Founder of Veld and Sea, Roushanna Gray is a wild food innovator and avid forager who’s teaching adults and children about indigenous edible foods through immersive experiences. Inspired by local plant availability, she thrives on guiding others to discover the exciting flavours and diversity of plants and fynbos. We sat down with Roushanna to learn more about where this love for nature comes from and the rich and sustainable life she’s created for her family at the southwestern-most tip of Africa.
Watch and learn more about Roushanna in this inspiring film.
Roushanna Gray is the founder of Veld and Sea, an immersive and experiential wild flavour focussed business.
The concept of her company Veld and Sea is to track the edible landscape through the seasons, with workshops that invite others to experience what nature’s flavour of the moment is. In Summer it is coastal foraging, in Autumn and Winter land-based foraging and in the Springtime all about the flowers.
A personal interest that began when she joined her husband on the family farm and nursery adjacent to Cape Point over a decade ago. Roushanna had no knowledge or plant background at the time, yet a desire to learn about what was edible, and what wasn’t which led to a wild and slow and delicious learning experience. She took it upon herself to become acquainted with one species at a time and with a lot of help from her mother in law who is a horticulturist, was guided through the early days of the process. Acquiring extensive knowledge was supported by the hours trawling through the internet, books, talking to chefs and cooks and locals. It is a journey that never ends as there is always something new to learn.
When asked which kind of indigenous plants and seafood excite her most on the sensory walking experiences that she embarks on daily either on her own or with guests of Veld and Sea she remarks that it’s ‘the micro-season of the wild foods’ which ensure constant change. She can’t say which she loves most, as there’s always something new and special to discover and savour. We speak at the beginning of Autumn and it marks the end of the seaweed and coastal harvesting season, and the beginning of the months when nature rewards with mushrooms, acorns and dandelions. There is something incredible out there, a gift from the ocean and land that is speaking to her. Always something new and varied on offer.
She laughs a lot, with an infectious lightness and love for life so befitting the environment.
The foraging journey began when she opened a tiny tea garden at the nursery on first moving to the land. Wanting to match the flavours of what was on the menu with what she was noticing in the plants around her, she soon got tired of the mainstream rooibos and honeybush flavours and yearned for more, expanding her offering as her knowledge grew. Incorporating new available flavours from her surrounds as her eyes were opened to the abundance of nutritious and delicious wild flavours around her, the relationship has been evolving ever since.
In the current world of mass food production, we wonder about some of the advantages that can be learnt from sustainable practices such as these, and the ethos of truly going back to nature for the best nutrition and sustenance. With the flavours collected and used in the experiences at Veld and Sea ticking all the boxes – organic, seasonal, free and packed full of all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that make you healthy, you can’t go wrong. Anybody who loves food and cooking (be it as chef or home cook) will attest, the fresher the ingredients the better, so you don’t have to overwork the food too much but rather just celebrate the true flavours of the plants.
A day with Roushanna and Veld and Sea varies depending on the season. Generally, it will start with a meet and greet at the cabin where you’re served an array of wild flavour snacks before head out to the beach ocean, mountains and gardens or forest (depending on the season) for an immersive and hands-on foraging experience. With foraging becoming popular and quite fashionable, it’s important to adhere to legal sustainable practices and regenerative foraging. Once the bags are filled and you have your lot, you return to the cabin and as a group create a beautiful feast together.
Roushanna jokes that she can talk about seaweeds and wild plants for hours, but until you’ve picked it yourself and partaken in the circle of learning, picking, processing and eating from nature, with respect for the natural environment, it’s hard to truly grasp the satisfaction.
Talking about her proudest moments and achievements, Roushanna says she’s been working with local flavours for over 10 years now. It’s a ‘slow and patient process’ she keeps repeating, and yet exciting to see the increased interest and how open and receptive more people are to these crazy flavours. ‘Five years ago it was quite a struggle to introduce people to things like seaweed, which they considered slimy and stinky, asking how can you eat that. But today everybody has a more open sense of awareness and willingness to learn. You see this with the vegan movement and how everybody just wants to do the right thing by means of being more eco-friendly, learning about the environment, getting to know the ecological systems and the way that nature works.’
‘I’m not sure of my impact’ she humbly says, ‘but I am very excited to be able to share the knowledge that I have gained with those people that are willing to discover more about what is around us.’
Born and bred in Cape Town, Roushanna has lived in many parts of Cape Town. Growing up in the suburbs and the city, it was only in her mid-’20s that she moved out to Cape Point, still on the fringe of the city it is more elemental there, and when the wind blows it howls. It’s this sense of wild that she loves, and she’s unlikely to ever move away. There is likely no more beautiful place for her to be bringing up her family.
‘It means the world to me, it is my whole passion and Veld and Sea is an extension of where and how I see Cape Town.’
Personally in terms of her own identity, Roushanna comes from a mixed-race melting pot of a family and as to who she is and where she fits in in Cape Town culturally has at times been difficult. She had often felt a sense of dilution, that was until she found where she belongs and fits in best – a place to live and learn is to learn through the plants and the diverse and wondrous flavour that they bring to her life.