We finished our interview with Roushanna Gray and feel so inspired to go back to the wild and learn to identify, harvest and cook wild edibles that freely grow and live in our local landscape. To suggest that this awe-inspiring busy lady has many strings to her bow would be a massive understatement. In no specific order, Roushanna is a professional forager, weed eater, business owner and a mother of two. Her company, Veld and Sea (@veldandsea) offers foraging, fermentation, botanical cocktail and fire workshops and nature inspired craft classes. Roushanna studies, picks, eats and shares her foraging knowledge on a daily basis. Here, she tells us all about what inspired her to create Veld and Sea, how she mixes indigenous plants with foods, her self-care philosophy and much more.
Tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up, what your family life was like and where you lived.
I was born and bred in Cape Town, and was lucky enough to attend a Waldorf School where creativity, art and crafts are encouraged from a very young age. I grew up with two younger sisters ( who are now incredibly talented women that I am supremely proud of (@evenmynamewastaken) and (@ilundi_designs) in a creative artistic home environment with a multi cultural kaleidoscope of a family. Food played an important role in the various family gatherings and traditional celebrations, and the best conversations and interactions were always to be found in the kitchen.
Tell us more about Veld and Sea-a magic place dedicated to sustainable cookery and the art of foraging ingredients – Have you always been passionate about nature, the study of plants and foraging?
Veld and Sea was created by myself, slowly and organically developing over 12 years from a combined love of cooking and nature, and a lot of good old fashioned hard work. It was a hobby that got out of control in a wildly delicious way! I knew nothing about plants before I settled in Cape Point. I started out by running a tiny tea garden to service the indigenous plant nursery where I live and work, and when I was pregnant with my first child I served wild herbal teas and cakes with my baby in a wrap. By the time I had my second child, I felt my wild edible education and experience in the field was solid enough to start sharing, so the tea garden door closed and the workshop doors opened. I have been teaching interactive and immersive wild food workshops since 2013. Currently Veld and Sea offers seasonal and sustainable foraging classes, workshops and collaborative nature inspired events throughout the year, tracking the seasons through our edible landscape. I also rent out the beautiful event spaces to outside teachers, private events and for photo shoots.
Can you explain to our readers what exactly is foraging?
Foraging is a lost art or forgotten practice of gathering food from the wild. The knowledge of the oceans tides and the moon phases, of being in tune with the rhythm of the seasons, plant identification, ecology and a love of food all play an important role in foraging.
What was the inspiration behind creating Veld and Sea?
There were many inspirations. At the beginning of this wild journey, I always wanted to share my passion for everything that I was learning and experiencing around me in the edible landscape, but not quite sure how. The first “aha” spark was seeing the way my kids interacted with food ingredients after they themselves had foraged, harvested, and helped prepare and create a meal themselves. They were more likely to eat these new wild ingredients because of the connection and pride that resulted from this experience. This quickly translated into multi sensory workshop offerings where participants were actively involved in creating wild flavors into food with a familiar context, infusing a personal story into the meals.
Which kind of indigenous plants excite you most? How do you mix them with foods
Every season has something delicious on offer so it all depends on the season. Currently now in winter my favorite is Veldkool (asparagus-like flower buds) and wild mushrooms. These two ingredients simply fried up in a bit of garlic, butter and wild herbs are just mouth watering! The less your food has to travel, the healthier and tastier it is – foraged food ticks not only these boxes but they are also organic and seasonally perfect for your body nutritionally. As a chef or a cook, wild ingredients are a delight to work with.
Tell us about your proudest moments
Knowing that my children have a strong understanding of where their food comes from. My first public speech in front of hundreds of people. I am proud of myself for the decisions and sacrifices I have made to lead this life I love.
What have been your biggest achievements so far?
Early this year I won two local awards which was humbling and overwhelmingly exciting all at once. I have also been honoured to feature in some amazing projects like Cape Town Legends and The Botanist Gin “Wild a state of mind” mini series.
