Vitamins are vital for our every day life and the prevention of serious diseases like beriberi, scurvy, rickets and night blindness. Different organisms need different trace organic substances in their diet. Most mammals need the same vitamins as human, with only a few exceptions. One difference is the production of ascorbic acid. Animals synthesise this themselves, but humans can not do so. Plants can synthesise all the organic substances they need.
Vitamins are essential to life as well as good health and it assists in the formation of hormones, blood cells and our nervous systems. It releases energy from food that has been digested and regulates our metabolism. Nothing happens without the assistance of vitamins in our bodies. If we do not have enough vitamins in our bodies, it can lead to a deficiency.
Although organisms can survive for some time without vitamins, prolonged deficiency in any of the vitamins can lead to serious illness and can be potentially deadly. Sometimes the symptoms will not be seen until about a year later (deficiency in vitamin B12 for example), but with vitamins like B1, you will see the symptoms within a couple of weeks.
There are 13 well-identified vitamins that our bodies need and they are divided into 2 groups. Vitamin A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble and can be stored in body fat. You do not need to take these vitamins every single day. Vitamin B complex (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) and vitamin C are all water-soluble. They are not stored in the body, with the exception of vitamin B12 that is stored in the liver. These vitamins need to be taken every single day, because they are lost through urine. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be produced by our bodies, the rest need to be taken in through our diet.
Something important you have to remember when eating foods that contain these vitamins we need, is that light, heat and processing of the food, are all enemies of vitamins and can destroy them. People that smoke and drink alcohol will need to take a vitamin supplement. When you consume a lot of alcohol, it dehydrates your body, preventing absorption of vitamins.
Remember, all the water-soluble vitamins are lost through urine. Smokers have a deficiency specifically in vitamin C, but also others. Remember when you take a supplement, to take the fat-soluble vitamins before meals and the water-soluble vitamins after meals. Most importantly, always ask your doctor or pharmacist before you use any vitamin supplements.
South Africans live from season to season, eating what the earth gives them. A variation in latitude and height above sea level as well as the effect of ocean currents causes a great variety of climatic conditions throughout the country. There are three main rainfall-regions, divided into a winter rainfall in the south western part of the country including the Western Cape, rain all year round along the southern coastal belt and a summer rainfall in the rest of the country.
Rainfall varies between around 125 mm per year along the arid western coast and 1 000 mm a year on the eastern coast. Rainfall is irregular with less than 10% of the country receiving around 750 mm of rain per year. The other 90% receive less than this. The summers in South Africa are very hot with mostly cloudless days, but in the winter, only a few areas are frost-free.
If you travel to South Africa during October to May (mainly) you can go to farms and pick your own fruit. Make sure you check what times they are open so you won’t be disappointed. During November you can watch out for Strawberries. December is the correct month for strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, cherries and peaches. In January you can pick black currents, apricots, cherries, raspberries and strawberries. February is the month for raspberries, strawberries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and apples.
During the fall you can pick raspberries, strawberries, nectarines, peaches and apples and during April you can still pick some strawberries, apples and even grapes.
So when can you expect to buy certain fruits? Don’t be caught out, just take a look at which fruit is in season during the year. Nectarines and plums can be bought from November through to April, while you can enjoy Apricots and Litchis between November and February. Other fruits you can enjoy during the summer months include peaches from October to February, grapes during the months of December to May, melons between January and March and mangoes from December to April.
If you travel to South Africa during the colder months, you can sink your teeth into apples from March to September, oranges during the winter and spring months of April to November and grapefruit between April and September. If you are looking for something more sour, lemons is just the thing for you to get during the months of March to November. Easy peelers are available between April and September and my favourite, avocados, can be enjoyed from March to October of each year.
Guavas can be bought in May while prickly pears are available during January and February. Pears you find most of the year, with the season running from January to October, while pineapples grow in South Africa all year round. If you love cherries, make sure you keep your eyes open. If you close it for too long, you will miss it! Cherry season is a short 6 weeks, between the months of December and the beginning of January.
You can find pretty much most vegetables throughout the year. These include baby marrow, butternut squash, various types of pumpkin, green beans, various other beans, carrots, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, cassava, cabbage, cucumber, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, spinach, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, mealies (white mealies and sweet corn, which is yellow) and many more. Potatoes are grown all over the country, so when one part has a winter rainfall and the other a summer rainfall, they transport the produce to the necessary area.
Mealies are planted during November and harvested during the month of March. As this finishes, the sunflowers and wheat are planted.
