The gin trend in South Africa has cast a wide spotlight on the topics of foraging, fynbos, mixology and botanicals. But, what is foraging exactly?
Foraging takes us back to the earliest form of food sourcing, when humans searched for and gathered food in the wild. A few South African chefs and mixologists have been inspired by this growing trend, by their general love of nature, and the idea of gathering your day’s meal from the wilderness. Now, more indigenous edible plants are making their way onto restaurant menus and into our beverages.
The forests, veld and coastlines of South Africa are a beautiful and abundant cacophony of fynbos, seaweed, edible plants, and botanicals. By simply exploring the flora and fauna around you, you’ll discover mushrooms that pop up overnight, edible weeds and shellfish, seaweed and roots, and plenty of shoots and flowers.
No one knows this better than Kobus van der Merwe, owner and chef of Wolfgat restaurant in Paternoster. Housed in a tiny, isolated fisherman’s cottage that seats just 20 patrons, Wolfgat was crowned Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in February 2019. The menu is built around fresh catch and foraged seasonal ingredients which Kobus finds in the rock pools and on the shoreline of the rugged west coast.
South Africans have always looked to other countries for food inspiration, exploring tastes from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. However, there’s a wealth of distinctive ingredients right here from which to create truly local and delicious dishes.
Kobus’s menu is inspired by the environment and its dramatic transformation each season, which is what makes it so special. Wild herbs, seaweed, and pickings from the garden are used to enhance sustainable seafood, lamb and venison. “I’m inspired by the west coast and its wild food offerings,” says Kobus. “We don’t have enough wild food to sustain a sudden foraging frenzy, but we should rediscover those forgotten indigenous flavours. We need to cultivate pride in what’s truly ‘homegrown’, even if that means planting your own wild garlic at home.”
Learn How To Forage
If you’re interested in learning more about foraging, wild food, or indigenous edibles, Veld and Sea offers various workshops and courses in Cape Town. This Fynbos Foraging workshop is for anyone wanting to know more about Fynbos, vegetable gardening, self sufficiency, or the Slow Food movement. For more information, visit their website here.
Compiled by Food and Decor Editor, Claire Badenhorst