Foraging for Food on the West Coast & Lunch at Oep Ve Koep
With Slow Food Mother City
A few Sundays ago, on the 28th of August, we headed off to Paternoster, a sleepy fishing village on the Cape West Coast just under two hours outside Cape Town to join Slow Food Mother City on a food forage in the local nature reserve in TietiesBaai (yes, you read the name correctly.)
What is Food Foraging?
Searching for wild plants, indigenous to an area for consumption, is as old as mankind. In the last decade, there has been a conscious reactivation of interest in foraging from dedicated foargers, freegans, chefs and curious individuals (like myself).
The closest I’ve come to foraging (apart from hopping from one stall holder to the next at some of the world’s loveliest farmer’s markets) is picking herbs and chilies from our garden. Though there were the times we picked mulberries and unripe guavas (worst tummy ache known to man) along the roadside walking home from school.
Why the shift from supermarket/market/online shopping convenience you may ask?
A combination of factors, from the move to explore the long forgotten edibles of our forebears, to wanting to taste fresh, new produce untainted by chemicals and picked at the optimal moment, to eating in harmony with the earth. You may have heard of freegans too, who adopt an anti-consumerist lifestyle and will forage in dumpsters for foods that are still edible, grow plants for consumption and medicine amongst the other elements that make up the lifestyle.
Chefs from the world’s most prestigious restaurants have for years used foraged leaves, mushrooms and nuts making their dishes unusual and highly coveted. The next logical step is for the foraging hipsters with dosh to want in on the game and to want to make it conveniently “niche” and in local Cape Town terms this translates to mainstream. If you read this blog, you will know that I find very little more off putting than hipster culture, though I try to exist side by side in harmony (Paul McCartney’s Ebony and Ivory tinkling softly somewhere in my mind).
One wonders, with the interest in foraging for foods reaching a frenzy how many of these indigenous plants are in danger of being wiped out? The other important factor to bear in mind is that foraging can be dangerous and even fatal, if you are not an experienced forager or botanist. (Natural selection perhaps? Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
Rupert, a botanist and friend of Kobus van der Merwe (Chef at Oep ve Koep, a family run business) guided us, a group of 20 through a small section of the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, mere minutes out of the village. The reserve is unusual in that it is flanked by coastline, dotted with coves and covered in fynbos, succulents and wild flowers in season. Accompanying Rupert was Pia and popular foodster Dax, both from Slow Food Mother City. We discovered soutslaai (salty salad or leaves), veldkool (field cabbage, which unlike it’s literal translation resembles an asparagus) and noted the difference in flora on the limestone and granite rocks. The differences were startling!
Rupert explained the dangers of over-foraging as has been the case with the very popular wild garlic and the local potatoes.
Oep ve Koep
I’ve eaten at Oep ve Koep previously. (Update: Jluy 2014: have eaten here a number of times since this article. Just gets more interesting. Book in advance) The feeling conjured is of a very laid-back back yard with elements of local kitch for fun. Kobus is well known in Cape Town for the beautiful food he creates and people commute to Paternoster in droves to sample his creations. I was most fortunate to meet Kobus (having missed him previously) that Sunday and attend a talk he held at Toffie Food Festival the following week. It’s quite evident that he draws inspiration from the landscape and is guided by well-known food historian Renata Coetzee.
Kobus looks much younger than I expected and runs through the menu in his gentle, soft spoken manner, his eyes beaming as he brings out plates of food starkly in contrast with the modest surroundings. We start with bokkum (salted, dried fish) butter and a pickled waterblommetjie followed by a calamari bobotie (egg custard savoury crustless pie) with soutslaai. The main of sandveld potato dumplings, dune spinach, veldkool, soy butter, porcini and nasturtium is my favourite dish of the lunch.
I’m not terribly enamored by the cleanser tea of pickled onion and wild sage , but you know…when in Paternoster.
The dessert is a clever play on the idiom, the land of milk and honey (strandveld milk and honey) which is a moist pudding with local honey and topped with a meringue and baby corn slices.
