Meet the weed eaters

go! Platteland - - WONDERFUL WEEDS -

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.

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