I like to think I am a locavore. It’s quite a trendy thing to be right now, but makes complete sense to me.
It’s the reason I started the Dargle Local Market and then, when that took on an unlocal look, got Dargle Trade and Howick Exchange ticking along. The Midlands Barter Markets are simply heaven for a locavore and fill me with joy. With money out of the equation, the focus is squarely on the abundance in our gardens and neighbourhoods – often that we take for granted.
When I spotted the Slow Food Menu for Change Eat Local Challenge starting on World Food Day 16 October, I couldn’t resist. I am a member of Slow Food and believe passionately in their principles of good, clean, fair food and creating a new food culture that is good for consumers, fair to producers, and doesn’t destroy planet.
“The Eat Local Challenge is the first phase of Menu For Change, the Slow Food campaign that puts the relationship between food and climate change under the spotlight: our food system makes a massive contribution to our total greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, at the same time, agriculture is among the first victims.
Let’s start with a first, fundamental point: food that is made locally, sustainably and on a small-scale is crucial if we are to mitigate our impact on the environment. Choosing our food wisely means consuming less energy, producing less emissions and reducing waste. Products which travel long distances, packaged in excessive plastic and often refrigerated in cells with an enormous energy expenditure represent tons of greenhouse gas emissions which could be avoided. A small example: in the West, a meal travels an average of 1900 kilometers from field to fork. By buying local, seasonal food with less packaging, a family could save 1000 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and eat healthier, more delicious food in the process!”
For the next three weeks, people across the world are participating in the Eat Local Challenge, meaning they’re committing to:
- Eat two meals a week sourced with local, traditional ingredients
- Eat only free-range meat raised in their region
- Shop at a farmers’ market at least once a week
- Buy no imported food or products made over 200 miles away
Well, I could do a whole lot better than two meals a week!
In the Midlands it is particularly easy for carnivores to eat local, but a little more of a challenge for a vegetarian (not many grains or pulses grown here). I have no idea how I would manage this challenge on a vegan diet.
So, let us begin. Buon Appetito!
On Sunday I was invited to a celebration of International Garden Day at my friend Bridget Ringdahl’s home around the corner. I walked over with a salad made of red cabbage (from Ntombenhle Mntambo’s Mpophomeni garden), carrot (Dovehouse Organic Farm Shop, grown in Thornville), sunflower sprouts (Gillian Milne at Karkloof Farmers Market, grown in Curry’s Post). Other guests also brought produce from their gardens to share. The delicious bean burgers, although cooked in the Sunstove, had a bigger footprint.
Loquat, orange, Cape gooseberry and pecan nut salad for breakfast today followed by egg on toast. The loquats were picked in the driveway, the gooseberries in the back yard, the pecans were grown in Muden and bought at the Karkloof Farmers Market.
Lunch of Curry’s Post peas and tsa tsa (radish) micro greens (by Gillian Milne) with fresh feta from Dargle (by Sharon Barnsley)
For supper I made a sweet potato mash from Dovehouse Organics Farm Shop with mixed green leaves picked in the garden and Molloy’s mustard (by Lou Scott Barnes bought at Karkloof Farmers Market).
This is too easy. Every day can be local.
I had a busy morning so grabbed garden gooseberries and a boiled egg from Lisa Glaister (from Merrivale and swopped at Midlands Barter Market) on the run.
Lunch was mostly from Tash Kusel’s abundant suburban garden with handmade mozzarella, made by my friend Sharon Barnsley from Buttercup’s milk. A few kinds of lettuce, bronze fennel, calendula flowers.
Needed a little pick me up in the afternoon so had a bottle of fruit kefir from Julie-ann Hamar.
Supper was a bit of an adventure. How local are we really going? Could I use spices – obviously imported? I decided no. I had beautiful cauliflowers that I would usually turn into curry – but without my usual spice mix which comes from who knows where, I had to make a plan. I had spring onions and Tatsfield Farm yoghurt from Dovehouse Organics: Farm Shop. Added turmeric grown by Karen Chapman Zunckel in Hilton, chillies and lemons I traded at Midlands Barter Markets last week, dhania and Tulbaghia (wild garlic leaves) from the garden. This year I am definitely stocking up on organic garlic when it is available (wonder how to preserve it to last for months?) and saving coriander and fennel seeds from the garden in case I want to make an all local curry again. Anyway, it was absolutely delicious – not a Durban curry, but lovely nonetheless.
Fortuitously, this evening, A Taste of South Africa – a programme made by British Celebrity chef Matt Tebbutt – was being screened on TV. The very episode that I was involved in and which featured my super Slow Foodie friend Richard Haigh of Enaleni, gardening pal Xola Keswa and his marvellous (now deceased) grandmother.
Yesterday I was so lucky to happen upon a box of just delivered strawberries on the pavement at Dovehouse Organic Farm Shop. I bought the lot and enjoyed some with Tatsfield Farm yoghurt (where every cow has a name) for breakfast today. Followed by a mid- morning snack of leftover sweet potato mash on Wild Bread toast.
Lunch was beetroot salad with calendula, spring onions and gorgonzola from Marrakesh in Rosetta. Completely delicious.
My contribution to an afternoon tea party was a green bowl brimming with succulent red strawberries – amidst bright shop bought cupcakes and samosas (made by someone we knew, at least). Supper was a colourful affair of Gillian Milne’s rainbow carrots purchased at Karkloof Farmers’ Market with roasted with baby leeks, bronze fennel and spekboom. Spekboom Portulacaria afra is a favourite ingredient. I often use young leaves in a summer salad with tomatoes, chickpeas and spring onions – sadly chickpeas are off limits now and tomatoes are few and far between. The succulent leaves of spekboom are crammed with Vitamin C and other minerals.
