Veld and Sea Founder Roushanna Gray on Creativity and Connection

When Roushanna Gray moved from the city of Cape Town to the promontory of Cape Point, her curiosity was stirred by the scents, sights and flavours she was surrounded by. While running a tea garden for an indigenous nursery she began to learn about the edible landscape, leading to the creation of Veld and Sea. Eight years later, this business is the channel through which Gray shares her knowledge and passion through immersive, seasonal workshops and nature-inspired events. We found out more about her journey with wild food and living creatively, in connection with the earth.

Before you came to Cape Point, you’d been living in the city working in retail and restaurants. What inspired this move?

It was a move inspired by love! I moved to Cape Point to stay with my then boyfriend who grew up on this smallholding in the fynbos, deliciously situated in between the mountainside and the Atlantic Ocean. Now married for 15 years with two beautiful children, we are subsistence farmers, raising farm animals and growing veg, herbs, edible flowers and fruit. Our small seasonal harvests feed the family and is incorporated into the wild meals and pantry staples at Veld and Sea’s workshops and events.  

And then what began to change in your experience and outlook as you learned more about the edible landscape?

I came to realise how rich and unique our local plants and coastline edibles are, how much we take for granted in our food systems and that education is the key to really understanding the true value of our natural environment. Experiencing this in a hands on, interactive and immersive way allows for a respect to develop and a need protect these special places and spaces.

From a personal awakening to a fully-fledged business, tell us about your journey with Veld and Sea so far.

Veld and Sea has blossomed organically over the years. When I first moved here, I started a small tea garden to service the indigenous plant nursery (Good Hope Gardens Nursery) and quickly started to feel a disconnect between the flavours I was using in my baked goods and teas and the aromatic fynbos I was experiencing on the land and in the plant nursery, and so started my journey into the discovery of wild flavour. The more I learnt, the more my curiosity and passion grew and I found myself needing to share what our edible landscape has to offer.

It started off with forage and harvest holiday classes for kids, designing the class around how excited and empowered my own children were when they ate food that they themselves had foraged, harvested and prepared. When introducing any new ingredients, its best to do so in a familiar context, so with the kids classes we used wild herbs, edible flowers and garden veg to make scones or pizza. These classes evolved into teaching adults more in-depth classes, but keeping it interactive to hold the multi-sensory fundamentals of experiential learning – the hands on gathering, preparing, creating and sharing a meal together.

Now, eight years into this teaching journey, at Veld and Sea we track the edible landscape throughout the seasons, offering educational and immersive, seasonal and sustainable foraging workshops and nature inspired events as well as private consultations and training.

Photograph by Aiden Delport.

How does your connection to the living world feed your creativity?

Living closely connected to the earth and its seasons, rhythms and cycles is lifestyle and a passion. Every day is different and each season holds a myriad of new things to look forward to. Being outside in nature is incredibly inspiring. When you find yourself in wild open spaces like an ocean, a river, or at the top of a mountain, its a great way to get a better perspective of how small we humans actually are in the grand scheme of things. When you can quiet your mind of domestic worries and connect to nature, creativity flows.

We’re sure it’s as delicious as it is good for you, but your food is so visually appealing too. Why is beauty important?

As a species we have evolved to appreciate aesthetics. We all know that we eat with our eyes first, but a colourful biodiverse plate is not only pretty, its a healthy one too. I also just like to play with my food!

Living in this way there’s always more to learn. Tell us about a favourite recent discovery or an indigenous plant you’re continually surprised by.

A current favourite/ongoing love is Kelp/Ecklonia maxima – the biggest and fastest growing seaweed that we have in our SA oceans. The more I learn and work with it, the more it blows my mind – from the nutritional and medicinal value it offers to the layers of umami flavour you can add to almost any dish whether savoury or sweet.

What are some things to keep in mind in terms of seasonal foraging, and doing so responsibly?

The four essentials to learn are legal, sustainable, responsible and regenerative foraging practices. There are a lot of rules and they differ according to what you are foraging for and everything has its own specific harvesting season. If you are foraging land plants, these are the four most important rules to remember:

1. Identification. If you find a plant you think might be edible but are not completely sure what it is – do not pick or eat it! Rather be safe than sorry, as there are many poisonous species out there, you can often find toxic species that look similar to edible one. Always be 110% sure of the ID of the plant.

2. Plant knowledge. Some plants are edible only in certain seasons or habitat, or after certain preparations. It is important to know not only what plant to pick, but what part to use and how to prepare it.

3. Sustainability. Many of our precious fynbos and indigenous plant species are already at risk from over harvesting in the wild, too-frequent fires, and the biggest ecological threat: urban encroachment. Sustainable harvesting is very important – be mindful and only pick what you need, never pick more than a tenth of the bush/berries/flowers, leaving enough for the wildlife to enjoy, feed off and pollinate, and for the plant to be able to regenerate easily. Don’t forget to pick legally too – never pick from private, forestry or national parks land.

4. Pollutants. Never pick from a polluted roadside or anywhere that might have been sprayed with chemicals – municipal areas like parks, playgrounds and road verges can be sprayed with pesticides to keep the weeds down. Collecting and eating leafy greens from a busy road is not a good idea as the pollutants will be present in the leaves.

What’s on the cards for Veld and Sea in 2021?

At the Veld and Sea HQ in Cape Point, autumn is the time for nature inspired art and craft workshops, in winter we will have Mushroom Foraging Walks and Wild Food Land Foraging Workshops. In springtime we look forward to our celebratory Flower Workshops and from November, the Coastal Foraging season returns. Away-workshops will feature throughout the year too, so look out for foraging experiences happening in Plett, Mossel Bay, Gansbaai and up the West Coast. I am currently writing a wild food cook book, and there are whispers of a TV series.

Follow @veldandsea on Instagram.

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