Coastline cuisine: Overlooked food on rocky shores
The word 'seafood' is about to get a whole new meaning. Foraging fundi Roushanna Gray shares some of her secrets about finding your own meals on the Cape coastline.
CAPE TOWN - More and more warnings are issued each year about the plight of the ocean's embattled residents. The alarming statistics about dwindling fish stocks make enjoying a plate of guilt-free fish nearly impossible unless you are dedicated enough to carry your Sassi red list in your wallet for regular consultation.
Could it be time to look a little bit closer to shore for your next fix of seafood?
Cue a woman with a passion for self-sourcing sustainable fodder, who believes there is a smorgasbord of tasty treats on our rocky shores, which are mostly overlooked.
Self-confessed Cape Town foodie Roushanna Gray is now sharing her passion for coastal foraging with others. And what she teaches shows it is not as dirty or difficult a business as you may expect.
The ingredients may sound exotic - seaweed is after all not a common item on South African menus - but the dishes which this wild food enthusiast manages to create are a lot more down to earth.
"It's all about how you prepare them, your preference of taste and texture," she explains.
"There's lots of different seaweeds you can eat raw. You can just eat them straight off the rocks or you can put them in your salads. There are other seaweeds that are a little tougher and you have to prepare them - you can stirfry them or add them to soups. Most seaweeds will thicken your soups.
I can talk for hours about seaweeds and how you can prepare them," she laughs.
If none of the above sounds appealing to you, Gray also advocates using kelp as a pasta substitute - either instead of lasagna sheets, or cut into long strips. Most people, she claims, would not even notice the difference.
If you have ever enjoyed a plate of sushi you will even find a familiar taste in the wild Atlantic nori which grows on the Cape coast.
Roushanna Gray prepared a seaweed salad made from assorted plants found on the Cape Peninsula's rocky coastline. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN
Sourcing your own food always comes with risks, whether it's pinning down a farm animal in your backyard, or gathering dubious berries in a forest.
But the dangers are multiplied when said environment is a wild one and the forager does not know what he or she is doing.
So before you go bouncing down to you nearest rock pool, there are a few things to take note of.
Gray says it's imperative that you are able to successfully identify what you are foraging for.
"You get a seaweed which is called acid weed and it's full of acid so you don't want to eat that, it will burn all the way down you digestive tract... so you do need to be able to identify your seaweeds."
Another nasty critter is a false limpet which excretes acid, Gray warns.
One of her other top coastal foraging rules is to steer clear of polluted areas.
"The same applies to normal foraging in the plants, but in the sea it's very important that the sea isn't polluted. The way seaweeds feed is that they feed off everything around them so if the water is polluted, then you're going to be eating polluted seaweeds and that's really not good for you," she says.
APETITE NOT WHET?
If you remain unconvinced about the health benefits of eating seaweed, Gray explains there are many more uses.
"There's an array of different things you can do with the seaweeds as well, besides the culinary side you can use it medicinally, you can use it as fertiliser, you can use it as skincare..."
Lastly, intrepid foragers should not forget to stay on the right side of the law.
The necessary permits should be acquired, in order for a forager to avoid going from sustainable food pioneer to poacher in a few seconds when they are caught red-handed with a bag of illegal mussels.