Today began with a smoothie of strawberries (of the pavement fame) and garden gooseberries with respectfully produced honey from Jessica Dreamtime in Karkloof and thick Tatsfield Farm yoghurt. It looked very pretty but didn’t taste that good actually – won’t combine strawberries and gooseberries in a smoothie again.
Yesterday was Dargle Trade – one of Midlands Barter Markets. I swopped reusable produce bags and flower bouquets for all sorts of fabulous local food.
Lunch was lettuce from Pam Haynes, avocados from Mandy Crooks, peanut sprouts from Gillian Milne, fresh coriander and avocado oil from Howick’s own avo farm. Served with freshly baked and still warm Love Bread (thanks Sarah Derret for swopping indigenous plants for bread), topped with butter from La Petite France just outside Howick. Both Love Bread and the Wild Bread Co use local Champagne Valley Flour from Winterton.
Amy Bryant provided an afternoon tea treat of lemon biscuits and Rose Downard, jasmine infused Kombucha for 5 o’clock.
Supper was Gilly Robartes’ broccoli steamed. I topped it with Erica Brown of Solfood Creations’ scrummy tree tomato chutney and Julie-Ann Hamar’s Body Balance kimchi. A vegan Rasta vibe of green, red and yellow!
Handfuls of pecans and gooseberries were early sustenance before yoga class. Afterwards, we made Sorghum flapjacks from Anna Trapido and Mpho Tshukudu’s fabulous book Eat Ting. The sorghum flour is from eMoyeni farm in Swartberg. Hot from the pan they were topped with purple Msobo Jam (nastergal or solanum nigrum) and Wana Farm maas.
Paul likes sweet things far more than I do, so I had my second one with cumin flavoured cheese from Just Cheese in Greytown (bought at Karkloof Farmers Market). The dogs loved them too.
They were very filling, so we didn’t feel like lunch. I ate a bowl of Pam Haynes’ butter lettuce when I got peckish.
It was a cold day and I was flush with fantastic bartered finds – curry leaves (from Mandy Crookes) and coriander seeds (from Sharon Barnsley) – so I decided to try another curry. With sweet potatoes and lima beans harvested just a couple of months ago – I wish I had kept more for this challenge. Anyway, I have created two new bean beds to make sure my dried bean harvest triples next year. The curry included all the ingredients from Tuesday’s effort with the addition of these curry leaves, coriander seeds and lemongrass from Charlene Russell (down the road). Delish!
A Durban man who came to fix our oven this morning, was delighted to find loquats and while we were picking him a bagful, shared a recipe for a simple green loguat pickle. If I had had more time, I could have made this to accompany the curry.
Since my over enthusiastic strawberry purchase, I have had to eat them up fast, so breakfast was just a big bowlful with fennel flowers. A great combination.
A soft boiled egg with radish pods I pickled a few weeks ago.
Then it was off to the Karkloof Farmers Market to see what I could find. I grilled Kathy Raw about exactly where the fruit she was selling came from and was thrilled at the response. Naartjies grown in Pietermaritzburg, pineapples from Zululand, little apples from Weenen and bananas from the South Coast. Treasure! I have really been missing bananas as I usually eat one the moment I get out of bed. I also found some new potatoes grown by Farmer Ringelmann in Crammond and bought some more Wild Bread.
Today was a gardening day and we always make a big pot of hydrating garden soup for lunch. Today’s version included carrots and red cabbage from Dovehouse, a few of the potatoes I found this morning, and from the garden – leeks, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, kale, new zealand spinach, chickweed, fat hen, amaranthus, tulbaghia, celery, chard and radish leaves. For extra flavour I always add dried oyster mushroom powder from Midlands Mushrooms.
Last autumn we had an incredible crop of cherry tomatoes – we ate as many as we could but froze lots too. So nice to have herby tomato sugo available now before the new season crop begins. KwaSizabantu farm made the Pasta Perfecta tagliatelle in Kranskop.
So fabulous to be able to get out of bed and unpeel a banana again. Yay for the tropical South Coast just 100 miles away! Later, I made a salad of all the lovely fruit I found at Karkloof Farmers Market yesterday, adding mulberries that I foraged from the banks of Symmonds Stream in Howick. To tie it all together some yoghurt, flavoured with fresh granadilla, from Tatsfield.
Lunch was broad bean and pea salad. At Dargle Trade I got broad beans from Gilly and peas from Sharon to make my favourite spring salad with mint, fennel, chives and feta. I could eat this every day, but no matter how many broad beans I plant, I never seem to have enough. Or peas, as I like eating them right off the vine and the mouse birds enjoy snacking on them too.
Oh, and I must mention that there is absolutely no need to go thirsty while doing the local thing. Lions River Brewery is closest, but not much further is the famous Nottingham Road Brewery. Just down the hill in Pietermaritzburg is fabulous Clockwork Brewhouse. Then if I venture a little further towards the coast – Robson’s in Shongweni. From Pennington, I love Basset Brewery and in Durban there is That Brewing Co and Poison City. I am sure there are even more that I don’t know about. Cheers!
Avocado (a gift from neighbour Jane Symes), mashed with coriander, chillies, lemon juice and avo oil on toast makes a perfect Sunday night supper.
Week one done. I have included three cheat items that come from further than 200 miles – tea from Zululand, salt from the Kalahari, organic olive oil from the Cape. I would battle without these things. I am also tempted to add the almonds I brought back from Prince Albert and the dates and raisins I brought from the Northern Cape to this list. We’ll see.
The bee that buzzed around me while I wrote this up on the veranda really understands local living. Check out those pollen laden legs – all from our garden.