Make sure you know which fruits are in season so you know what to look forward to when you travel. All fruit and vegetables are filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals, so make sure you eat lots and lots of it. Enjoy!
South Africa has a very diverse rainfall, allowing many fruits, vegetables and crops to grow throughout the country, all year round. Crops are just one of South Africa’s most important production of food, not only to South Africans, but also the rest of Africa. Of South Africa’s total cultivated area (approximately 10 million hectors), around 36% is planted with maize and 21% has small grains. Oil seeds, sorghum, maize and small grains covers around two thirds of the total arable land.
The most important grain crop for South Africa and the rest of Africa is maize. Maize is a dietary staple for humans, a source of livestock feed and is also used in the production of other foods. Maize is the largest locally produced field crop and is a great source of carbohydrates to both humans and animals. South Africans produce around 8 million metric tons of mealies per year (depending on the rainfall), consumes around 7.5 million metric tons and exports the surplus to countries like Lesotho and Swaziland. More than 600 million metric tons of maize is produced per year world-wide (varies every year).
Maelies are cold-intolerant and therefor need to be planted during the spring season. Its root system is generally shallow, so the plant depends on soil moisture. Maelies are planted during the month of November in South Africa and harvested around March. Because maize is most sensitive to drought, you never know how the crop will do until you see how much it rains. The rains in the summer rainfall area only start around December, so it is difficult to predict if it will rain. Maize is planted before this time, so you have to hope and pray it rains. More than 50% of water in South Africa is used for agricultural purposes.
Grain is the second most important crop and produced in the winter rainfall areas of Western Cape and summer rainfall areas of the North West, Northern Province and the Free State. Free State is currently the highest producer of grain but there are annual fluctuations. Western Cape is the most stable production area due to the more dependable rainfall. It is usually grown during the frost-free season.
Sorghum is another very important grain for South Africa and is cultivated in the drier parts of the summer rainfall areas of Free State as well as in the North-West with yields often exceeding 200 000 tons. Sorghum is slender with leafy stems and grows up to 3 meters high on a variety of soils in areas with around 600 mm of rain per year. It is drought and heat tolerant and cultivated primarily for hay. An average temperature of around 25°C produces maximum grain yields in a given year.
Sorghum is native to Southern Africa and has been used since prehistoric times for food as well as brewing purposes. This is also used in packaging materials for sensitive equipment and is made into excellent wall boards for house building.
Lucerne seed is also very important and is mainly produced in Oudtshoorn, De Rust and Douglas. Oudtshoorn alone is responsible for around 90% of the lucerne seed produced in South Africa today. Around 100 to 120 lucerne bales per hectare can be produced every three weeks, as long as enough water is available. Make sure lucerne is planted during the rainfall season.South Africa produces a large variety of crops, fruit and vegetables and is able to provide in their people’s needs, with enough remaining to export high quality produce to the international market.
Namaqualand is located north of the fertile and prospering Cape Peninsula. It is bordered in the south by a small town called Garies, the east by the arid Pofadder, in the north by the mighty Orange River and in the west, it reaches the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.
This is an arid, dry semi-desert located in south-western Africa and extends more than 600 miles along the west coast. To get to this area, you first need to drive through the Swartland (named after it’s rich black soil) which is filled with healthy wheat fields, over the Olifants River Mountains into a valley, dense of citrus farms. North of this, you will encounter the extremely dry and harsh wilderness of Namaqualand where life is just to dry for anything to grow, or so you would think!
But after a short winter’s rainy season, a miracle occurs. This dry arid strip of desert on the west coast of South Africa, is transformed into an amazing rainbow wonderland of beauty, displaying desert wildflowers. The countless wildflowers spread over the wide plains like a very colourful carpet to mark the start of spring (August-October, depending on the rains). Most of these flowers belong to the different species of daisies.
These groups of flowers have no equal anywhere else on earth. Packed into this area is more that 3000 different plant species of which 40% are endemic, found nowhere else on earth. Thousands of tourists flock to this area during this time of the year to witness the stunning celebration of spring. Within 2 months, the season changes again, bringing dry and hot sunny days with scorching winds which turns this area back into it’s desert appearance.
This area is also rich in wildlife, anything from mammals, insects and reptiles to amphibians and great bird life. You will also find the rare bat-earned fox and even see the blue head lizard.
The Northern Cape is a very harsh world. The sun is extremely warm, baking the ground so it is rock hard. There is very high unemployment and poverty, but the people that were born here, has a great love of their place of birth. You can’t help but fall in love with this amazing place.
