Foraging comes with great responsibility,” says wild food artist, foodie and avid forager Roushanna Gray who is part of Mazda’s Made with Soul campaign. Working with Japanese philosophies that define the brand, Mazda went in search of South African creatives and craftsmen with soulful and passionate stories of success for the Made with Soul campaign. These visionaries align with Mazda’s value for harmonious living, driven by an innate sense of curiosity.
Roushanna is the winner of the Spier Sustainability Award in 2019 and is passionate about our local edible landscape. With her wild food foraging platform, Veld & Sea, which also hosts nature-inspired events, she shares her love and curiosity for what nature has to offer through immersive educational experiences, connection and creativity.
“The places and spaces we gather our ingredients from are incredibly ecologically sensitive. It’s important to remember a long list of dos and don’ts,” she says. “In South Africa we have strict laws about where you can forage on land. At the coast, you can get a foraging permit. When it comes to our edible endemic and indigenous plants, we encourage anybody who is interested in forming a relationship with wild flavours to plant these in their own garden.”
The encouraging conversations about our indigenous food, strengthened by the state of our changing world and climate, and the need to be sustainable, are helping to mainstream the practice of foraging. Roushanna believes it is important to conserve our natural heritage on land and the ocean. At Veld & Sea she advocates for responsible and legal sustainable foraging practices, teaching how to regeneratively harvest and encouraging a reciprocal relationship with nature.
Pick legally Roushanna advises. Never pick from private, forestry or national parks land. Never collect from a polluted area or a busy highway. “Those pollutants in the air can be present in the leafy greens. Never collect from an area that has been sprayed by pesticides or weed killers,” she warns.
Similar rules apply to coastal foraging. Always be sure the sea you are collecting from is not polluted and never collect from a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
“Never pull seaweed off a rock, rather cut pieces off with a pair of scissors leaving its “holdfast” attached to the rock so that the rest of the plant may regrow. We advise that you only cut 1/3 of the seaweed. Only pick seaweed for culinary use that is attached to a rock, don’t collect any you find floating or washed up on shore. Only pick seaweeds that look healthy and clean. And pick only what you need!”
Know your seasons
Know which season to pick the plants in. “There is a season of flavour,” Roushanna says. “Here in the Western Cape, when we have our winter rainfall, that’s the best time to collect from land. If you collect in summertime, you will stress the plant out. Winter is when the fynbos is in its highest in aromatics and essential oils, when some of the most unique and delicious ingredients appear. One of my favourite wild winter ingredients on land is Veldkool – it is similar to asparagus and grows abundantly.”
“Summertime is coastal foraging season. I love dune spinach and seaweeds: kelp, nori and sea lettuce. In Autumn we head to the forest and collect wild mushrooms. Springtime is all about edible flowers. A few South African herbs that you can forage and grow in your garden all year round include spekboom, wild rosemary, garlic buchu, lemon pelargonium and confetti bush.”
Educate yourself and know your species
Always be 110% sure of the species you’re picking, and that it is edible before you pick it. “That’s very important. Certain plants are edible, some are poisonous. There are plenty of resources online, but I would recommend cross-referencing if you want to be absolutely sure. The best way is to get it identified by a human,” Roushanna says.
You also must know which part of the plant to pick and how best to use it for culinary preparation. Don’t uproot the plant, cut off only what you need. Poisonous and edible portions can be available in one plant. “With Rhubarb – you can eat the stem, but you can’t eat the leaves for example,” Roushanna points out.
Veld & Sea works with a central rule and what they call an honourable harvest – where you pick only what you need and eat everything you pick. Hence Roushanna resonates so deeply with the Japanese principle of Mottainai which translates into ‘don’t be wasteful’ and embraces the notion of respecting resources and their value.
“In this way you get forage from a mindful and sustainable place, leaving enough for the plant to regenerate and for wildlife to continue thriving harmoniously for the future,” she says.
Similarly sustainable, Mazda promotes a culture of longevity with their MX-5 restoration programme, launched in 2017, so that Mazda owners can enjoy their cars for many years to come. With the programme, favourite first- generation roadsters are fully refurbished over the course of three months by a team of dedicated craftsmen, encouraging owners across the world to maintain their cars and recognize their value.
Since the early 1990s Mazda has been recognizing the value of our natural environment by creating bumpers with easy-to-recycle designs to help recycle end of life vehicles (ELV), thereby helping to reduce wastage and echoing the essence of Mottainai.
Driving invokes a sense of adventure. Even when driving to a place you’ve been before, there’s always an opportunity for discovery. What makes the difference is the harmony between the driver and the car. Connecting with the driver’s soul is at the heart of the creation of every Mazda car. Similarly, while foraging is an adventure, we should as Roushanna Gray says, never forget to have a reciprocal relationship and live in harmony with the natural environment.
For inspiration and more on Roushanna Gray and the Mazda Made with Soul campaign, head to the Mazda website.