For foragers who can tell a dead man’s fingers from a Mediterranean mussel, our coastline is cornucopian, writes Brent Meersman.
We were in luck. It was new moon and the tide was at its lowest. The swell was also gentle that day, giving us plenty of time to explore the intertidal rock pools near Scarborough beach on the Cape Peninsula.
It all started when Hiromu Jimbo, a young Japanese man who’d spent three and a half years travelling from Istanbul through Europe and then down through Africa on a bicycle, turned up at the Good Hope Gardens Nursery, Cape Point.
He came for 10 days and landed up staying a hundred. Jimbo introduced Roushanna Gray to “the joys of eating and preparing seaweed”.
Coming from a country where seaweed is a daily food and a highly prized delicacy, Jimbo was amazed that South Africans were oblivious to what was on their doorstep.
The South African coast has more than 700 species of marine algae. Out of all of these, there is only one inedible species – acid weed (Desmarestia firma), a fan-shaped brown algae with serrated edges that contains sulphuric acid.
Gray now runs teaching expeditions on coastal foraging. Before embarking, she gives us a brief introduction and talk on sustainability. Always collect as close to the tide line as possible. Never detach seaweed from its holdfast on the rock; rather trim no more than a third with a pair of scissors. It will then regrow; some of our kelps grow a centimetre a day. There are kelps that grow more than half a metre a day. It is a highly sustainable food source.
But you must have a permit, which is easily obtainable from the post office for R95 and is valid for a year. Take your ID. And another word of warning – never turn your back on the sea. Waves have a way of sneaking up on you.
And if you don’t quite look the same afterwards, you can be sure that you will never look at the sea rocks and kelp the same way again.
Foraging expeditions can be booked with Roushanna Gray on firstname.lastname@example.org
Full report by Brent Meersman in Mail & Guardian