Last weekend I went foraging in the forest for my dinner. Inspired by my adventure, this week we will be taking a leap from the Plant Kingdom to the far lesser-known but equally fascinating world of fungi. I was lucky enough to be one of the first participants in a new mushroom foraging course run by the Cape of Good Hope Nurseries. In the capable hands of Ismail Smith, local artist and mushroom hunter extraordinaire, we spent a wonderful and highly informative Sunday morning exploring among the pine trees of Tokai Plantation in Cape Town in search of edible mushrooms to fill our baskets and cooking pots.
One of the highlights of any visit to Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens in April are the carpets of Plectranthus flowers occupying every available shady corner at this time of year. Colours vary from white to pale pink to the deepest dark blues and purples with species of every height, form and variety being cultivated under the shadow of Table Mountain’s eastern buttresses and crags.
Mention the word parasite and a number of things may spring into one’s mind: squiggling flesh-eating maggots, blood sucking fleas and ticks, giant nematodes and many other gruesome critters too numerous to mention. It is fascinating to note that there are thousands of parasites within the plant kingdom as well and one of South Africa’s most well-known and widespread examples, Hyobanche sanguinea is pink and furry and really rather beautiful.
Instructions were clear and to the point. “The first rule is not to leave the door open otherwise the mice will come in. The second rule is not to leave the door open otherwise the snakes will follow the mice in”. We’d just arrived at Tandskoonmaak, translated literally from Afrikaans meaning the place to keep your teeth clean. Clean teeth or otherwise, we were feeling as though we’d arrived in a different world, one that was only three hours drive from the bustling city of Cape Town.