The South African coast is full of delicacies, and the Atlantic west coast is particularly bountiful. Here, the south-westerly winds that prevail during summer blows the surface water away from the coast, and cold nutrient-rich waters rise from below. This creates a perfect environment for many coastal species such as seaweed, mussels, limpets and urchins. We joined a talented marine ecologist to learn more about coastal foraging, and how to prepare our "catch".
Over 700 species of seaweed (or marine algae as they are more fancily known) grow along the South African coast, and only one of them is inedible: the Acid Weed (Desmarestia Firma). Many of them are very tasty, and all of them are packed with nutrients. They grown as fast as up to a centimeter a day, also making them a highly sustainable food source. Some can be eaten as they are, others require a bit of preparation. On this day we made seaweed coleslaw, nori chips and even a pizza base with sea lettuce.
We also foraged for mussels, limpets and urchins, all of which were plentiful in the rock pools that the full moon low tide hade created. We concentrated on the Mediterranean Mussel, an alien species that is thriving and threatens to displace the indigenous Black Mussel. So in fact, our totally delicious mussel-pot was contributing to nature conservation! Limpets are tricky, and you have to sneak up on them and catch them by surprise (it's true, if they sense you trying to pry them off their rock their literal clamp-down would impress even Fort Knox) . They are also a bit chewy, and not everyone's cup of tea. We had them prepared as ceviche and served in their shells. Urchins are also a bit of an acquired taste, but my absolute favourite: rich and creamy, and best eaten directly by the ocean with a mussel shell as your spoon.
While anyone can forage along South African coasts (provided that you have the correct permit, which is available from the Post Office), we strongly recommend doing a guided forage to start off. You will learn about what is nice to eat and how to prepare it, and also (most importantly) how to harvest in a sustainable manner. Slow Travel Africa can suggest a range of guided foraging experiences to include in your itinerary. Just let us know your preferences, and we'll suggest the perfect match for you.