Tuesday, November 07, 2017

DUNE SPINACH… THE REVIVAL?

You might want to get your laughing gear around some of that                                                                                      UHG
I have been growing and chomping New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia Tetragonoides) for years, but silly me has only recently got into savouring one of its close cousins, dune spinach (*Tetragonia Decumbens). It grows on the sandy parts of the coast from Southern Namibia to the Eastern Cape. It’s crazy, yet typical of the global world we live in, that I should know about the foreign variety before my local one; the one I pass nearly every time I skip down to the water’s edge for surf.

New Zealand spinach (Tertragonia Tertragonoides)                                                                                                           UHG
Dune spinach (Tetragonia Decumbes), New Zealand spinach's first cousin                                                                     UHG
No doubt the ‘real’ Hunter Gatherers of millennia gone by, the indigenous people living on the southern tip of Africa were munching dune spinach, as did the early colonialists. In more recent times it has been replaced by the conventional greens we see in the supermarkets… eventually it became all but forgotten. Nowadays, due to the foraging trend and a greater public environmental consciousness, our good old dune spinach is making a bit of a come back.

A free bowl of goodness                                                                                                                                                            UHG
People like fellow forager and wild food innovator, Loubie Rusch has been on a mission. Her pilot food garden, The Peace Garden, situated on the bleak and sandy Cape Flats (where not many common edible plants grow) is part of her drive to get more people eating indigenous foods. This makes complete sense! Because, apart from reducing food miles and therefore the carbon footprint, local plants such as dune spinach are water wise, pest resistant and don’t need fertilisers.

Remember to wash the dune spinach thoroughly, unless you like it full of grit                                                        UHG
It is pleasing that more and more people know about it. I have even seen bags of it for sale at a trendy Cape Town food market. Ironically, no more than fifty meters from that same market, is where I forage most of my personal supply, but don’t tell anybody though… it’s our little secret.

Dune spinach is vital for stabilising the sand dunes, so when foraging it is important not to uproot any plants, so stick to picking just the tips and leaves.

Delectable winter treats right on our doorstep                                                                                                                      UHG
A good start to cooking with it is to substitute ‘normal’ spinach/chard with our amazingly-fantastically-delicious-nutritious dune spinach.

*Plants are not like us humans, they like to have their surnames put first.

Here is a little SPANAKOPITA recipe to get you going

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

2 double handfuls of spinach leaves (in this case dune spinach)
1 onion chopped
1 egg
1 grating of nutmeg
1 sprig of chopped herbs (in this case wild sage, oregano is good too)
200g of ricotta or feta (in this case ‘fake feta’)
4 sheets of phyllo pastry cut in half
50g melted butter or 50ml of olive oil
A glug of olive oil for frying
1 salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
In a large frying pan on medium heat, fry the onions until soft.  Add the herbs, nutmeg and spinach.  Place a lid on the mix, while turning occasionally until the spinach is wilted and dramatically reduced in size. Allow to cool.

Once cooled, squeeze out excess fluids (I do this in the pan angled over the sink by pressing the spinach with the back of a large serving spoon). Now thoroughly mix in the cheese and egg.  Season with salt and pepper (if you are using feta, be careful with the salt, because dune spinach is salty too). Your filling is now done… scoop it into an appropriate sized baking dish and lightly flatten.
Cut four sheets of phyllo pastry in half and brush with melted butter/olive oil. Loosely crunch each greased pastry sheet and place on top of the spinach mix in the baking dish… repeat until the dish is covered in phyllo pastry. Pop into the oven and bake until the pastry is golden, about half an hour.

Chomp and enjoy.

What you'll need. I made a double portion, which explains two eggs, not one                                                             UHG      

A simple homemade cheese in the making                                                                                                                         UHG
The curds ready for a little session in an improvised press                                                                                             UHG
And there it is…                                                                                                                                                                         UHG
The egg binds the spinach mix together                                                                                                                               UHG
Keeping in the  Greek vibe, I brushed this one phyllo sheets with olive oil                                                                     UHG
Loosely place greased phyllo sheets like wet rags on the  spinach mix                                                                         UHG
I was rather pleased with that little creation                                                                                                                 Nic Good

For more about Loubie please refer to her blog  makingkos.blogspot.com/

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