Vegetables: A Love Story


This is the start of our new series, Vegetables: A Love Story. We will be presenting one vegetable to our line of chefs from Relais & Châteaux Africa and asking them to concoct a unique dish that features it. The purpose? To inspire new ways of thinking about everyday produce and to encourage healthy eating, conscious eating, and good eating. And because we love vegetables.

Vegetable. From the Medieval Latin vegetabilis, meaning “growing, flourishing”, or in Late Latin, “to be enlivening, quickening”. Or, undeservingly, a person who has an uneventful life, as of 1921, or someone lacking in mental and physical capacity, from 1976. Ignoring the last two definitions, let’s think about what it means to love a vegetable…

Vegetable Garden

“The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. ‘I am not alone and unacknowledged.’ They nod to me and I to them.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

For those who consider themselves “vegetable lovers” there is indeed something of the occult… something celestial, divine, about the vegetable. Perhaps this sounds unreasonable to you. Give it time. To truly understand this relationship between man and plant you need to experience it, to play witness to the life of the vegetable, from beginning to end, farm to fork. You need to grow up with it, live alongside it and tend to it daily in the same way you might your family, your friends. The time and energy the vegetable grower puts into each of his or her plants is a labour of love, like rearing a child.

I have detected this love in the eyes of those of which I speak – the gushing pride when they harvest the new green tomatoes and peppers and big bunches of spinach, basil and coriander or when their first attempt at growing Kohlrabi or Shu Shu is a success. I have witnessed the quiet self-contentment as these men and women create a meal made entirely from the offerings of their garden. And I have watched them return to the empty spaces left in their garden not with grief at the loss but hope and joy at the new life that harvesting has made space for.

I have experienced the pride, the contentment and the hope for myself and can attest: this is what it is to love vegetables, to call yourself a vegetable lover.

P.S. Thank you to all our chefs for their inspired recipes for our first featured veg… Discover what it is in our next blog in the series and explore the art of gastronomy through the experience of the hotels and lodges of Africa.

Below: Spring Harvest with Executive Chef, Anna Ridgewell at Londolozi Private Game Reserve.

Anna at Londolozi

Spinach from Londolozi