“Nature is not a place we visit. It is our home” Gary Snyder
At Destination Namaste we were lucky enough to have a chat with the inspirational wild food forager, mother, Yogi and nature lover Roushanna Gray.
She is the founder of Veld and Sea based at the Southern Tip of Africa at the Good Hope Gardens Nursery in Cape Point. Where she hosts wild food workshops and immersive nature inspired events creating more awareness around nature and all the treasures it holds for us.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what exactly you do at Veld and Sea?
I am very passionate about food, nature, bring creative and having new experiences. Veld and Sea is beautiful mix of all four of these and is really more of a lifestyle than a job. I teach adults and children about indigenous edible foods through immersive experiences, connection and creativity.
I am constantly inspired by the local edible indigenous plant availability, and have been experimenting with the exciting flavours and diversity of Fynbos and the indigenous plants here for the past ten years. The wide range of delicious and nutritious culinary offerings from the beautiful inter-tidal rock pools along our coastline also play a major role in my cooking classes and workshops. I love that no day is the same and that every season brings something different to the table.
In summertime there is coastal foraging, autumn brings wild mushroom foraging, in winter we draw inwards to the land for fynbos foraging and in springtime we hold our special celebratory flower workshops. Dancing around these seasonal experiences, we also host a range of different nature and food inspired workshops and collaborative events with other knowledgeable teachers including fermentation, medicinal plants, arts and crafts, cooking classes, botanical cocktail classes, kids holiday workshops, wild beauty workshops and more.
How did Veld and Sea grow into what it is today?
It started out quite literally as a very small seed, and grew organically into the blossoming business it is today. I first learnt about flavours from the wild about 10 years ago when I started a small tea garden at the indigenous plant nursery here and wanted to explore and expand on my teas and home baked goods.
I felt a disconnect between the normal flavours I was using and the flavours that I was experiencing in the nature around me, and so started my journey of learning.
I read lots of books, learnt to identify and names of local edible and medicinal plants and later seaweeds, did a lot of research, travelled, spoke to chefs and cooks and scientists, spent hundreds of hours in the kitchen developing recipes and as many hours in the gardens, veld, forest and rock pools learning and absorbing as much information as I could.
Then one day I began to notice, in all these crazy kitchen experiments, how my small, fussy eater of a son was more likely to eat an unusual flavour or new ingredient from the garden: Firstly, to put it in a familiar context like a scone or pizza or favourite meal, and secondly, for him to be involved in the gathering, picking and preparing of the meal.
I saw that when a connection and empowerment, sense and space of community was formed around the food with a personal story behind it, my son and his friends and even my own friends were 100% more likely to eat these curious new ingredients.
A friend suggested I start these experiences for a few kids in the school holidays. Those were a success and all the parents were very intrigued so I developed adult classes. The fynbos foraging workshops were born, closely followed by coastal foraging. These sensory experience foraging workshops culminate with a feast gathered and created by the group for a full circle of learning.
Currently Veld and Sea is a proudly female run business with myself as director and teacher, Erika Brown is our Marine Ecologist and events co ordinator and Gemma Hancock our wild chef. We also work with about 10 different teachers who come in to facilitate the various collaborative workshops and classes.
What are your social and environmental commitments in the events and workshops you offer?
We teach and stress sustainable, responsible and legal foraging practices, with the aim that our guests leave with a new appreciation and respect for nature, through the experience led.
How do you combine your work with being a mother?
It is a constant juggle as any mother knows! I have two kids, a girl of 6 and a boy of 11 who are both a joy. I live and work on a small holding where we grow our own vegetable gardens, and have a mini farmstead with pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and duck, so there is always something that needs doing whether its kids, work, farm or home. Its a super busy time of our lives, but I’m very lucky to have flexible working hours and a strong support system of family and my husband is very a very hands on dad. And of course its good to try and find a healthy balance between work and play, and to take time to meditate, dance, do some yoga, climb a mountain or jump in the ocean.
The Western Cape and Corsica have some many things in common especially when it comes to nature . Both have their own unique vegetation “fynbos” and “le maquis” that are both very similar, an abundance of wild food that can be found in both regions, a Mediterranean climate…What comes to mind when you hear the word Corsica?
Oh wow, the scented island. Corsica conjures up images of blue hued seas and skies, mountains and forests, wild herbs bushes aromatically scenting the warm air. Chestnuts, honey, figs, hazelnuts, chanterelle’s….paradise.
Your project is very connected to nature what benefits do you gain from meditating on nature and yoga in your daily life?
Its simple – it makes me happy! Ocean time, walking in the forest, meditation in the mountainside or focused breath work though gentle yoga practice is where I find a “reset” to my day. Its grounding and centring, allowing focus and energy to grow. Life is so busy and full, I think its its vital for optimal well being to take moments like these to disengage with technology, and reconnect with nature.
We are looking forward to having Roushanna with us in Corsica next Spring for an Immersive Wild Food and Yoga retreat on the Island of Corsica. Upcoming Yoga Retreats – Corsica. If you would like to know more about Veld and Sea and the new book they will be pubslishing shortly FIRE AND FLOWERS follow the link below.
Roushanna Gray http://www.veldandsea.com
All photos by Gabrielle Holmes
Interview by Lara Boshoff