Becoming a locavore

Herbs in my garden

Project 90’s staff April Carbon Challenge: all your food to come from within a 50km radius of where you live for 24 hours.

My husband, Richard, and I did the monthly carbon challenge over the weekend. I was quite excited about it as I realised that I actually have no idea where most of our food comes from and I was interested to find out. Most packaging just states the head office address of say Nestle, Tiger Brands etc.

We decided to invite some friends who also live in Observatory, (so as not to complicate the 50km radius) for dinner so we set out on Saturday morning to look for ingredients.

First stop was Fargo’s, about 2kms away from our house, where we usually buy our dry foods (lentils, pasta, spices etc). But we found out that all their food comes from India! This is a pity as I like supporting this independent local family business, which has been operating since the 60’s. It is also loads cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay/Spar etc.

Next stop was another of our regular places, Madiera Fruit and Veg, around 3kms from us on Albert Road in Salt River. All their fruit and veg comes from the Epping market, which is serviced by local farms in the greater Cape Town area (I was unable to find out the exact kilometres of each of the farms though). Not only is Madiera one of the cheapest places to buy fruit and veg, nothing is packaged so you can throw your loose fruit and veg into your reusable shopping bag and leave the shop without a scrap of plastic! The potatoes are still covered in sand, cabbages still with their outer leaves on. It really does have that “straight from the farm” feel.  We stocked up on an assortment of veggies for our dinner that evening.

Next stop was the Biscuit Mill for breakfast. We got there early so that I could ask the vendors about where their food comes from. In the end it turned out to be very difficult indeed. Although everything there is organic, not much is local. Local cheeses had imported vegetable rennet from Italy, locally made chocolate was made from cacao beans from Equadore. We did find some Cape Town made gingerbeer and delicious mushroom kebabs (grown in Stellenbosch) and had a Panini with veg grown in Malmesbury and the bread made in Silverstone. But the majority of the stall owners were unable to tell us where they sourced their ingredients from, and how far they had travelled.

We were unfortunately not able to use much from our garden as the growing season has just ended so all our winter veggies are still seedlings. The allotment has no water as the installing of a tap is taking longer than was anticipated, so there is not much growing there.

The dinner party: for starters we had roasted aubergines with cheese from Fairveiw (bought at Pick and Pay) and basil from the garden. Main course was baked pumpkin (grown on the allotment) and other roasted vegetables from Madiera Fruit and Veg. Rosemary and chillies were from our garden. (I used the Goedgedacht Olive oil, around 80kms from CT – we could not find anything made closer) For desert we had granadilla sorbet (from our very own granadilla vine!). We bought some Durbanville Hills wine and then, I know this is a bit if a cheat but when we found it I was so excited. Bain’s whiskey, locally produced and bottled whiskey! (Bain’s Kloof is around 80kms away). If you are a whiskey drinker you should give it a try – really delicious. We also made a loaf of bread, with snowflake flower (the mill is in Salt River). Our dinner guests, Bronwyn & Juan, picked some pretty flowers from their garden for the table and brought a bottle of wine from Spier.

Another cheat I’m afraid was coffee. Being slightly hungover on Saturday morning I really needed a cup. A quick check of our instant coffee revealed that it is from Columbia (something which I had not known) but luckily we had some Beaver Creek, proper ground coffee left over from our wedding which is Fair Trade and made in KZN (brought down by Richard’s parents) so although it was not 50kms I figured KZN was better than Columbia! Our milk that we buy is the Sonnendal Free Range and their dairy is in Cape Town – I couldn’t find out where the cows graze though.

The next morning we had our home-made bread with some num-num jam made by our neighbour, Reuben. (num nums are a local berry that grows around Observatory and is quite delicious)

All in all a very interesting exercise, and quite surprising at how difficult it actually was to find out where our food comes. Also, the realisation that you can’t have everything, you always need to choose.. Do you choose unpackaged food which isn’t organic? Or do you pick organic even though it isn’t local? Do you support your local family business where the products are imported or a supermarket chain where the products are local?

Local, organic, fair trade, packaged, unpackaged, free range, … the choices are endless. But I think the most important thing is that we are making choices. Instead of blindly buying things, making an informed consumer choice about something that is important to you is a great way to start our journey to that 90%!



4 responses to “Becoming a locavore

  1. Nancy Newby-Walker

    I absolutely love this post! I found it particularly interesting because we grow our own veg and because I’m a bit of a foodie! I had no idea what a great writer you are Olivia. I’ll get Rob to read this.

    Well done

  2. I have been a fan of the 100 mile diet for quite some time. You can Google their website. In North America we have had to adjust to eating seasonal veggies/fruits instead of imported by air produce (airplanes are such large contributor of greenhouse gases)
    Great article…most consumers don’t stop to consider all that you mentioned

  3. I do read labels. We mostly shop at Woolworths. I will choose South African (more info is not on their labels), or African (Zimbabwe, Zambia, had sugarsnap peas from North Africa – but that goes too far). I also prefer to get organic, or Farming for the Future. It is disconcerting to pick up something ordinary – apricot jam say – and because it is organic it comes from Canada. For a while our onions were coming from Holland?!

  4. Wow Olivia, really interesting post! Well done. I am going to see if I can rise to the challenge here in Gdansk.
    Agata 🙂

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