Enaleni

I have wanted to visit Enaleni for ages, so was pleased to hear that the KZN Slow Food Convivium was meeting there yesterday. The Zulu word Enaleni implies “a place of agricultural abundance; a place where there is more than enough.” And it certainly is.

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Richard Haigh has spent the past 5 years turning a piece of KwaZulu Natal hillside into a food farm and haven for indigenous breeds.  A flourishing vegetable and fruit garden, where salad leaves were freshly picked for lunch, is the appropriate view from the veranda. The menagerie includes  turkeys with astonishing tail feathers, a donkey, chickens of all sorts, gentle Nguni cattle, spotted pigs and Zulu sheep which all live happily with their beautiful dogs.

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I have heard all about the endangered sheep before – a really lovely mottled lot, with different markings, shaggy hair, tiny ears and fat tails and was really pleased to meet them.  Richard is passionate about reviving interest in these hardy animals, which have evolved and adapted to local conditions, to safe guard their genetic diversity and resilience.

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The Kolbroek pigs are also an “African breed”. The delightful story goes: a Dutch East India Company ship, named Kolbroek, carrying these small Chinese pigs was shipwrecked along the East Coast many centuries ago, the pigs came ashore and have since adapted to suit African conditions. They certainly look perfectly at home chasing one another around under the Acacia trees.

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Slow Food gatherings are about learning and sharing.  Today we were to grind our own corn to make lunch.  First we gathered dried mielies from the gorgeous, multi-coloured bunches hanging from the rafters, which were last season’s harvest of traditional maize (ugatigati) grown on the farm.

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The kernels were stripped from the cobs in a natty, little hand-operated contraption.  Fortunately,  a breeze was blowing, which made winnowing in the big flat baskets easy. Then the kernels were tipped into a hand-mill, and ground to a fine meal.  An astonishingly quick process and all done by hand.  The grain was cooked, turned into dough, shaped into ‘rotis’ and cooked on hot skillets to accompany our entirely local (read: right outside the kitchen door) lunch of salad, beans and chicken. A veritable feast.

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Being a big fan of dried beans, I was really taken with the zebra striped lima beans we ate.  They are very similar to my much adored red scribble beans, but have crisp black and white stripes. they are Ecuadorean, apparently.   We also tasted various olive oils and discovered a new favorite from Mokholo, which is grown in Gauteng .

Slow Food is an international organisation which began in Rome in response to the opening of fast food restaurants (the legend says McDonalds).  Now active in 153 countries around the world they are concerned with  protecting food biodiversity and the natural environment, promoting sustainable agriculture and supporting small-scale farmers and valuing tradition food growing knowledge.  Membership is only R150 per year in SA because we are a developing country and I would encourage anyone interested in sustainable food to join. The gorgeous newsletters alone are worth it.  www.slowfood.

“Slow Food unites the pleasure of food with responsibility, sustainability and harmony with nature”  says Carlo Petrini – Slow Food founder.   Enaleni Farm epitomises these values with a generosity of spirit which you don’t often come across these days.  Look them up at www.enalenifarm.co.za.  Spend a few days in their delightful guest cottage built from reclaimed materials, and experience this for your self.

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