Botanists make trips to Namaqualand the same time each year for research or just the experience. Many rare species of succulents are found here, and many wish to study them.
Namaqualand is also valuable from a mineral point in history. Simon van der Stel sank a shaft in 1685 near Springbok and discovered copper here. This shaft still stands as a national monument together with the copper smelting chimney built in 1866.
Namaqualand is beautiful, a rare paradise. Beauty that has to be seen by the naked eye. No brush or camera can capture this amazing experience…
The food from South Africa is as diverse as the people that live there, influenced by many countries and cultures over the centuries. They have been able to combine all the great ingredients introduced to the country and making it their one, UNIQUE. Nothing tastes as great as South African food! Maybe I am just bias, but why not try it and judge for yourself.
One big influence on the choice of food must be the two bordering oceans, the Atlantic and Indian. Seafood plays a very important role in any diet and can be enjoyed in a great variety of ways. Shell fish, rock lobster, crayfish, salt cod, kingklip and snoek (a pickled fish) are only a few of the great dishes enjoyed very often. They can be served with onions, lemon butter, chili peppers or a great curry. The crayfish are best served braised with onions and chilies and snoek must be barbecued.
If you are looking for variety, you won’t be disappointed!South African cuisine caters for all and no matter what you prefer, you will find something on the menu to suit your taste. The food is both elegant and glows with simplicity. If you are looking for a main course and you are not a seafood lover, don’t worry. Look at the following choices and see what you like the look of.
On the top of the menu is the great Afrikaner “hoenderpastei“, or chicken pie, inspired by the British pastries, but totally different and unique. This is a pastry pot, filled with chicken, sauce, bacon, green pepper and other “secret” ingredients with a pastry top, baked until light brown and crispy in a medium hot oven.
If you are looking for lamb or beef, try the great bobotie from the Boere. This is a great dish, inspired by spices from the Malay slaves with onions, raisins and topped with a custard, comprising of egg and milk. This is usually served with yellow rice, banana, blatjang and coconut. Make sure to include a great vegetable side dish.
Maybe the warm sunshine is too inviting and you are looking to spend your days outside! If you are, you should definitely try a potjiekos, also a Boer dish. Throwing all the ingredients in a cast iron pot, letting the vegetables cook in the meat’s sauces for many, many hours. You can bake a “potbrood” (a lovely bread) at the same time, by placing the dough in another cast iron pot over the coals.
If the potjiekos is not for you, then why not try a braai (barbecue). Put some “boerewors” (a great seasoned sausage made from beef), steak, sosaties (marinated meat on skewers) and braaidroodjies (toasted sandwiches) on the fire outside in your backyard. This is the way to live! Serve with potato salad and away you go.
Frikkadelle, basically small beef patties, are greatly seasoned and taste magnificent, being served with salads and vegetables. If you are looking for very warm and comfort food, try a bredie. The most popular is a tomato or water lily bredie or stew. This is an all in one stew comprising of vegetables and mutton, with the juices from both, flavouring each other.
Bunny chow (curry stuffed in a hollow out loaf of bread) and curries have become very popular because of the Indian influence and you can buy sweet, mild or hot curries, mostly serve with atjar (pickles) and blatjang. Blatjang is chutney, and served with EVERYTHING. All you have to do is cook local fruits with garlic, chilly peppers and onions to mention just a few ingredients.
Local vegetables and fruit play a very important role in the daily diet. Tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, mealies, green beans, sweet potatoes, spinach and pumpkin are the most loved by everyone. Sweet potato and pampoenkoekies (little pumpkin cookies, or fritters) are greatly loved dishes, served with cinnamon sugar or a sweet syrup. After your great main course, you have to enjoy desserts, snacks and drinks, but that will be discussed in the next article.
To be a guest in a South African home is a great experience. They pride themselves on hospitality, making sure you are well fed, making you feel at home at all times and creating an everlasting experience you will never, ever forget.
The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site located about 50 km (45 minutes drive) northwest of Johannesburg South Africa in the Gauteng Province. It was first named by UNESCO in 1999 and occupies about 47 000 hectares of land mostly privately owned. It contains a complex of a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves where the 2.3 million-year-old fossil (Australopithecus africanus, nicknamed “Mrs Ples”) was found in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom and John Robinson.
