When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least soundin fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,I go and lie down where the wood drakerests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.I come into the peace of wild thingswho do not tax their lives with forethoughtof grief. I come into the presence of still water.And I feel above me the day-blind starswaiting with their light. For a timeI rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things
I wish there was a way that I could present you with fragrances and flavours through the limited medium of a screen, because describing the immersive experience of one of Veld and Sea's Fynbos forage and feasting events with words alone seems an impossible task.
But I will try.
On Saturday 30 July I was lucky enough to attend another of Roushanna Gray's wild food events, this time heading into the garden and learning about edible Fynbos. We started with an introduction to edibles picked on the day from Good Hope Gardens Nursery's very own indigenous garden. As Roushanna shared her wealth of knowledge about identification and culinary uses, we inhaled the pungent aromas of lemon pelargonium, wild rosemary, african wormwood and many more.
The peninsula has provided food for humans for millennia. Early inhabitants lived off shellfish, tubers and plants that can still be found today and many of these plants also have medicinal uses. This ancient traditional knowledge is becoming scarcer as more and more people choose lifestyles of convenience that puts the responsibility of sourcing food in someone else's hands, but once you start delving into the treasure trove of local wild food the value of knowing your landscape becomes bigger than filling an empty stomach. We have evolved along with our local environments over centuries, and so every season provides food catered for our nutritional needs at that time - that is why we find fruit loaded with vitamin C in autumn and winter! When you pick your food directly from a growing plant, you become acutely aware of your dependence on its survival, and so you learn to only pick what you need and to do it in a way that ensures that there will be food to come back to next season. This symbiosis, like a slow inhale and exhale, a give and a take, becomes more and more obvious to me the more time I spend getting to know my local landscape. That is why Roushanna always starts a forage with a few simple rules: only pick what you need. Leave enough for the next generation. Only pick when you are 110% sure of positive identification (it all starts with self-love!).
With that sound advice we went into the garden. Good Hope Gardens Nursery has a variety of beds dedicated to the table: edible flowers, indigenous herbs, succulents and vegetables.
As we strolled through the nursery, Roushanna identified and shared dozens of plants, recipes and uses. The balls of fluff produced by wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus or the kapokbossie as it is locally known) can be used as a biodegradable cigarette filter. The sour fig (Carpobrotus edulis) is useful to treat abrasions and irritation of the skin.
Mid stroll, we first stopped to enjoy some freshly baked bread with cheese and buchu infused honey, along with a soothing wild jasmine tea. Try dropping a fresh flower in your cup before serving, adding an aromatic note to your experience.
After filling our baskets with flowers, succulents, root vegetables and wild herbs, we made our way to the kitchen.
While some of the foragers busied themselves with washing and sorting all the gathered ingredients, the budding mixologists made sure that everyone had a refreshing drink: home-made lemonade with a dash of Inverroche Fynbos infused gin, buchu bitters and floral ice cubes.
The vegetarian menu made use of all the delicacies we had gathered: a sweet and tangy pineapple and ice plant relish garnished with lemon pelargonium, a floral salad, a deliciously satisfying stir fry bulked up with veldkool and nettles, tzatziki punctuated with wild garlic and a wild green pesto.
It probably has a lot to do with spending hours gathering the ingredients, and it definitely has a lot to do with the peaceful surroundings and the golden glow of the winter sun, but there is a distinct satisfaction to be derived from eating a meal made of local ingredients that are seasonal, fresh and carefully prepared. The flavours are new yet strangely familiar, like something you remember eating long ago.
This is only a glimpse of an experience that goes so far beyond some information and a meal. It is a taste of a different kind of being, where you have granted yourself the opportunity to slow down and remember what it is like to patiently search for and enjoy the things that are worthwhile: a flower. A sun-ripened fruit. A meal, shared with joy.
Contact Roushanna Gray at email@example.com or have a look at Veld and Sea's upcoming events to book an experience well worth your time.