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The age of foraging, fynbos and fresh botanicals

Mixology, botanicals, fynbos and foraging – life is reverting back to our very first food experiences as gatherers.

by: Lisa Wallace | 01 Feb 2018

The forests, veld and seashores in South Africa and specifically the Western Cape, are a magical world of fynbos, seaweed, woodlands and mountains.

Exploring the local fauna and flora, uncovering secret mushroom communities that pop up overnight, edible weeds and shellfish, and seaweed and roots and shoots and flowers – foraging is an age-old past time; so old, in fact, gathering is our earliest form of food sourcing.

Inspired by a love of nature and adventuring in the wilderness to forage and gather your day's meal, this quest has seen a sensual and appreciative revival. Not simply in meals, but in drinks and cocktails too – parts of our country's mixology has seen a noted move toward foraging for garnishes and accompaniments; a botanical focus on drinks and libations, and a desire for pure, uncommercialised ingredients that complement the spirit's origin. 

Feel inspired and follow the yearn for the intrepid as we uncover some of South Africa's most well-loved foragers and botanical-infusing distillers and mixologists. 


Mushroom foraging with Justin Williams

Hosted at Boschendal during mushroom season (Cape Town's winter months), enjoy an educational and entertaining weekend forage led by avid mushroom forager Justin Williams (aka The Mushroom Forager). Delve into the forests on Boschendal to learn about the magical world of mushrooms – how to identify edible mushrooms and how to find them. Also get in touch with Justin for personal tours in and around the Western Cape. 

Book your first foraging experience wth him here:

Roushanna Grey takes you over Veld and Sea

To know what is edible and what is poisonous, how to identify, to learn what part of the plant to harvest and how to prepare are all important and valuable lessons to learn in sustainable and responsible foraging. Along with master forager Roushanna Grey, Veld and Sea offers seasonal and sustainable foraging classes, workshops and collaborative events. It's a truly memorable day out out in the wild. 

Book your experience with Roushanna here:

Coastal Foraging on a new moon low tide ?????? Yesterday we explored the diverse intertidal zone learning about sustainable harvesting practices, how to identify various different seaweed species, how to prepare and preserve them, and how to tell the difference between our local black mussel and the invasive Mediterranean mussel. Then back to the Veld and Sea foraging kitchen classroom cabin to change up that preconceived idea that seaweeds are slimy and stinky by preparing them properly and using them as ingredients in an array of familiar looking dishes like salads, sustainable sea veg sushi, sea pizza, Nori chips, a mussel pot and sea pizza cooked in a wood fired oven. ???????? . . . . . #capetown #coastline #oceanside #mermaid #seaweed #shellfish #rockpools #magic #mystery #slowfood #experience #capetownfood #capepoint #veldandsea #atlantic #shoreline #oceanbotanicals #seavegetables

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Charlie Standing

Charles Standing (aka The Urban Gatherer) is a Cape Town-based forager. Passionate about cooking regional food from his local environment, Charles also runs his own private tours tailored to the sort of experience you seek.

Bookings on request via email:

Chris Erasmus and Foliage Restaurant

Chris Erasmus is the epitome of passion and creativity. Foliage, his beautiful restaurant in Franschhoek is a dream for diners intent on trying new dishes with relatively unknown, "wild" ingredients. Out every morning for the day's forage, Chris collects ingredients for his seasonal menu. From wild geese to wild mushrooms and herbs, expect the unexpected and, inspired by nature, the truly magical.

WATCH: How to forage for ingredients to include in your meals


Hope on Hopkins

Perhaps the leaders in the South African craft gin movement, Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk are the brains and brawl behind Hope on Hopkins, Cape Town's first artisanal distillery in industrial Salt River. Creatively tinkering away in their home-cum-distillery, they've created unique flavours and an interesting range of botanicals, made using the age-old process of batch distillation. 

A Mari

A Mari, distilled in Cape Town by Niel du Toit and Jess Henrich, is unique in that the gin is distilled using Atlantic Ocean waters and foraged Cape coastal botanicals. Made in very small batches, the gin is dry but well complemented with citrus and West Coast fynbos.  

