Meet the weed eaters
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.”