Monthly Archives: September 2012

Going back to my roots

It is a wet and rainy spring in Cape Town. The news is depressing, I have not seen the sun for days.
They say that this kind of weather is all part of climate change, and that we must learn to expect more extremes. Colder winters and hotter drier summers seems to be what is in store for us. Ja nee…
So it is a good time to go back to my culture and tradition, reminding myself that we have survived many things and that we will survive even this.
Spring in the Cape means that the waxberry (Morella serrata) is fruiting. This is a sturdy large shrub or small tree, a lovely symbol of survival in that it does well under the conditions that seem to characterize my plot. It stands under water in winter and resists drought in summer, growing a bit skew because of the gale-force south easter, but providing its bountiful harvest twice a year without fail. I grew one on my bath water outflow for years, just to show it could be done, but after about five years it seems those rich conditions were too much for it, it bore well but died off quickly. Now I refrain from spoiling the others, letting them tough it out and watering only when I remember, which cannot be more than every couple of months in the heat. Instead the bath waters the fig tree that really cannot seem to get too much of either water or manure.

A full grown waxberry tree

I am sure when summer comes it is going to be miserably hot and sunny, so I am making a special batch of waxberry soap. Waxberry has been used for centuries by the KhoeSan to make soap, although traditionally it is the dune wax berry which is used, it yields a fine, white wax. Only the dune waxberry won’t grow in my clayey soil, I tried, but it pined for the wild sea shores of its native habitat. The black waxberry grows beautifully here, though, it will produce a dark gray soap. I think I will scent it with rose and jasmine, and of course buchu, just to really celebrate the indigenous roots of this soap. From black waxberry I make a soap which makes your skin darker and your hair curlier, no, people, I really do not try and sell this soap commercially. Not even during Biko month.

The dark berries yield a black soap

But guess what, for that very reason black waxberry is really useful in protecting your skin from the sun. It is perfect for a dry hot summer working in the garden or chilling on the beach. If your hair is dry and over-relaxed, also, it is just the thing to restore shine and bounce to it. The fact that waxberry soap is carbon neutral (in fact carbon-storing), fully organic and not commercialized except in the tiny quantities I harvest and make is perhaps just a bonus. The fact is, this is good soap, mild and gentle and caring for your skin and hair. So, although this is a special batch for my personal use, I will sell some to you on my usual first-come-first-served basis. Try some and take yourself back in time for a while, to  the days when the climate was not our enemy and  our lives were an economy of abundance.

R 30/100 g bar – order from

Indigenous Jasmine

tough but infinitely generous, waxberry soap symbolizes centuries of tradition

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