For a real taste of Cape Town’s amazing nature, go food foraging!

Roushanna Grey is the founder of Veld and Sea, an organisation that runs courses to teach people how to forage for foods from the natural environment. Cape Town, with its abundance of edible plants and two coastlines dishing up plenty of sea-salted treats, is the perfect place to forage for food, she says.

Traditional foraging

Our Paleolithic ancestors lived in caves some two to five kilometres from the sea on a little strip of the southern coast of South Africa east of Cape Town. They were sustained by a unique, stable diet of nutrient-rich shellfish full of Omega-3 fatty acids foraged from the intertidal rock pools, as well as plant food from the abundant vegetation around them.

Protein came from the land animals they could catch, but more importantly they had a steady supply of shellfish, including brown mussels, periwinkles, alikreukel, abalone and the occasional beached whale.

Carbohydrates came in the form of various underground tubers, roots, corms and bulbs foraged in the plains.

In our South African history we have had many hunter-gatherer tribes who relied on foraging for a large part of their existence, carrying them through the dry seasons. Roots, potherbs, cereals, leaves, seeds, flowers, buds and berries were eaten. Most of these plants are also medicinal. This edible plant knowledge is in danger of being lost if not passed down from one generation to the next.

Indigenous edibles

We have a wealth of edible and medicinal plants within our biodiverse plant kingdom here in the Cape. Some are edible only in certain seasons, or after certain preparations.

It is very important to know which part of the plant to pick, how to prepare it and how to harvest sustainably, responsibly and legally. Veld and Sea run seasonal foraging courses at the Good Hope Gardens Nursery and, in the cooler months of the year, we have our Forage Harvest Feast courses where you learn how to identify, pick and prepare a range of delicious new wild flavours. People leave saying “Wow, I have that growing in my garden and I never even knew I could eat it!” Then they show their neighbours and friends and so the knowledge is passed on. It’s great!

Seasonal super foods

Eating seasonally and locally is nutritionally perfect for your body’s immune system. For example, the berries that ripen in autumn make a great tonic to see you through winter, and new spring greens are good for your digestive system after a long cold winter of eating heavy foods. Just like eating local honey is good for you, so is eating edible plants from our surrounding environment. Local phytonutrients are a win!

Seaweeds

Seaweed is a highly nutritious sea algae. Seaweeds are an amazing source of iodine, which helps keep your thyroid healthy and helps your hormones work well. They contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements in a natural form that our bodies can easily absorb. I have seen a few imported seaweed products in our health shops, but the fresh goodness is growing right here on our seaside doorstep.