The Sterkfontein Caves are located within the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve and was donated to the University of Witwatersrand by the Stegmann Family, which was mainly responsible for the excavation of this World Heritage Site. A section of the caves is open to the public and there is a gravel platform from where you can view the excavation site. You will also find a tea-room and small museum where information and significant findings are displayed. There are many things to enjoy whether you are a tourist, local or overseas, or a school group wanting to learn more.
The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago. As the reefs died, they were transformed into limestone which were much later converted into dolomite. At least 7 of the 12 sites have yielded hominid remains. Together these caves have produced over 850 hominid fossil remains. To date it represents one of the world’s richest concentrations of fossil hominid sites. These sites provide us with a window into the past, a time when our earliest ancestors lived.
Other caves include Swartkrans about 1.5 km north west of the Sterkfontein Caves. The oldest controlled use of fire was discovered here and dated back to over 1 million years ago! The roof of the Plover’s Lake located north east of Sterkfonein Caves disintegrated due to erosion and faunal remains were discovered including antelope and extinct Zebra.
Kromdraai is 1.5 km north of the Sterkfontein caves and current excavations are being carried out. The Wonder Cave chamber has a volume on 46 000 m and is about 2.2 million years old. It contains drip stone formations just like in the Cango Caves. Bolt’s Farm is 2.5 km south west of Sterkfontein and discoveries from this site include fossil elephant, pig and antelope.
Coopers is 1.25 km from Sterkfonein and became the third South African cave to yield hominid fossil when a single ape-man molar tooth was found in 1938. Gladysvale includes three underground caves and it yielded a wolf skeleton as well as the skull of a giant hyena. Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand discovered the first hominid specimens from here in 1991 which makes this the first new early hominid site discovered in South Africa in 48 years. Discoveries were also made at Hassgat and Gondolin.
This is a great place where you can escape to for a holiday or just a day trip. Enjoy a lovely day out or the magnificent experience of staying over for a few days.
The Cango Caves is located 26 km north of Oudtshoorn in die Little Karoo, a very warm part of the Western Cape Province. The Cango Caves is a breathtaking underground wonderland and is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, sculptured by nature itself through the ages. These limestone formations in many different colours were formed over millions of years. The exact time it takes in making these many formations depends on the supply of both water and carbon dioxide
In 1780 a farmer named Van Zyl discovered the caves and lowered himself into the darkness with very poor light of self made candles showing him where to go. He braved the pitch darkness lowering himself 10 meters down into the first chamber, which is about 98 meters long, 49 meters wide and 15 meters high. Stalagmites and stalactites glow everywhere.
The Cango Caves was declared a natural monument in 1938 and one of the caves were opened for tourists. The first chamber was named after Van Zyl, the farmer that discovered this cave. The chamber consists of a variation of dripstone formations including Cleopatra’s Needle (9 meters high and at least 150 000 years old). The roof is a wonderful dark grey with its smoothly sculptured hollows and pendants.
In the second chamber called Cango One you can see a completed column which is about 0.5 meters in diameter and 125 meters high from the ground to the ceiling in the middle of the chamber. Some areas of the cave are so low that you have to bent your knees to walk. The route continues via Jacob’s ladder, stairs that lead to the top, over a chamber that leads to a group of smaller chambers. Here you have to climb a steep ladder that leads to a small hole where you have to crawl through on your hands and knees. At the end you have to sail on your stomach through a letterbox. This is a great experience for those that feel adventurous!
In 1972 three professional cave guides broke through to the second cave and name this Cango Two. An indescribable fairytale world that stretches another 270 meters. In 1975 another extension of about 1 600 meters were discovered and is known as Cango Three. Both Cango Two and Three is not open to the public so its pure crystal beauty can be preserved and protected. The colours are as beautiful and bright as it was when first discovered.
One negative consequence of Cango One being developed and opened to the public is that warm air breathed out by tourists has caused the bright colours to fade over the years. The temperature in the Caves is a warm and humid 18°C.
You can watch a documentary program about Cango Two and Three when you visit the caves. Even though you are not allowed in, you can still experience it …
The highlight of South African living is the breakfast, desserts, snacks and drinks. Easy to please anyone. Breakfast varies between “mieliepap” and “beskuit”. “Mieliepap” is the same consistency as polenta and served with a teaspoon of sugar, butter and milk. A great creamy and healthy breakfast to see you through the morning hours. “Beskuit” is rusks, dough baked in the oven, broken apart and then places back in the oven to dry out. The perfect breakfast, specially for those living on farms, is home made rusks, dunked into your morning coffee. If you are more of a tea lover, try the great local herbal tea called “rooibos”
During the morning you can chew on some “biltong” which is salty dried meat or “droëwors”, which is dried sausage. You can not watch any rugby or cricket match without this salty snack. By now it is time for more coffee served with banana, ginger of mealie bread, smeared with butter. Mealie bread is a sweet bread, baked with sweet corn. You will probably wonder why we have such an obsession with mealies? Well, mealies basically are Africa’s staple food. We use it to make breakfast, bread, crisps (or chips) and many more.
