Foraging is something that intrigues everyone from kids to grandpa. It has a bit of a Bear Grylls feel to it and will be a great way to get the whole family involved.
If you are busy, the best way to do this is by incorporating local, waterwise plants that will grow even when you forget about them. Their edible, healing or therapeutic nature is just a big plus.
Foraging is an age-old tradition, but due to urbanization and the decrease in habitat plants have become protected. You can no longer forage (pick flora on public lands) without a flora permit.
The process of acquiring permits has been made easier by Cape Nature's new online registration portal for flora permits.
This does not apply when foraging on your own property, which can be a fun-filled afternoon. You can also join enterprises such as Veld & Sea's foraging workshops for a similar experience. The next section will detail a list of easily identifiable plants that you may come across.
The genus Eriocephalus contains several species that occur throughout South Africa. The seed heads resemble tiny cotton puffs, which were a traditional replacement for pillow stuffing.
It is also used as a hair conditioner or as a replacement for standard rosemary as a food seasoning.
Medicinal use: Colds, flu and colic.
- 1:2 (flowers / twigs:water)
- Boil 15 min
- Enjoy warm
Senecio elegans occur as a widespread resident along the coast of the Western Cape. It is an annual that bare gorgeous pink blooms as clusters. They will self-seed in late spring and are exceptionally bee-friendly.
Medicinal use: Coughs and bladder infections.
- 1:4 leaves to water boiled and strained.
The most common coastal resident is the flamboyant Carpobrotus edulis. No summer is complete without a panhandler selling dried sour figs along the busy Cape roads.
Few realise that these succulent leaves are antiseptic and can be used on Blue Bottle (Portuguese Man of War) stings, scrapes and wounds.
Uses: Edible, insect bites or stings.
- Jam can be created using equal parts fruit and sugar (500g) to 1 L water.
- Seasoned with cinnamon to taste.
Silver Bush Everlasting
The silvery, waterwise indigenous groundcover is beautiful to look at and requires little maintenance. A tisane of the leaves is both fragrant and calming, whilst the flowers can also be used in potpourri.
Medicinal use: Anxiety and stress
The use of Sutherlandia dates back to the original Khoikhoi. Its bright red blooms draw the eye, but it is the leaves that hold a hidden gem. It can be consumed in a tea or added to a bath for pain relief.
As the name suggests, aqueous extracts of the plant have shown to decrease malignant cell numbers (of MCF-7 / breast cancer cells) in a dose-dependent manner (1).
Medicinal uses: Rheumatoid arthritis, back pain.
- Leaf infusions (2 leaves in 250ml water).
Adenandra uniflora grow prolifically along the southwestern Cape. They are harder to spot when not in flower, which coincides with winter and spring.
Uses: Deodorant, aches.
- Apply to bath.
Creating a foraging paradise
Remember that most, if not all, of these plants are available from nurseries. You can create a foraging haven for kids or a sensory delight for yourself.
Wouldn't it be lovely to do an Easter hunt in the coming year with a bit of a twist? Hide those eggs under a sensory plant and have them learn while they have some fun!
(1) Stander, A., Marais, S., Stivaktas, V., Vorster, C., Albrecht, C., Lottering, M. L., & Joubert, A. M. (2009). In vitro effects of Sutherlandia frutescens water extracts on cell numbers, morphology, cell cycle progression and cell death in a tumorigenic and a non-tumorigenic epithelial breast cell line. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 124(1), 45-60.
(2) Scott, G., Springfield, E. P., & Coldrey, N. (2004). A pharmacognostical study of 26 South African plant species used as traditional medicines. Pharmaceutical Biology, 42(3), 186-213.
(3)De Vynck, J. C., Cowling, R. M., Potts, A. J., & Marean, C. W. (2016). Seasonal availability of edible underground and aboveground carbohydrate resources to human foragers on the Cape south coast, South Africa. PeerJ, 4, e1679.