What advise(s) would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Live your passion and Education is key! Our biggest teacher is nature so get outside and start exploring. Read the books, do the research and don’t be afraid of good old fashioned hard work.
What is your most inspiring season?
Every season offers its own unique inspiration.
What are some of your daily inspirations, challenges and rewards?
I am lucky enough to live in close proximity to wild open spaces, both mountains and the ocean. It is from here that I draw my inspiration. Challenges faced are time management and the pressures of being a working mother. Rewards are triple-fold! The freedom of being my own boss, feedback from workshop participants, watching an event come to life and living a nature inspired lifestyle.
What do you find is the hardest challenge balancing your work and personal life?
Exactly that – trying to chase after that possibly mythical “balance” in life. Working from home, where work is also part of my lifestyle, the lines quickly become blurred when it comes to separating personal space and work life. Unplugging and spending quality time with my family or jumping in the ocean is the perfect antidote to stepping over those lines.
What is your self-care philosophy?
Scheduled time off – its a beautiful thing! And its taken me ages to figure it out. When I can, I plan weekends off in advance (I work most weekends), and block off days for spending time in nature to recharge. Eating well, exercise and lots of sleep and free time makes me feel like me again. Self care, personally, is also spending time with friends, my family, art, music, reading and rest. Herbal facemasks, cat napping and surf dates.
Take us through an average day in the life, the first thing you do in the morning through to the last thing you do at night.
Everyday is so variable, if its an event day in the week, a “normal” day looks something like this: Wake up at 6am, stretch, the whirlwind of getting kids ready for school, breakfast and the school run. Head down to the Veld and Sea cabin for event prep with the other facilitators – picking wild herbs, making a fire, setting up food and the space and a pre event meeting. Host the workshop or experience with an educational introduction, an interactive foraging session, and cooking together as a group. After the guests leave, we clean up and set down. In the late afternoon I will either walk the dogs, or swim if its summer, or do some admin. Back at home its picking supper ingredients from the garden, assisting with kids homework while myself or my husband Tom makes the evening meal, and then we all sit down at the dinner table and chat about our day. After the kids bedtime, I catch up with Tom, read a book in a puddle of dogs and a cup of tea, and then fall into bed around 11pm.
What does your perfect day look like?
Spending the whole day in the nature reserve or up the coast with friends, family, a big picnic, and all the ocean gear.
I shy away from confrontation, and am terrible with replying to my whatsapp messages!
Something you can’t live without?
Something to look forward to, someone to love, something to do.
What is next for you?
Right now we are in the building stages of creating a new venue space with upcycled material. Its a creative challenge as we are building it slowly with what we have, but I think the finished space is going to be gorgeous.
Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to talk about?
Veld and Seas workshops often book up way in advance, but not a lot of people know that if you get a group of friends together we also offer private experiences from pop up meals to flower workshops, foraging experiences and even bridal showers and team builds. Keep a look out for our new event space launching this spring!
Sweet or Savoury? Savoury
Hot or cold? Hot
Lips or Eyes? Eyes
Smoothie or Juice? Smoothie
Yoga or Pilates? Yoga
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Favorite movie ever? Stealing Beauty, Life Aquatic, Amelie
Describe yourself as a person in 3 words Curious, creative, capable
Favorite restaurant in Cape Town Ever changing, but currently and close to home Blended Cafe for day time healthy food. Further afield it has to be Wolfgat for wild food perfection
What’s on your cell phone playlist at the moment (3-5 favourites)?
Roma Fade – Andrew Bird
Cherry Bomb – Dan Auerbach
Dreams – The Electric Peanut Butter Company
Milk and Honey – Holly Cook
One book you read that positively shaped you? Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver
Favorite Tv show? I dont watch TV, But I do have Netflix! Currently watching Street Food and The Evolution of Hip Hop
One superpower you would like to have? The ability to breathe underwater
Best gift you have ever received? My children
Curated by Ségo Elliott
Veld & Sea