Veld & Flora Feature
THIS FEATURE IS FROM VELD & FLORA JUNE ISSUE 108(2), PAGES 40-41
Find and eat wild vegetables for the flavour of our heritage, urges Cape Town wild-food champion Loubie Rusch
OCT 6, 2022 | WRITTEN BY CHERISE VILJOEN. PHOTOGRAPHS: Dimitri Otis Photography, Fiona Dunbar and Loubie Rusch
Above: There is plenty that you can do with ice plants, known as springbokslaai or skaapslaai, says Loubie Rusch – harvest lengths of runner or young seeds seasonally. Cut the juicy leaves off the more fibrous stems and retain the juicier runners. Wash very well to remove all traces of sand and use raw for a salty, sour flavour in a wide variety of dishes. Photo by Dimitri Otis Photography
CONNECTING WITH YOUR ANCESTORS could start at your door – if you grow your own indigenous vegetables or know where to forage them in the wild.
“I have always felt the importance of being rooted in the local landscape, relating to nature and place,” says Cape Town landscape designer turned wild-food champion Loubie Rusch.
Loubie grew up with one foot in her Stone Age heritage, thanks to her archaeologist stepfather. Her interest in the skills and knowledge that most of humanity has forgotten over millennia combined with her interest in the wonderfully fragrant and nutritious indigenous plants of the Cape floristic region in our landscapes and in our cooking.
Above: Loubie explains using wild foods to visitors at one of her monthly walks at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch. Photo by Fiona Dunbar
“This area was always experienced by its local inhabitants as a richly biodiverse and edible landscape,” she says. “I wanted to revive that experience and contribute to regenerating our region’s threatened biodiverse ecologies.”
In 2010, Loubie took a leap of faith and established Making KOS. This creates small runs of bottled produce to highlight the extraordinary variety and culinary uniqueness of our mostly forgotten local indigenous foods.
In her quest to revive age-old knowledge, she also collaborates with gardeners, growers, conservationists, small-scale farmers, cooks, holders of local indigenous knowledge and researchers. She shares this through her wild walks, social media, talks, workshops and consulting.
“I hope that local indigenous foods, that were made use of for millennia, will reclaim a valued and restorative place in people’s lives and livelihoods and contribute to regenerating the threatened biodiverse ecologies of our region,” she says.
One fruit of Loubie’s commitment is her book, Cape Wild Foods: A Grower’s Guide, now in its second edition. It champions growing and using traditionally wild harvested ingredients within our urban environments.
This links to Loubie’s work to encourage ‘Grow your own’ and local food gardens, supported by the Sustainability Institute among others. These initiatives can help reduce the immense pressure that unsustainable wild harvesting for medicinal and food uses is placing on our local plants.
The 22 indigenous edible potherbs, fruits, vegetables and leafy, succulent greens that Loubie highlights are local to both SA’s winter and summer provinces.
Characteristics of each plant are thoroughly explained so you can successfully identify, propagate and use them in the garden as well as in the kitchen. Soup, salad, stew and fritters are among the interesting and tasty recipes. Loubie has added variations and seasonal options.
I suggest keeping this book close to hand. I have found myself reaching for it again and again as the incredibly useful information and beautiful photography provide me with endless inspiration.
Photo by Loubie Rusch
Wild flavour: Bean smoor
This recipe from Loubie Rusch’s book is a wonderful way to make use of leafy greens, including a wide range of other typical wild marog greens that are eaten across SA.
• 2 cups cooked or canned beans; well drained, keeping some juice aside
• 1 leek and 2 spring onions or ½ onion; slice into 0.5cm slices
• 2 cups creeping foxglove or dune spinach leaves (or other marog); remove leaves from stems and squash well down to fill cup measure
• Juice and rind of ½ lemon (or 1 tbsp of vinegar)
• ¼ tsp of salt
• Butter or oil
Fry leek or onion until glassy and starting to brown with lemon rind in butter or oil.
Add beans and heat them through. Add leaves, turn them through mixture until they have just wilted. Add lemon juice and salt. Add back some bean juice if you prefer a runnier smoor.
Add fresh or dried chilli and some lightly crushed roasted peanuts for crunch and extra protein. Crush peanuts more finely if you want them to thicken sauce. Or add a can of tomatoes to leeks or onions after browning and cook for 10 minutes before adding canned beans and leaves. Add a little curry powder and chilli for a more saucy, chakalaka-like dish.
This article was featured in Veld & Flora in the June 2022 edition.
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