Geometric Gin

Inspired by the Cape's fynbos and floral kingdom, not to mention her botanical and spice-infused history, Geometric Gin's alchemy and production are run by master distiller Jean-Baptiste Cristini. Not only is gin produced, but tonics and a (soon to launch) vermouth, all inspired by nature in her various forms. It's seen as an art form and creative expression; a means to harness all that the Cape has to offer. 

The Botanist

Although not local, last year The Botanist gin, a 25-botanical spirit made in Islay, Scotland, did some major PR in South Africa for foraging. In The Forager, a unique pop-up bar concept, the call was to find the “Wildest Cocktail” in South Africa. Not only did it bring fame to many South African bartenders, but also better aquainted the public to the power of the herb.


Julian Short and Sin+Tax

Voted best cocktail bar and barman of the year at this year's Bartending Accolades and Recognition (BAR) Awards, Julian Short (aka The Flavourist) of Sin+Tax bar is bringing a very nuanced form of mixology to Joburg. An appreciator of botany, herbal flavours and foraging for compatible profiles, his natural ability to mix odd flavours together (like blackberry and black pepper and basil in a G&T) is admired. 

Mootee Bar

A totally novel experience from start to finish, Mootee Bar seeks to uncover authentic but unconventional African ingredients, and use them in a way that's inspired by traditional healing rituals. It's a unique compendium of cutting-edge equipment and one-of-a-kind flavour experiences from locally foraged ingredients.

ALSO READ: 8 Must-try cocktail spots that we know you'll love

The Botanical Bar

Newly opened in Cape Town's CBD, the Botanical Bar offers carefuly curated South African craft liquor, featured in cocktails with locally foraged botanicals for unique flavour profiles. Look forward to a beautifully designed menu that showcases bitters, shrubs, aperitifs, cocktails and food.  

The Trip - Part 5. Peter and Kenan (@theginbar head barmen) set off on a road trip around the country meeting botanists, traditional healers, local experts, phytotherapists and horticulturalists - in search of flavourful and useful botanicals. ?? Grahamstown was their next stop, where they met up with Wayne Vos, a botanist at the Craig Doone Conservation Academy. ???? Wayne was very enthusiastic and eager to teach them everything he could about botanicals. They hiked around the reserve chatting about sustainable foraging, found Wild Imphepho, and ate some pods of the acacia karroo thorn bush. Wayne shared some words of wisdom: “Life’s short, just enjoy it but make sure you do it in a sustainable way that doesn’t only benefit you.” . ??: @thisisdavidharris

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Outrage of Modesty

From the day they opened, Outrage of Modestly's motto was simple: redefine Cape Town's cocktail culture. Opening more than two years ago, the intent was to showcase flavour devoid of branding, commercialisation or mass commodity (you won't see a spirit label anywhere and it's less about what you're drinking and more about what your senses are experiencing). Since then it has indeed introduced a new kind of cocktail making and drinking culture to the Mother City – it's all about foraged ingredients that are tinkered, distilled and dehydrated into incredible flavour sensations. Staying true to their ethos of honouring seasonal availability, their menu favours quality over quantity. 

Cause | Effect

Also new to Cape Town's cocktail scene comes Cause | Effect, a joint venture between passionate, well-travelled and spirit-loving friends. To that end, the menu is as much about flavour as it is about specticle: it's experiential. And from the tinctures to the billowing, scented smoke – botanicals are showcased to dramatic effect. 

ALSO READ: Here's what you need to know about Cape Town's new experiential cocktail kitchen


Could salt tolerant crops be our future?

(image: iStock) You know you're Capetonian when... you're unable to complete a conversation without talking about the impending Day Zero and what it will all entail for residents of the city. 12 April 2018 is the day (reportedly) when the taps will be turned off and each person will be allocated 25 Litres of water to live on a day.

Read more on: food trends  |  fynbos  |  bars  |  mixology  |  drinks

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