Tag: Indigenous Food Revival

Veld and Sea Flavour Challange

Calling all chefs, mixologists, cooks and foodies!

In a bid to create awareness and interest in all the delicious wild flavours our indigenous edible plants have to offer, we are launching a Veld and Sea Flavour Challenge this summer.

How does it work?

Every two weeks I will be putting together a mix of indigenous edibles for participating restaurants, bars and foodies, labeled with their common and Latin names and share a brief rundown of their culinary uses. No payment is required, just a trade exchange for the photos of the food or drink they create with the plants, so we can share them on our social media platforms, giving credit to the creators and establishments and inspiring others to join in this deliciously wild challenge.

How do I get involved?

Easy – email roushanna@hotmail.com with #veldandseaflavourchallenge in the heading and let me know who you are, what you do and where you are based.

What if I have my own indigenous edibles?

Epic! And even easier – just post your food photos on Instagram, tag it with #veldandseaflavourchallenge with a description of the botanicals you used plus what your dish is called and we will include your story in this incredible edible wild flavour food journey.

Indigenous edible plants with Veld and Sea

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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

Fynbos Foraging Course Dates

Fynbos Foraging Course – Forage Harvest Feast

Forage Harvest Feast at Good Hope Gardens Nursery

Introductory half day forage and feasting experience

WHO IS THIS COURSE FOR:

Aimed at adults but children are welcome to join their parents. Anyone who has an interest in gardening, in wild food, foraging or indigenous edibles. Chefs wanting to discover new ingredients or foodies wanting to play with the diverse wild flavours in our Indigenous edibles. People interested in Fynbos, in vegetable gardening, self sufficiency, in the Slow Food movement or those that just want to have a unique and delicious experience at a beautiful venue with like minded people.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Each course is different according to the season and availability in the gardens and the bush. Explore the gardens, discover and pick edible floral foods and fresh organic vegetables. Forage for indigenous edibles, learn how to sustainably harvest them, utilize them in your kitchen, grow them in your garden and some of their medicinal properties. Learn about wild herbs and how to preserve and prepare them. After snacks and a gathering tour we will get creative in the foraging classroom kitchen and prepare and share a feast.

WHAT IS INCLUDED:
This half day course includes wild food snacks and drinks, a delicious three course lunch based on ingredients foraged, harvested and prepared by the group. You will also receive information sheets and recipes on the plants that we will use in the meal.

WHAT TO BRING:
Gumboots or comfortable walking shoes, raincoat/sun hat – suitable outdoor gear. Cameras are welcome. Don’t forget an open mind and your sense of humour!

BONUS:

You can also enjoy a 10% discount in the nursery retail should you wish to purchase any indigenous plants for your garden.

PRICE:
R500 p/person or R1800 for group of four. Children under 17yrs R200, Children under 2yrs free. Full payment will secure your booking as spaces are limited.

DURATION:
10am – 2pm

DATES:

June 27thJuly 25th, August 15thAugust 29th

VENUE:

Good Hope Gardens Nursery, Plateau Rd (M65),Cape Point

GUIDES:

Roushanna and Gael Gray

IS THIS SUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS:

Yes – all the dishes on this course are vegetarian, and all food intolerances are catered for, please let us know in advance.

MAX NUMBER OF PEOPLE PER COURSE:

16

AVAILABLE FOR A PRIVATE FUNCTION:

Yes – Min number of people required: 10.
TO BOOK:
email roushanna@hotmail.com

Fynbos Foraging Course

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

Grewia occidentalis recipe

Grewia occidentalis is commonly known as kruisbessie or cross-berry tree. It is a fast growing small tree or large shrub, hardy, has fibrous roots and grows in a variety of soil conditions. It can be planted in full sun or shade, and makes a great wind break. Once mature, it likes to be pruned. They can grow up to 5 meters, wind dependent.

Grewia occidentalis

It has very strong wood that does not splinter and was used traditionally by the bushmen to make bows and by the Xhosa and Zulu to make bows and handles for axes and assegaai’s. It also has a host of magical and medicinal properties including using the bark as a shampoo to combat grey hair and making a tea out of the leaves and twigs to ease childbirth or for impotency and bareness.

