Friday, April 17, 2015

A Feast of Fynbos - the Kirstenbosch Plant Fair 2015

Blue sage - Salvia africana-caerulea at the OZCF

Wake up, Cape Town!

I know it's Friday and that you left work at lunch time, and that the glass of Eagle's Nest viognier/Inverroche G&T/Klippies and coke are all dewy with condensation, but, this weekend, go and taste some Strandveld vermouth:


No, you don't have to drive to Paternoster.

Go to the Feast of Fynbos, in the beautiful green field opposite Kirstenbosch, surrounding the three little stone houses.

Spekboom - Portulacaria afra, carbon sponge, and tart ingredient in salads, sauces and green drinks

The 40th annual whatusedtobecalledkirstenboschplantsale is no longer just one of the most hotly anticipated sources of unusual and indigenous plants in Cape Town, but has developed laterally and has adopted for this year an edible wild foods theme. Rrrrright up my alley.

Wild rosemary - Eriocephalus africanus, delicious  with lamb ribs, growing in the Hex River Valley

Not only will you be guided towards edible local plants to use in your garden (and we've just begun to scratch the surface in terms of our exploration of them), but you will have a handful of top notch local wild edible plant teachers, growers and chefs on hand to give you nibbles and sips (Kobus van der Merwe's vermouth, say), as well as excellent advice on what and why.

This is a unique event. It speaks to the growing awareness of our immediate environment, to the use of landscape as a form of identity, and a flavour. In gardening terms it is a concerted move away from the repetitive knee jerk deployment of lavender hedges and Iceberg roses in a region whose floristic wealth leaves the rest of the botanical world salivating and a little shellshocked.

It is a sentient appreciation of the wild diversity of the Cape floristic region, a nod to environmental awareness, conservation, and practical appreciation of our home-grown resources. Whether you live in damp Newlands or baking Camps Bay, in the sea-mist hamlet of Scarborough or on the plains between the mountains, there will be plants for you to grow, and experts to tell you how.

Who will be there? Here's a sampling:

The lovely Marijke Honig, below - friend, and author of Indigenous Plant Palettes, who will be signing her must-have (yes, I have it) and stunning book.

Marijke Honig, garden designer and author at Open Gardens Constantia

Loubie Rusch (Making Kos) will be selling her local fare (I can attest to the deliciousness of her buchu cordial, which is incredible shaken up with gin).

Plants foraged in Kommetjie with Loubie Rusch

Roushanna Gray from Good Hope Gardens Nursery, a coastal forager who leads edible coastal plant courses and who grows plants adapted to Cape Town life.

The menu at one of Roushanna's vegetarian foraging courses

And Kobus van der Merwe, West Coast chef and author of the gorgeous Strandveldfood. He'll be offering his West Coast flavoured vermouth, as well as - I am told, and my mouth waters - tacos with vygies (see the leaves below).

Mosselbank at Low Tide, a Kobus van der Merwe dish featuring Mesembryanthemum crystallinum

The plants and the people are all in one place, for two days only. So go.

Saturday 18 April: 9am - 4pm
Sunday 19 April 9am - 1pm

(And while you are there, sign up for membership of the Botanical Society of South Africa. It will get you free entry to all national botanical gardens, for one and thing, and it will plug you straight into one of the most active, optimistic and meaningful volunteer organisations in the country.)

Other Plant Fair links:

Notes from a Cape Town Botanist

SANBI Plant Fair

Monday, April 13, 2015

A southern African clematis

I took myself for a necessary walk at Kirstenbosch - a major perk of being in Cape Town (and essentially free, since I am a member of the Botanical Societymission statement: To win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organizations for conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa.")

Coming down the slopes to a wide path that crosses the garden south-north, I was stopped by a gorgeous scrambling climber, in full bloom in this southern autumn.

Clematis brachiata (which I have seen in Lesotho) was crossed with Clematopsis scabiosifolia, also called bush clematis. The result is this hybrid.

The air around the clematis was richly scented. In this Veld and Flora article about the plant's backstory, Rod Saunders, who bred it, attributes the scent to the Clematopsis part of the pairing; that plant is native to the Witwatersrand, at home in nutrient-poor soil and able to withstand the cold Highveld winters.

I fell in love. Flowers, seedheads, scent.

Seed hunters Rob and Rachel Saunders own Cape Town-based Silverhill Seeds, a mail order seed company.  Browse if dare.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Garden quinces

After supper in a beautiful room with new and old friends, I was given these quinces - very generously - from a walled garden in Cape Town's city bowl, where it climbs on steep streets the lower slopes of what becomes Lion's Head.

I am turning a handful of them into membrillo. The rest I shall keep a little while longer, for their good smell.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Delicious dandelions

Dandelion season is in the offing in the Northen Hemisphere (try digging the young, undeveloped shoots and entire crowns, now - quite Belgian endive-like). But they are in full production here at the southern tip of Africa, in the early autumn. I hoisted some from my mom's aloe garden, where they volunteer in abundance.

Ironically, it is Harlem supermarkets that have accustomed me to their mature bitterness; they are always in stock in enormous bunches.

For these substantial lunch bruschette I crisped some bacon, deglazed the hot pan with a splash of sherry vinegar, threw in the dandelion leaves till wilted (adding a pinch of sugar), then piled everything with not-quite-hard-boiled-eggs onto toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic.

What's in dandelions? Loads of overlooked Vitamin K (bone, brain and vascular health), lots of A, and plenty of C.

Eat up!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Begonias, beautiful again

I have long suffered from a begonia prejudice. I am getting over it.

They are at their peak right now in Cape Town - in early autumn, and on my mom's terrace in high shade (under an awning), their variety is spectacular.

How do you feel about begonias?


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