Wild leeks (Allium triquetrum): buds and flowers, tubers and leaves. These invasive onions are similar to garlic chives in taste, and quite mild after cooking. They will feature in a cauliflower, suuring and curry leaf soup, topped with some curry leaf, coriander and mustard seed oil, and the sauteed buds.
Thistles (Sonchus oleraceus): a well known 'weed' whose tender leaves are very slightly bitter. They will cook under some slow-roast leg of lamb, which is our main course, spiced with cardamom, cumin, black pepper and cinnamon.
Suuring ( "souring," in Afrikaans - Oxalis pes-caprae) - chopped and stuffed inside the leg of lamb
Chickweed (Stellaria media) - the tender tips and leaves will be tossed in a watercress and roast carrot salad.
Friends took me on a quiet ten minute ramble on the hill behind their house, in Noordhoek. Winter rains had filled a seep area, ringed with restios, clicking with invisible frogs. To reach the sandy path we walked across a neighbour's garden and through a gate where a rusty lock swung, about which Rosie was unhappy. Locks, gates, accessways, and domestic vulnerabilities are a part of many days' conversation, here. A raptor glided above us on a thermal, impersonal, waiting for prey to show itself, and for its opportunity to strike.
At the traffic lights people beg. Children hunt through trash cans. Under the arches of city highways the homeless sleep. In the brush the woodcutters make their camps. Behind the walls the well fed dine, and receive their crime watch newsletters, and count the burglaries for the last few weeks, or choose to read them no more. At home I prowl like a thief, checking the perimeters and the outer doors, their locks and their frames, trying to see familiar things with new eyes for weaknesses.
The perfect days pass and the rain returns, sweeping in on its winter wings. In the middle of the city the mountain rises, covered with fynbos, blooming now, with pin cushions and proteas, clean water dripping from the rocks and through the green moss.
My mother and I drove from Constantia's green mountainside country up through the mist clinging to Ou Kaapseweg and down to coastal Kommetjie. We had signed up to walk with my friend Loubie Rusch to find local ingredients for a handmade lunch.
The venue for Loubie's workshop is a gorgeous, light, bright house with a view over dunes and the wide open sea. Unbeatable, really, and puts a lump in your throat, especially when you see whales blowing, far out on the shining water.
There is a very fresh food scene in Cape Town. It is awake. And the foraging thing is new enough, and the community small enough, that you can still trace its path. A year ago I introduced Loubie to dune parsley (above) and dune spinach, growing right outside this Kommetjie house. I had learned about them, in turn, from Kobus van der Merwe, of Paternoster's Oep ve Koep (watch out for his cookbook, later this year). The dune parsley flavour is rather lovage-y and I still think it may make useful bitters (remembering that wonderful cocktail Laura Silverman mixed for us in April in the woods of Pennsylvania - long ago and far away).
Above - so sure I was that this must be edible that I nibbled. It reminded me of the Northeast native, Cakile edentula (sea rocket), with none of its pungency. Turns out it is a Senecio, probably maritima. Interestingly, its Afrikaans name is strandhongerblom (beach hunger flower)... All I can find out is that it may have been used in a tea to stimulate appetite, and that some Senecios contain alkaloids. Still...?
Back at base camp, the collection. Suuring leaves (Oxalis pes-caprae), num num fruit (Carissa macrocarpa), waterblommetjie (Aponogeton distachyos), nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp), more suuring flowers, dune parsley (Dasispermum suffruticosum), and dune spinach (Tetragonia decumbens).
Anna Shevel of The City Eden (food heritage walking tours) helping to prep for lunch. Waterblommetjies in the foreground.
Chicken liver, courgette and wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus) pâté, garnished with sauteed mushrooms, dune spinach and raw dune parsley.
A cup of dune spinach and veldkool leaf (Tracheandra) soup
There are two kinds of days in a Cape Town winter: wet, and perfect.
The winter light on the perfect days is like light falling through shallow water in a blue lagoon. The sky is unmarked, the wind does not blow. It makes you wonder what winter means (it will remind you a few days later, when the cold rain floods the Flats and landslides slip from the moutainsides).
Yesterday was one of the perfect ones. We had lunch on the patio watching sunbirds and white eyes come and go, the corgis lying at our feet inbetween brief charges to the lawn to take care of sending dog messages to passing canines in the greenbelt below.