Fynbos for Foodies at Good Hope Gardens

Roushanna adds pelargonium flavoured beetroot relish to Fynbos feast.

Roushanna adds pelargonium flavoured beetroot relish to Fynbos feast.

Waking up to a south easter Sunday in Cape Town often means an indoor day.  Not a problem this morning as I planned to try out a citrus Pelargonium cordial recipe from a Pelargonium citronellum bush thriving in my garden .  Ice cold fynbos cordial was one of many fragrant Fynbos foodie experiences I had enjoyed the day before while on a Forage and Feast hosted by Roushanna and Gael Grey of Good Hope Gardens.

Roushanna and Gael have combined their respective loves of cooking and Fynbos plants to offer a fun edible Fynbos identification and culinary experience on their property near Cape Point.  If your interest has been piqued by the possibilities of finding out what indigenous plants are appetizing and add a unique Cape taste to our everyday fare, the culinary offerings that Roushanna and Gael share on their intro course are sure to awaken the Fynbos Foodie in you.  There is so much more to discover than the famous five of Buchu, Honeybush, Rooibos, Suurvy and Pelagoniums.

My own garden is home to the many indigenous plants I have bought for their medicinal or culinary promise over the years.  Until this morning I had not had the courage to turn any of them into edible treats, but boosted by the knowledge and confidence passed on during a fun morning in the fynbos with Roushanna and Gael I was ready to try.

Our unique Fynbos plants were South Africa’s first `gift’ to the world. Roushanna harvests wild asparagus at Good Hope Gardens

Cape fynbos plants have survived eons of environmental changes by adapting and diversifying so that they are

collectively not only one of the oldest but also one of the most species rich plant communities in the world.  Forged by hot summers and salty south easters in poor soil, Fynbos plants evolved a range of aromatic phyto chemicals as protection against being over grazed.   Ironically, these same aromatic properties provided the early Khoi  San inhabitants at the Cape with many of their pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.  Our unique plants were South Africa’s first `gift’ to the world.  Before Van Riebeeck, scurvy weakened sailors came ashore to harvest sorrel and other sailors suffering from infected wounds learnt about healing plants from the local Khoi herbalists.  After Van Riebeeck many South African bulbs and ornamentals were exported and `ennobled’ by European horticulturalists. The resulting bigger and brighter hybrids adorn gardens around the world.

For most of South Africa’s modern history, our floral wealth has been overshadowed by the big economy interests of our considerable although non renewable mineral wealth.   The good news is that even though much of the indigenous knowledge about our unique plants has been lost, there is a growing interest in the nutritional and medicinal properties of fynbos. This is resulting in a rediscovery of Fynbos as food, as refreshing flavouring agents and also as health tonics.  Roushanna and Gael join a growing host of gifted and energetic people who are exploring and sharing the opportunities provided by our fynbos wealth.

Wild Harvests at Good Hope Gardens

Wild Harvests at Good Hope Gardens

A Fynbos Forage and Feast with Roushanna and Gael starts with a walk through their Good Hope Garden Nursery where they show visitors a wide range of plants that are used as food and or as flavouring.  Pelargoniums come in rose, cinnamon, spearmint, and citrus scents and flavours and are used to flavour teas, cordials, jams, cakes and biscuits.  Liquorice and aniseed Buchus are added to soups and salads.  Wild Jasmine flowers flavour tea and add elegance to a salad while Bitou berries make a dark delicious fruit syrup. The robust flavours of wild garlic, salvia, marog, spekboom , wild asparagus and tetragonia are added to stir fries or to  vegetable relishes for an exotic flavour that is 100% local and lekker.

After collecting a wide selection of flowers, leaves, bulbs and roots from the vegetable and herb garden and from the fynbos garden we returned to prepare and then eat our foragings.  They combined to make delicious salads and stir fries.  The meal was complemented with refreshing pelargonium flavoured iced tea, hot wild garlic buns and a spring greens soup with marog and nettle.  After a heavenly mint pelargonium cake for desert we were loath to leave – wanting to savour the new sensations and the setting.  And that is not all. Roushanna is busy working on a Fynbos Recipe Book and is continually researching, tasting and testing new recipes.  The opportunities presented by Fynbos for foodies are exciting, healthy, local and lekker.    For info about Fynbos food recipes and to book for a Forage and Feast experience go to: http://goodhopenursery.wordpress.com/    or phone Roushanna Gray on 0722344804.

I am planning on joining them on their Coastal Forage and Feast to find out about the savoury delights of Cape Coast seaweed.  I hope to meet you there.

Tips for sustainable foraging for Fynbos from Gael:

Flowers add Fun at Fynbos for Foodies Good Hope Gardens

Flowers add Fun at Fynbos for Foodies Good Hope Gardens

Correctly identify plants before you eat them.  Some plants with edible berries have poisonous flowers or leaves or visa versa.

Harvest the leaves and berries of edible plants in the growing seasons rather than in summer when Fynbos plants are stressed.

Do not harvest roots and bulbs as this will threaten the populations of these species.

Do not harvest plants in protected areas and nature reserves.

Establish a selection of Fynbos plants in your own garden so that you can harvest and enjoy your favourite fynbos flavours.

KimK  18 October 2013

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4 Responses to Fynbos for Foodies at Good Hope Gardens

  1. Eva van Belle October 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Thank you, Kim – an accurate description of a lovely day. I put spekboom and brown sage in my bean stew yesterday, and it was delicious.

  2. Grass October 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    We bought a large Spekboom plant for our little boy to ‘harvest’ from. Every time he walks past the plant he picks a few leaves to nibble. He is trying to convince us to add to our juicing ingredients. What a glorious array of natural health remedies our land provides. Very keen to see this fynbos culinary garden.

  3. viv October 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Lovely article, Kim, It is such a treat to harvest the ingredients for one’s meals from one’s own garden – I look forward to a greater variety now that I know what I can pick!

  4. Jane February 19, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    What an interesting article Kim! In our area (The Crags) fynbos is called ‘painbos’ and is regarded as nothing more than a fire hazard, no good for pastures, to be cut down and eradicated wherever possible by the local residents! The Crags conservancy has an uphill job trying to protect even the small patches of fynbos left on the road verges (agriculture has changed the landscape here into a ‘green desert’ of grape vines!) Perhaps if the edible and medicinal properties of fynbos becomes more well known there will be more motivation to preserve this wonderful, unique, plant life diversity!

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