Incredible edible adventure

This is a story about an edible landscape. Of our origins. Of our relationship with the sea. I’ll try and get my facts straight, but I am very caught up in the romance of it all…

Once upon a time, long long ago – between 123,000 and 195,000 years ago – the world went through a harsh climate change. A great Ice Age wiped out all human existence.

Wait. What?

All human existence?

No.

Because at the tip of dry and arid Africa, along a little strip of the Southern coast, there was a small group of about 600-700 people living, surviving and thriving on the indigenous edibles around them.

This would help explain the fact that humans have less genetic diversity than other species, which initially sparked the idea for researchers that humans were once reduced to a small population.

In this cold glacial period, ice sheets covered large parts of the earth lowering the sea level. There were intermittent warm periods where the sea level rose again, and this is when the Pinnacle Point caves in Mossel Bay were inhabited. In colder times when the sea receded, other caves were used which are now covered by the sea.

These Palaeolithic ancestors of ours lived in caves about 2-5kms from the sea. They were sustained by a unique, stable diet of nutrient rich shellfish full of Omega-3 fatty acids foraged from the intertidal rock pools as well as plant food from the abundant vegetation around them. Protein came from the land animals they could catch, but more importantly they had a steady supply of shellfish including brown mussels, periwinkles, alikreukel, abalone and the occasional beached whale. Carbohydrates came in the form of various underground tubers, roots, corms and bulbs foraged in the veld.

Fascinating research by an international team headed by palaeoanthropologist Curtis Marean from the Institute of Human Origins of the Arizona State University, show that this is where Early Modern Man evolved. Professor Marean says: “We found that the people who lived in the Caves approximately 164,000 years ago were systematically harvesting shellfish from the coast; that they were using complex bladelet technology to produce complex tools; and that they regularly used ochre as pigments for symboling. This is some of the earliest evidence for modern human behaviour.”

This year the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University at the George Campus hosted 35 scientist at the Palaeoscape 2014 Symposium. Organised by distinguished Professor Richard Cowling of the botany department at the NMMU, there were many speakers including Professor Curtis Marean, Professor Tim Noakes of the Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town and human ecologist Jan de Vynck.

So we were honoured, very excited and a little nervous when we were invited to cater for the opening dinner of this Symposium. One warm and clear Saturday morning, we began our wild food adventure. Led by the amazingly knowledgeable Jan de Vynck, we foraged for Indigenous edibles plants, snorkeled off the harbour and collected shellfish from the sea. It also happened to be hunting season, but unfortunately we had left our rock hunting tools at home (joke), so we bought some excellent Kudu and Ostrich steaks at the local butchery.

Please note that this was a purely scientific research exercise. The underground roots and corms that we found are not sustainable forms of foraging, they grow in some of the most endangered coastal zones already under threat due to urbanization and these plants in the wild should be preserved.

Here is a photo diary of our incredible edible adventure.

A HUGE thanks to Ranald McKechnie, Rayne Eaton, Martina Polly, Jamie Keenan and Tom Gray for being my foraging/surfing/catering/adventure crew.

FORAGING

Strandveld foraging

Digging for tubers

Strandveld foraging

The crew

Strandveld foraging

Ren finds a beauty – Pelargonium lobatum

Wild food foraging

To the coast

Wild food catering

Trachyandra divaricata

Underground edible corms

Ferraria crispa

Urban foraging

Urban foraging for wild cress

Coastal foraging

Alikreukel and periwinkles

Coastal foragingTalking shop

PREP

Alikreukel and periwinkles

Shellfish ready to be steamed

AAAAAH!likreukel

Aaaaahlikreukel guts!

Trachyandra falcata

Trachyandra divaricata flower buds

Strelitia seed flour

Strelitzia nicolai seed flour

Wild food catering

Wild greens

Indigenous edibles

Ferraria crispa and Dasispermum suffruticosum

Wild food chefs

Wild food chefs – that’s how we roll.

Streltia seed and wild garlic rolls

Creating Strelitzia nicolai seed and Tulbaghia violacea rolls

Chef Ranald

Trimming the Tetragona decumbens

FOOD

Oxalis mayo

Oxalis pes-caprae mayonnaise

wild food catering

Pizza with Ostrich, wild cress, goats cheese, Emex australis pesto and Pelargonium lobatum shavings

Indigenous edibles

Salvia africana-lutea infused Ferraria crispa on a bed of wild cress

Alikreukels

Alikreukels with Dasispermum suffruticosum on a bed of steamed Trachyandra, Sarcocornia and Tetragonia with Porphyra capensis seaweed butter

Wild food catering

Preserved green Searsia glauca berries on the right

Periwinkles

Periwinkles in a Tulbaghia violacea sauce

Sersia glauca berries - edibleKudu in a Searsia glauca berry sauce on a bed of wild cress

Pelargonium lobatum

Pelargonium tubers on show

Phorphyra capensis seaweed butter

Wild Atlantic Nori butter – Porphyra capensis

Strelitia nicolai seeds

Strelitzia nicolai seed and Tulbaghia violacea rolls

Honeybush cupcakes

Honeybush cupcakes with cream, wild berry jam and Carissa macrocarpa berries

How to eat a periwinkle

Explaining how to eat the periwinkles

Wild food catering

Describing the methods of cooking

Wild food catering

Botany jokes

The queue at the wild food catering at NMMU

Queue for dinner

Wild Food Catering

The feast!

We hope you enjoyed this. We had so much fun creating this dinner, from forage to finish. Our relationship with the sea and veld blooms in our continual wild food experimentation which always turns into a social occasion or educational experience. Either way is usually delicious.

For more info on our wild food catering, sustainable Coastal foraging and Forage Harvest Feast courses, email roushanna@hotmail.com

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Posted on July 14, 2014, in Coastal Forage, Foraging, Fynbos flavours, Indigenous edibles, palaeoanthropology, Photos, veldkos, Wild food catering, Wild Food Meals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Tim Noakes must have hated all the carbohydrates in the form of underground tubers, roots, corms and bulbs foraged in the veld.

  2. This looks incredible Roushanna! And I love the latin species names in the names of the dishes. Been hearing such great stuff about your foraging and cooking from my parents, Rob & Hazel. Hope I can join you guys sometime when I’m back in SA xx Leila

  3. What a great story and adventure! The food looks amazing – I’d love to hear what the feasters’ responses were.

  4. Jules de Combes

    Looks fantastic Roushanna!!!!
    I would have loved to have sampled all those dishes!
    I
    We have masses of wild asparagus growing in the garden
    Love Jules

  5. Wow, looks awesome. Would love to try and learn how to forage for all of it. Anyone in Garden Route doing something like this? Also maybe foraging for seaweed?

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