With a keen interest in the quality of ingredients, as well as ways to offer unique meals, chefs have donned their boots to take to the forests and shorelines of South Africa to source their own ingredients.
From indigenous herbs picked from fields and mountains to freshly picked forest mushrooms; from seaweed plucked directly from the sea and fruits sourced from mountains, chefs are embracing foraging. Not only does it allow kitchens to produce innovative meals, but it also gives chefs the opportunity to look into what we have growing in our country that makes us unique. Through foraging, chefs are travelling back in time, researching what South Africans generations before today ate, how they cooked them, and then taking those methods and putting a contemporary spin on them.
Foraging is part of the locavore movement, where only ingredients that are sourced from a within a small radius of the establishment are used; foraging does seem to mostly be happening in areas of the Western Cape. Perhaps it’s because the landscape naturally lends itself to foraging, but hopefully the foraging bug will bite further North and we’ll see the chefs of Gauteng and Free State taking to the fields.
Who’s doing it?
Headed up by Chef Chris Erasmus, Foliage in Franschhoek places the focus on wild ingredients sourced locally. You’ll find foraged herbs and mushrooms on the menu, which is tweaked almost daily to accommodate what’s been gathered. Pine needles and fiddlehead ferns have made an appearance on the menu, as well as ceps and wild garlic.
Every year, Delheim celebrates winter with two weekends of wild mushroom hunts, with groups guided by Gary Goldman (aka the Mushroom Guru) and Delheim’s Nora Sperling-Thiel. The mushroom hunt takes place in the forests on Delheim’s land, allowing those taking part to get a feel for spotting mushrooms and which mushrooms are best for eating. After the mushroom hunt, guests are treated to a three course mushroom inspired lunch.
Table Bay Hotel
The Table Bay Hotel offers a special where groups are transported to the foraging spot and guided through the foraging experience by an expert. Back at the hotel, participants are given creative input from Chef Jocelyn Myers-Adams and then served a three course lunch or dinner using the foraged goodies. “Our foraging expeditions appeal to the innate hunter-gatherer instinct that resides in many of us, and provide for an interactive and enlightening platform to learn more about harnessing the fruits of our natural surroundings to be creative in the kitchen,” says Myers-Adams.
Solms Delta’s Fyndraai restaurant pulls from the culinary tradition of the Cape, and with that comes a need for indigenous ingredients that aren’t always easily available. To this end, a veldfood garden was planted on the estate, with a dynamic team of plant and cultural preservationists at the helm, including well-known Renata Coetzee. Chef Shaun Schoeman uses a lot of these ingredients on his menu as he showcases traditional cuisine in a contemporary package. On the menu you’ll find ingredients such as num-num, spekboom and wild garlic, skilfully used in a variety of dishes.
- Unless you know what you’re doing, consult and accompany an expert for your first trip – there are lots of plants and mushrooms that aren’t safe to eat.
- Forage responsibly – if you’re foraging on the coastline, make sure you have the correct permits, and remember not to pick an area clean of mushrooms and plants so that the area remains a sustainable foraging spot for others.
- Wash your plants thoroughly before using.
- Purchase a guide to edible plants and mushrooms to take with you on your expedition.