Saturday from 10am-2pm

Kids Forage and Harvest mornings

Saturday 27th of September 10am – 12pm PIZZA
Monday  29th of September 2pm – 4pm PIZZA
Thursday 2nd of October 2pm – 4pm SCONES
Saturday 4th of October 10am – 12pm SCONES

For more info and to book please email roushanna@hotmail.com