EXPLORING THE CAPE FYNBOS EXPERIENCE WITH GISELLE COURTNEY
We enter the pride of the Cape Floral Kingdom with Giselle Courtney of the Cape Fynbos Experience, and see amazing fynbos-based products such as teas and more.
While Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain is perhaps the more well-recognised sight, it’s less commonly known that this mighty icon overlooks one of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The Cape Floral Kingdom, as it is called, is one of the richest areas in the world for plant biodiversity. For Giselle Courtney, this lush setting provides the canvas to explore the Cape’s rich botanical heritage.
Under Giselle’s stewardship, the Cape Town Fynbos Experience distils the best of 7000 fynbos species into tastings, apothecary workshops as well as a culinary and homeware range.
“The Cape floral kingdom is the smallest of 6 floral kingdoms in the world, but it is the most diverse”, says Giselle. “There are about 9000 species of plants in the kingdom, of which they estimate around 7000 to be fynbos species. Fynbos is ancient, indigenous vegetation.”
Among sights and tastes well-known to South Africans, the King Protea and Rooibos tea are just two species of the plant family known as fynbos.
For Giselle, the Cape Town experience originated out of a drive to uncover the answer to the question, ‘what is uniquely South African?’ The answer Giselle found lies within the Cape’s fynbos vegetation, which is already providing new aromas and culinary advantage.
Having grown up on the slopes of Table Mountain, Giselle later spent some of her scholarly time at the University of Cape Town as a tour guide on Cape Town’s iconic peak, where she became enamoured with fynbos and later incorporated the metaphor behind the family into her corporate diversity training.
While local knowledge of fynbos vegetation has typically been found in oral history, Giselle’s mission is to share traditional knowledge in a contemporary form – making new flavours accessible, and all the while promoting the natural health benefits of fynbos products in a variety of settings.
“I think people are becoming aware of the resources… Fynbos is very unexplored. To make it available through a botanical heritage project is perhaps the best ways to introduce the information, values, and properties and bring it to the mainstream”, says Giselle.
A large number of fynbos species are in danger of becoming extinct thanks to invading plant species – which makes the conservation and promotion of fynbos all the more important.
Under the Cape Town Fynbos Experience, Giselle has launched fynbos tastings which merge in both informing customers and delighting their taste buds with what she calls a ‘tactile experience.’
Additionally, the experience is heightened further through Apothecary Workshops which experiment with the essence of fynbos through small batches of essential oils. There’s even a culinary and homeware range, as well as an edible fynbos exhibit where guests can delight on products such as fynbos shortbread, cordials, and seasoning salts – giving new life and exposure to this amazing plant family, both locally and abroad.