Meet the weed eaters

go! Platteland - - WONDERFUL WEEDS -

Kobus, chef at the ter­roir-driven Oep ve Koep in Pater­nos­ter, likes to in­clude wild ed­i­bles in his in­dige­nous-heavy dishes. “To me, weeds are free greens,” he says. Kobus in­cludes the ten­der young leaves of raw sow this­tle in a dish fea­tur­ing farmed cob and black olives, and the Boat Gar­den Salad con­tains ev­ery­thing edi­ble that has vol­un­teered in the con­verted old fish­ing boat in the restau­rant court­yard. The West Coast is a dry place at the end of sum­mer and the chef says, “Dur­ing droughts I’m es­pe­cially grate­ful for ‘weeds’ like Chenopodium mu­rale, which grows all over while ev­ery­thing else suf­fers.”

In his book Strand­veld­food (Sun­bird, 2015), Kobus ex­plains how to keep net­tles bril­liantly green in a soup recipe ded­i­cated to renowned pho­tog­ra­pher Jac de Vil­liers, who writes in the recipe’s in­tro­duc­tion, “I think it is im­por­tant to re­gard sting­ing net­tle as a herb and not a weed.” Amen.

@kobusvd­merwe As the daugh­ter of farm work­ers on Leeu­fontein near Rouxville in the Free State, Tipsy col­lected mo­rogo in the farm fields with her grand­mother and her mother. “Mo­rogo is lots of plants,” says the Con­stan­tia house­keeper. “My grand­mother taught us what was mo­rogo and what were weeds.” At home her mother sorted out the plants care­fully once more, to make sure there were no weeds, be­fore wash­ing them. “A weed was poi­sonous. If you eat a weed, you will die, is what we be­lieved.

“When there was a lot of milk in calv­ing sea­son,” she add, “we ate less mo­rogo, but when the milk dried up we ate it again.” The cooked mo­rogo was eaten as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to runny pap. “It was like meat for us,” says Tipsy. “We didn’t need meat.” Meat was given to labour­ers’ fam­i­lies once a month or “when a sheep had died and was di­vided up be­tween the fam­i­lies”.

Tipsy still eats mo­rogo for plea­sure and for com­fort. (And passed on her knowl­edge of edi­ble weeds to the writer of this ar­ti­cle.) >

“My grand­mother taught us what was mo­rogo and what were weeds. A weed was poi­sonous. If you eat a weed you will die, is what we be­lieved.”

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