We enjoyed the walk immensely, and would have loved to be handed a leaflet with details on the plants and area, or to be more environmentally friendly, a few links with relevant information emailed to us.
Please visit Kobus’ lovely blog: Sardines on Toast and visit Oep ve Koep in Paternoster.
Interested in Urban Foraging? Read more about this here.
Loubie Rouch forages in the City Bowl
I love Oep ve Koep – Kobus is such an innovative chef and puts so much thought into the meals he produces. Loving the idea of foraging too, though I’d definitely need someone to show me the ropes!
The photos of the forage look so wonderful, I would love to learn how to do it properly Still haven’t visited Oep Ve Koep, but this has convinced me to add it to my schedule!
Ishay – I always feel like I am sitting right beside you when I read your blog posts. Your photos are so vivid and I love how musical this piece is. We had a SlowFood forage last weekend here in Galway too. It was a wild and windy day, so I did not bring my camera but we had a brilliant and tasty afternoon, scoffing our finds on a small beach with a fire built to warm our souls.
Thank you Mona. Your foraging experiences sound delightful…I’m such a new hand at this.
What a beautiful post!! So good with Heritage day just around the corner!
Hello, yes I didn’t think of that. Was a good day and beautiful surrounds for pic taking
Hi Ishay. This sounds so up my street. Guess I should join Slow Food, right? I’m very interested to know if you came across samphire. Does is have another ‘South African’ name perhaps? I’m working on a great story at the moment that is closely related to your experience at Paternoster. B
Hi Berne. I did see your tweet re samphire, but am clueless, will be honest. Perhaps Pia/Liz and co at slow Food can help you? firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks. Am also waiting for Kobus to get back from France to help me out with this one. x
samphire does occur in south africa the genus name is Sarcocornia, ther are a number of species including capensis, pillansii, etc. It is mainly found in our esturies.
This is a really great article – high quality all the way through and a really interesting topic – Thanks.
[…] restaurant Oep ve Koep in Paternoster on the Cape West Coast the Sunday before during a food foraging excursion, to listen to him explain his inspirations, motivations and ethos on food. Kobus tries to source as […]
Lovely story about the outing, thanks. Regarding @livetoeat’s query about samphire, @greenlimabeans just shared that it’s called salicornia in SA, common in salt pans and marshes, and that you need a permit to collect it if you haven’t got permission from private landowner. And that it tastes horrid, apparently 🙂 Hope that helps!
That sounds like a fun thing to do and I just love those Dutch names on the store front! Funny… I don’t think we have anything similar here in Holland except for one thing I know where you can go mushroom hunting with an expert.. Sounds like fun too..
Embarrassed to say I have never been to Paternoster OR tietiesbaai – MEA CULPA!! Looks glorious – our nanny used to collect and feed us those pink vygie fruits – Cape sour figs I think they are called. I love the idea of foraging for wild food but have only got into it here in London where I regularly pick blackberries, wild cherries, mirabelles, sloes and rocket near our house. And look how stylishly gorgeous you look, even while out foraging!
[…] Read more, and view Ishay’s fantastic photos here. […]
on September 16, 2010 Man I love everything about our Kobus ..from the dogs, to the whole Paternoster livnig thing, to that fab dune spinach lunch dish (yes I’ve tasted it) to the bokkems on toast (yes I’ve tasted it) to the Malay curry (yes I ate a whole bowl of it hehe) to the bread (yes I ate a whole loaf of it stop laughing!!) to the fabulous new spring range wait for me Kobus! Put the kettle on again man. I’m on my way!! I just have to hitch up the trailer because I’m coming to take Oep ve Koep ..the herb boat et al .home with me. Oh ja, you too!! I need a Kobus in my life everyday!! Oeps scratch that .lets not tell everyone!! ) Stunning post V! I want that heart shaped chopping board!! MWAH!
[…] On foraging in Paternoster, click here. […]