Foraging for Wild Mussels in South Africa
A 90-minute drive from Cape Town in the Cape Winelands region, the all-inclusive, 11-room Birkenhead House overlooks the whale-watching haven of Walker Bay. Aside from lounging in the cliffside pool spotting wave-riding surfers and breaching humpbacks, guests can go foraging for wild mussels with the property’s chef. Small groups of up to six guests spend 2.5 hours hunting African brown mussels (Imbaza) and European mussels (bay mussels), and then learn how to cook them in a hands-on class.
The search involves scaling a short cliff to the rocky coastline where the burred shellfish hide among crashing waves. The gastronomic prep takes place in the property’s kitchen, incorporating local ingredients while discussing the history of South African cuisine and the Cape Malay influence. A multicourse meal follows. “Mussel picking and coastal foraging draw attention to the smaller details of the marine environment—offering insights such as which seaweeds are best to use in which dishes, what flavors and textures will enhance a dish,” says Executive Chef Oliver Coetzee. “The best time for foraging wild mussels is during the winter, as they tend to be plumper. Larger mussels are often found lower down on the rocks, closer to the waterline.” theroyalportfolio.com