Hunter-gatherer primal instinct we are told is embedded in our beings and that it can still impact on our choices in life, particularly in terms of our outlook on our roles in society and our relationships.
Living a slower life for me goes hand in hand with exploring these primal callings. To collect what nature has to offer and enjoy it right there and then, and of course to store the surplus in such a way that it can be enjoyed later when it is not available in your surroundings.
As much as I would love to take Mish foraging, I am not educated enough on the gems of the Western Cape and would love to take a class or two.
I do know intrinsically and from my research on natural healing, those wild foods can potentially transform your life. Imagine if I could identify, collect and use edible wonders growing right here on my doorstep. It just makes sense that wild foods contain high levels of goodness!
Besides the potential health benefits of berries and herbs, I can imagine that foraging teaches children about seasons and availability, an earthy bond with their surroundings, and in most extreme cases survival tools if for some reason we got stuck somewhere without food.
Knowledge about your surroundings empowers you, and I would love for Mish to understand where she lives and what can and cannot be utilised. Of course, we always have to first consider conservation and not just start picking wildly without any consideration for regeneration timelines and the possibility of over-harvesting. Wild Fynbos is mostly protected and perhaps respect for conserving our heritage should come first.
We started with picking in an established picking zone, strawberry picking on a picking farm – Helderberg Plaas. It does not offer the wildness of the mountains around us, but it does offer the opportunity for Mishka to see how it grows and to decide which ones to pick and which to leave. And of course the reward at the end of the day: taking home your harvest and enjoying it and saving it for later.
What we love about this particular farm: they’ve been growing strawberries since early 1960’s and is well known for its delicious and sweet strawberries, but most of all for mainly using organic fertilizer and biological methods of pest control used. The use of other chemicals is kept to a absolute minimum.
Roelien Steencamp (Veld and Sea’s Blog) asked Roushanna Gray, an expert forager of the Western Cape what her top wild edibles are:
- Kelp (sea bamboo, Ecklonia maxima)
- Num num (Carissa bispinosa)
- Pine ring mushrooms (Lactarius deliciosus)
- Veldkool (Trachyandra ciliata)
- Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea )
- Pelargoniums (from the Geraniaceae family)
- Nettles (from the Urticaceae family)
- Sea lettuce (ulva & monostroma species)
- Ice plant (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis)
- Kei-apples (Dovyalis caffra)
- Cape Chestnuts (Calodendrum capense )
- 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!
We still have a long way to go before we can call ourselves experienced foragers, as it requires being safe at all times, but for now, we can rely on the knowledge of people like Roushanna. To inspire us to use more edible flowers in our dishes for prettiness, nutrition and deliciousness.
The most important benefit of a foraging mentality would be to connect us to our surroundings and to know what can and cannot be used. This in itself, creates a deeper understanding of our unique biome and a love and respect for it.