After you finish this, it is time for your main meal of the day. And then the BEST course arrives, the dessert. Most puddings are baked pies served with custard and ice cream or a special sauce. Malva pudding is one of the old time favourites, a great, sweet tasting spongy apricot dessert with a lovely sweet sauce. Cottage pudding is a type of cake pudding served with a special white wine sauce.
If you prefer a colder dessert, this is the place to be. Enjoy a fresh fruit salad with ice cream, made from local seasonal fruit. The most famous fruits are grapes, apples, naartjies (a type of tangerine), peaches, apricots, mangoes, melons and many more. There is nothing more refreshing than a fresh fruit salad. If you like ice cream, there are special treats in store for you as well. Try the watermelon or papaya flavoured ice cream in a cone or on its own.
As a special treat, why not try a Dom Pedro? This is ice cream with a little drop of milk and a shot of your favourite whiskey of liqueur. Try Amarula liqueur, made from the potent marula fruit or van der Hum liqueur, made from fresh naartjies. This is a treat you should not pass on.
Later the afternoon you can enjoy some “koeksisters”, a very sweet delicacy. Afrikaans “koeksisters” are twisted pastries, deep fried and then sweetened with a very sweet sauce. Another favourite of mine is “ystervarkies”, a sponge cake, dunked in a home made chocolate sauce, rolled in coconut! Doesn’t that just sound magnificent?
If you prefer something less sweet, try the “melktert” (milk tart). This is a milk-based tart, absolutely gorgeous if you eat it warm, just as it is made. If you want something savoury, try the “souttert” (savoury tart) consisting mostly of vienna sausages, cheese, onions, herbs and egg.
For the evening you can enjoy one the best known foods, “vetkoek”. This is a treat. You can enjoy “vetkoek” in three ways. Dunk it in your tea, butter with syrup and cheese or stuffed with curry mince. No matter which one you choose, you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something smaller, try the“plaatkoekies” (almost like crumpets) served with marmite or syrup or maybe try some pancakes with cinnamon sugar?
During the day you will never go thirsty. If you like warm drinks, there are the many varieties of strong coffees, regular tea, “rooibos” tea, hot chocolate and my favourite, milo. This is a great drink filled with vitamins and minerals, made with warm or cold milk. If you prefer cold drinks, try the various ice teas and fruit juices. Guava, orange, grinadella, fruit cocktail, grape, peach, pear, apple, apricot and mango are only a few choices you have in fruit juices. Guava and mango must be two of the most loved choices.
If you are looking for a bottle of wine to accompany you meals, there are hundreds of local Cape wines to choose from. You will be spoilt for choice. Make sure you try as much as you can and enjoy the hospitality while you are visiting the rainbow country, South Africa.
These are only a few of the great traditional South African recipes you can try. You will need a long time to try them all. Enjoy!
“Plaatkoekies” taste absolutely great. It is very easy to make and everyone will love it. It will be an instant hit with young and old. It tastes best when it is served with marmite or golden syrup. If you feel like treating yourself, add a spoon full of cream on top. You have to try this!
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
2 cups of flour
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1. Beat the milk and egg together.
2. Add the sugar and beat well.
3. Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder together and add.
4. Let the mixture stand for 1/2 hour.
5. Place spoons full of the mixture into warm oil and fry on both sides. Turn the “plaatkoekies” over when air bubbles form on the top.
6. Spread a little bit of butter on top and add marmite or syrup.
This recipe is easy and tastes brilliant. Go ahead and try it yourself!
Melkkos is seker een van my gunsteling resepte. Dit is lekker om te eet en baie maklik om te maak. Al wat jy nodig het is melk, botter, meel en sout en daar gaan jy! Vir my is die belangrikste egter die kaneerlsuiker. Ek is MAL oor kaneelsuiker en eet dit oor enige kos. Dit is heerlik, jy moet dit probeer!
2 eetlepels harde botter or margarine
1 koppie koekmeel
‘n knippie sout
2 1/2 koppies melk