Foraging: Local edibles that grow with wild abandon around us

20 January 2016 - 02:38 By Ishay Govender-Ypma


At the Studio in Main Road, Kalk Bay, an unexpected art installation is spread across a weathered table. Fat, succulent soutslaai, cerise num nums [Natal wild plums], little kei apples, stalks of wild garlic, spekboom leaves, feathery confetti bush, bitterbessies and an array of other indigenous plants are neatly arranged in a row beside labels.Loubie Rusch, a former landscape designer and now social-eco activist, takes us through edible fruit and vegetables, their uses and the way she prepares them. Each is local and grows with wild abandon around us, she says.Foraging in nature reserves and parks is illegal without a permit, Rusch warns, but picking up the odd herb, berry and fruit along pavements in residential neighbourhoods and commercial areas is perfectly within bounds."I want people to get their 'foraging eyes' on before we walk out the door," Rusch says. One of the walkers says she'd like to know if she can survive in the wild, another is an avid hiker who wants to be able to identify plants on her treks and there's Scottish Heather, who has a childhood memory of her South African nanny making mashed potatoes with a wild herb she hasn't been able to identify since. On our walk through the parking lot and to the train tracks, we spot the herb from the childhood mash - it is morogo or wild spinach.Within a few metres we identify soutslaai, vitamin C-rich spekboom, bitterbessies, dune spinach, crowberries, cat's ears that Rusch advises is good for cleansing the liver and various edible flowers and weeds.Back at the studio Rusch serves her buchu and lemon cordial over cold sparkling water and we sample her marmalades, pickles, pestos, jams and chutneys with home-made rosemary crackers.She tells us about her walks with her mother and archaeologist stepfather who taught her about edibles.But foraging isn't the goal of her walks. Instead, Rusch says, she wants to help shift our thinking about the way we eat and view food and develop a greater understanding of the landscape and how it can sustain us. She says people need to be educated on how to reconnect with growing local food. She wants our municipalities to replace grass and flowers with "edible carpets" that communities can maintain.Visit her Facebook page: Making KOS or e-mail Rusch to book a walk: rusch@netactive.co.za

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