Monday, July 14, 2014

Cape Town's wild menu

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 maritimus. 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

Wild prettiness.


  1. That house, having seen a little more of it, wow. And I love the silhouettes on the beach.

  2. I want num-nums! (Absolutely no idea what they're like, but they're pretty)

  3. One of the pleasures of your blog is reading about plants that are unfamiliar, fascinated at the variety few seldom taste. Curious about num-num fruit, I looked it up and to my surprise, I knew the plant as Natal plum. I've grown the shrub for its fragrant blooms but I've never been able to coax it to produce fruit. Your lovely photos challenge me to try a bit harder in my own garden.


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