Indigenous plants; an under-utilised food

Wild rosemary can be used in salad.

The Local WILD non-profit organisation in Kenilworth is looking to create awareness of the Cape’s indigenous foods as a source that can be easily farmed to serve an undernourished society.

Loubie Rusch, who started the NPO last year, says indigenous foods are still an unknown resource.

The indigenous foods which she has in her garden include wild rosemary which can be used for garnish and tea, sout slaai which can be used for salads, veldkool which is an edible vegetable, wild sage which can be used for turkey stuffing and dune spinach.

There are around 30 indigenous plants that are available to be grown.

Ms Rusch, who studied architecture in the 80s and then moved to landscaping, emphasised that these indigenous foods are readily available around the Cape Flats though it is an ignored resource, which is not grown and farmed commercially.

The first project that she worked on was to connect with chefs and growers.

She holds workshops at her community kitchen in Kenilworth where she shows how the indigenous foods can be prepared.

She also teaches how indigenous foods can be grown and taken to poor communities where people can be taught how to grow these themselves.

Ms Rusch believes chefs can be agents of change when it comes to preparing food and being trendsetters.

Chef Jonathan Japha, who has 20 years experience and currently works at the Black Sheep restaurant in Cape Town, interacts with Ms Rusch to find out more about the indigenous foods and tries to determine what can be used in his restaurant.

Mr Japha would also like to get the message across to people that these foods are easily accessible.

Mr Japha and Ms Rusch are working on linking with farmers so that they can help grow
the indigenous plants for restaurants.

Denisha Anand, who is the biodiversity conservation site manager at Princess Vlei Wetlands, also interacts with Ms Rusch.

She said she does environmental education at schools and would like to grow wild foods at these schools to supplement feeding schemes because wild food is nutrient dense.

“I am so excited for the future of wild food in South Africa; reconnecting with ancient ways as a modern day solution to the current food crisis,” says Ms Anand.

Ms Rusch would like her organisation to demonstrate strong ethics on how food is grown in the
future.

When it comes to indigenous foods, she would like to see farms grow a variety of foods together rather than only one item.

She would like people who grow indigenous food to get a fair price and not have their knowledge stolen by bigger corporations where the end goal is creating profit.

For more information baout the community kitchen, email Ms Rusch at makingkos@gmail.com .