Meet the weed eaters
Gauteng chef Chantel never left home. She grew up “surrounded by the peace and tranquillity of nature” on the Francolin Conservancy near Elandsfontein outside Pretoria, where she now serves vivid five-star fare at Restaurant Mosaic, part of The Orient boutique hotel.
Nettles star in Mosaic’s Mushroom and Nettles Tea. Chantel makes a mushroom stock with a bit of salt, brown sugar and lime leaves, and then adds dried nettles before the tea is strained through muslin. “I prefer to serve this tea warm, as the comforting earthy aromas will escape from the cup as it is poured,” she says.
Dandelions are on the breakfast menu. “I like using dandelion petals because of their vibrant colour – especially for our dish Crack of Dawn, as it resembles the speckled rays of the sun.” The petals are sprinkled over a poached egg with a potato and saffron cream and, “when used fresh, have a delicate sweet taste. During the milder months of April and May, we pick them from our own garden.”
@restaurantmosaicatorient Ethnobotanist and writer Yvette lives in the hills above Wilderness. She sometimes serves the Hoekwil Bookworms – her book club – a dish of fat hen morogo when they meet at her house, “to make a point,” she says. “Cook it like spinach. Pull the leaves off the stem – and the seeds are lovely, like quinoa – and let it soften, add onion and tomato, and serve over potato, like a relish.”
Yvette grew up on Paardenvlei, a farm near Tweespruit in the Free State, and remembers being taught about the edible plants that grew there by Selina Lirontso Monnaruri, a teenager whose parents (“actually Barolong royalty”) sharecropped on the land. “And the women who worked in the house would always let us eat their morogo with them from as early as I can remember.”
These formative experiences contributed to Yvette’s lifelong interest in local plants. She has authored three books, established and curated the Southern Cape Herbarium at George, and is pursuing a PhD in archaeology and botany through Rhodes University about the vegetation near archaeological sites.