As a member of Slow Food Mother City I received an invitation to attend the Green Renaissance workshop on ‘Be Inspired… to forage in your city’ last Thursday in an unusual venue: Heaven Coffee Shop inside the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square. It was a most inspiring workshop, and impressed in that other than paying for the hot chocolate, marshmallows and other snacks as well as the talks by the four speakers were all free of charge. It was hosted by Green Renaissance to encourage Capetonians to forage foods on their doorstep, having noticed that foreigners are much more likely to forage in our city.
One would have wished every restaurant chef in the city to have been present, and Chef PJ Vadas of Camphors at Vergelegen expressed regret on Twitter that he had not known about it.
Green Renaissance is a ‘little production company that wants to be inspired by nature’ , its co-owner Michael Raimondo said when he introduced the ‘Be Inspired’ workshop series, its second in two months, and wanting its attendees to leave the workshops inspired to implement what they have learnt, in connecting with nature. A lot of material was covered, and many botanical names were used, without notes provided, so its was speed writing to take notes. In between each speaker’s talk, Green Renaissance played a short video it had produced to tie in with a theme, e.g. mussel hunting and cooking, waterblommetjie collecting and stew preparation, mushroom collecting and cooking, the preparation of nettle soup (which is rich in proteins, calcium, and iron, and helps to detoxify the body), and chestnut gathering and preparation. Each one of the videos was short and to the point, using titles only, beautifully shot, each ending with the pay-off line ‘Go Gather’!
(Bruno) Julian Mori, a winemaker, told us that there are so many edible species of sea food on our 2500 km coastline but that little use is made of it. He warned that one should be careful, never turning one’s back to the sea, one should identify what one eats, and one should be careful about red tide, the mussel growers in Saldanha being the most qualified to provide information on this toxic effect on sealife, which is only safe to eat three weeks or longer after the end of red tide. Any seafood with a smell should be left in the sea, one should not take risks, and one should harvest at low tide, below the water mark. All food removed from the sea requires a ‘bait’ licence, bought at a Post Office. He raved about sea lettuce, periwinkle, whelks, ‘alikreukel’, limpets, brown, white and black mussels, sea urchins (which are high in zinc), and clams. He said that Cape Point and the West Coast are the best places to forage sea food. Contact: email@example.com
Loubie Rusch (right) was a passionate (and fast) speaker, referring to a host of bushes and trees in Cape Town (focusing on the Claremont, Newlands, and Kenilworth area where she appears to live), showing photographs of Wild Plum, Water Berry, Num Num (Natal Plum), and Eugenia, all of which she uses to make jellies and cordials under the KOS brand. She also gathers ‘spekboom‘ for salads, ‘surings’ for stews (have a fresh sourness), ‘veldkool’ (for soup and stews), wild rosemary, wild sage, ‘suurvye‘, wild fig, geranium flowers, nasturtium (‘kappertjie’) leaves and flowers, nettles, dandelions, many of these ingredients going into pestos or salads. Making KOS, cell 082 314 7200.
Gary Goldman is known as ‘The Mushroom Hunter’, who has been foraging for eight years, supplying Italian restaurants (Il Leone, Constantia Uitsig) in the main. When he sees chestnuts fall, he knows it is time to forage mushrooms, to be found in a 50km radius around Cape Town. He spoke about poisonous mushrooms, saying that those with a sponge (porcini in the main) are safe while those with gills are poisonous. He explained that one should twist the mushroom out of the ground, and push back the soil to close the hole, to allow new mushrooms to grow. One should not cut the stem with a knife. Gary was not very complimentary about South African mushroom guides, saying that the original ones with drawings were more reliable than the later ones with photographs. Porcinis can only be found under oak trees, and sometimes under chestnuts, conifers, and beech trees. Not all species of oak trees look like oak trees, but they all have acorns, which helps one to identify mushroom growing areas. He advised that one can air-dry mushrooms, and then place them in the deep freeze, where they can be kept for up to 30 years, maintaining their flavour. One can keep mushrooms in a brown box in the fridge at 4°C for a few days, but one must not remove the soil until one uses them. Truffles are problematic, in that it takes 40 years to grow the oak trees that are inoculated with truffle seeds. Our soil also does not freeze over in winter, which truffles need. He added that plants surrounding truffles die off. Contact Gary: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridget Kitley specialises in medicinal herbs, having a nursery outside Stellenbosch from which one can buy a number of plants (she spoke quickly and mentioned mostly botanical names), including sage (which stimulates memory and therefore is good for Alzheimer patients, is used for hot flushes, can whiten one’s teeth, is good for hormonal problems, and heals sore throats). Wilde Els is also used for Alzheimer patients, and can be drunk like a buchu tea, helping to reduce temperatures, and to treat coughs and flu. Wormwood is good for stomach pain, and helps prevent or heal malaria. Comfrey heals cuts, chilblains, arthritis, bruises, and prevents migraines. Pennywort helps with ADD, lack of concentration, and stimulates the growth of collagen of the skin. Potager Gardens, Cell 079 499 2209. www.herb-nursery.co.za
Slow Food Mother City has circulated details of two forthcoming foraging events:
* Olive picking at Francolin Farm, Alphen Drive, Constantia, tomorrow at 14h30. Cost is R13 per kg. Book: email@example.com
* Delheim Wild Mushroom Forage on 17 and 18 June at 10h30, at R250 per person inclusive of lunch, led by Gary Goldman. Book: firstname.lastname@example.org
The speakers at the Green Renaissance workshop enthused the audience to do their own foraging of free and healthy foods, which are abundantly available in Cape Town and the Winelands!
Green Renaissance, 73 Rose Street, Cape Town. Cell 082 290 0197. www.greenrenaissance.co.za Twitter: @GreenRenaissanc
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage