*Pictures taken by Sasha Specker

If you want to start exploring the Cape’s rockpools for ingredients, but don’t know where to start, meet Roushanna Gray. Roushanna runs seasonal foraging courses from her base in Cape Town – heading to the mountains and forests for fynbos gathering and mushroom hunting, and in spring time groups can explore the Cape’s floral kingdom. In the summer months, though, Roushanna takes her groups down to the rock pools of Scarborough for a full-on coastal foraging experience.

After a short information session on the beach’s rocks, where Roushanna details which seaweeds to select and how to do so without damaging the plant, the group is let loose to begin the forage! Fronds of silky green sea lettuce and chunky blue mussels are gathered, then taken back to the Good Hope Nursery. Here, everyone sets about using the foraged ingredients in a variety of recipes created by Roushanna, which are then served family style for lunch.  It’s a brilliant day out and really shows you what you can do with the goodies growing wild in our rockpools – all you need is a permit (which you can easily get from the post office).

We chatted with Roushanna about how she first became interested in wild foods, her favourite ingredients and some tips for wannabe foragers.

How long have you been running the courses and how did you first become interested in foraging?

I started teaching in 2013, starting with kids’ workshops and then branching out to cater for adults with seasonal and sustainable foraging workshops, classes and events. I was already immersed in the delicious world of wild flavours on land and was introduced to sea vegetables by a travelling Japanese cyclist. After endless hours in the rock pools learning my seaweeds and equally long hours recipe developing in the kitchen, I have a range of coastline recipes that include seaweed, shellfish and sea water recipes that are shared on our summer coastal foraging workshops.

What are some of the benefits that you see to coastal foraging?

Everyone who is passionate about cooking knows that fresh and local ingredients are the best to work with – you don’t have to fiddle too much, you can just let the flavours speak for themselves in dishes. Seaweeds just take it to the next level. They are full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in a bio-available form and the fact that the highly sought after umami flavour is present is most seaweeds are an added bonus. The natural MSG, or glutamic acid, packs an umami punch that adds layers of extra flavours to both sweet and savoury dishes.

Do you have any favourite foraged ingredients?

Absolutely – it all depends on the season, as each offer something equally delicious and exciting to look forward to. Summer favourites are coastal flavours and sour figs, autumn is numnum berries (Carissa macrocarpa) and acorns, winter is wild mushrooms and fragrant fynbos herbs, and springtime brings edible flowers.

What are your favourite ways to use the ingredients?

I love incorporating kelp in an array of different dishes. Some of my favourites are to use it to flavour rice dishes, to make a dashi style stock, infused in butter to make chocolate truffles or as a pasta substitute. Flowers also play a starring role in pretty much everything I cook.

Can you tell us more about the work you do with chefs?

I have had the privilege of working with some of Cape Town’s top chefs, restaurants and bars, taking them out on foraging experiences – it’s a pleasure watching them work their magic with new, wild ingredients.

What are some of the things that people should know before beginning to forage?

  • Always forage sustainably, responsibly and legally.
  • Only take what you need – only take a tiny bit of the plant/seaweed and leave plenty to regenerate and for wildlife needs.
  • Know your plant identification 110% BEFORE picking.
  • Cut don’t pull.
  • Never collect from a polluted environment.
  • Take a class, ask an expert – this is not something that Google can teach you!

For more information, visit www.veldandsea.com or email roushanna@hotmail.com