It attracts butterflies, is loved by birds for its tasty berries and carpenter bees often find a home in its wood and relish the pollen from pretty ten petaled mauve star-shaped flowers. Livestock enjoy the bark and leaves.Grewia occidentalis flower

It forms a four lobed fruit, green at first and then ripening to a golden reddish brown waxy fruit. These fruits are sweet and chewy with a tough skin and a big pip. They were used by bushmen as snacks particularly for long journeys as they kept well as dried fruit. Other culinary uses include flavouring porridge, the fruit crushed for juice and either taken fresh or fermented for beer, boiled with milk or used in a goats milk yoghurt.

Grewia occidentalis berries

We have a big Grewia tree outside our house, filled with life – at the moment the berries are just beginning to ripen, and the garden is filled with the sounds of the birds and bees, butterflies and insects busy in the branches, flitting from flower to flower. I too, was in the tree. Dangling precariously from the treehouse planks, tiptoeing on the little branches, looking for some ripe fruit for my recipe. Crazed by the idea in my head, I even forgot about my fear of heights. Not dangerous at all. Especially when we spotted a massive snake in the tree a few hours later.

Hot crossberry drink.

Hot Crossberry drink - Grewia occidentalis

Ingredients:

1 handful of ripe Grewia o. berries

1 cup of milk ( I used goats milk)

A few half opened Grewia o. flowers.

Method:

Put the berries and milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins. Pour through a strainer and sieve, squashing all the flavoured milk through with the back of a spoon. Pour into a cup, serve warm. Pop a few semi opened flowers on top of the drink and watch as they open up completely with the heat of the drink. Smile as everyone claps.

This drink is deliciously malty and sweet with a hint of fruit, creamy in texture and a dreamy caramel colour.

Result!

Cheers to Indigenous food revival.

Grewia occidentalis

Grewia occidentalis berries

*references:

plantzafrica.com 

Indigenous Healing Plants – Margaret Roberts

Food from the Veld – F.W.Fox and M. E. Norwood Young

Tom Gray from Good Hope Gardens Landscaping

Wild Food on the West Coast

With dreams of long, sweet, left-handed rides down the point, we headed up the West Coast one weekend with a bakkie full of surfboards and a sparkle in our eyes.

But fate was not on our side and there was no swell to be found in Elands Bay. On our walks to the beach for the ever-hopeful surf report, we spotted many wild edibles growing along the road.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinumIce Plant – Mesembryanthemum crystallinum

Trachyandra falcataVeldkool – Trachyandra falcata

Tetragonia decumbensDune spinach – Tetragonia decumbens

Inspired by the local wild food, we were delighted to secure a Sunday lunch booking at Oep ve Koep.

On our way to Paternoster, millions of bright yellow Oxalis flowers greeted us from both sides of the road as far as the eye could see.

Oxalis pes capraeSuring – Oxalis pes-caprae

Hungry, late and apologetic – we entered Die Winkel op Paternoster. For people who love farm products and wild food, we Had Arrived. We were served with the most amazing meal – the freshness, the detail, the involuntary roll of our eyes with each mouthful.

Wow.

Thank you Kobus van der Merwe – you are a wild food gastronomy alchemist.

Menu at Oep ve KoepUm….one of everything please.

OystersOysters with apple, wild sage flowers, wild fennel, ice plant and sea lettuce.

Chenopodium chapatisImifino chapatis with pickled veldkool and yoghurt.

Shoreline soupShoreline soup.

White fish pickle, Ice plant, citrus and fennel .Ice plant, white fish pickle, fennel and citrus.

Farm breadFarm bread and fresh herbs.

Farm butter, fish pate and orange preserve

Farm butter, fish pate and preserved orange.

DSCF6700

 Springbok, limpets, heerenboon, winter greens.

carrot bobotie

Carrot bobotie, pomegranate pilaf, peach mebos.

Come on, really now. Isn’t that just the best thing you have ever seen?

Seduced by the charm of the sleepy fishing village, we decided to stay the night and explore a bit. We went to the beach, for lots of walks and of course, to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.

Paternoster beach

Paternoster beach

Dimorphotheca pluvialis

Dimorphotheca pluvialis in white blossom.

Cape Columbine lighthouse

The Cape Columbine lighthouse.

And all around us…winter greens. A veritable landscape of food.

Wild asparagus

Wild asparagus

Veldkool

Veldkool.

Chrysanthemoides incana

Chrysanthemoides incana.

Malva

Pretty Mallow.

Wild sage

Wild sage.

What beautiful and tasty biodiversity we have in our country. Hand in hand with sustainable harvesting, food security has a fragrant light at the end of South Africas wild food tunnel.

Rise up Indigenous food revival – you are delicious!