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Dune vegetation behind Langstrand in Paternoster and in the distance is Kasteelberg.

A few weekends ago myself and a group of friends got together and with the generous guidance and knowledge of local, Hedwig Slabig, we gathered edible strandkos, then prepped and cooked it together.

For more than 95% of the last 100 000 years, most of the inhabitants all over the world had a hunting and gathering way of life. For the two months (August & September) that follow winter approximately 250,000 hunter/gatherers would make the temporarily abundant dunes of Paternoster below Kasteelberg their home, forage for food and leave behind interesting clues to their nomadic lives. There are many middens (refuse heaps) buried in layers of sand dotted all over Paternoster that reveal much about this culture and time.

We combed the dunes for *piet snots* which have pale carrot like tubers, nibbled the sour/citrusy wild sorrel and munched the nutlike potato bush/kiesie blaar pods that are left over after the flowers finish blooming. Some of the interesting edibles we identified, tasted and collected included dune spinach, tulbaghia (wild garlic), milk thistle, slangbessiebos (cousin to Goji berry), veldkool, sout slaai, boetabessies and spekboom.

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Then we scrubbed, chopped and sauteed together in Hedwig’s kitchen. Finally sitting down around her large dining table to share a well-deserved lunch. The flavours are unusual, more earthy and delicate than our palates are used to. An open minded attitude and curious spirit are essential.

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It was a great day spent with friends and I was reminded of the importance of community. The hunter-gatherer societies  centred around this strong sense of shared co-operation and it certainly felt like we experienced some of this spirit as we laughed, learned and cooked, the way women have been doing together since forever.

Footnote* Foraging, seasonal produce, sustainability and slow-food are buzz words in the culinary world at the moment. The good news is that there is a wonderful way to experience this trend in Paternoster. We are fortunate to have one of the maverick foraging chefs, Kobus van der Merwe, right here. In September he opened a wonderful new restaurant called Wolfgat that has our town and foodies from all over the world very excited. Lunch and dinner are  served by appointment only. Reservations can be made via email diewolfgat@gmail.com

Written by Fran Hepburn for Stay in Paternoster