Introduction: Wild Greens for a Circular Economy

1. Wild Greens

South Africa is home to a wide variety of edible indigenous plants. The Botanical Society of South Africa is responsible for encouraging indigenous gardening, conservation awareness, and the proper use of indigenous plants in Southern Africa. Planting some of these edible delights in your garden will give you easy access to fresh ingredients. Suppose you want to use these ingredients in the kitchen. In that case, it is important to know what part of the plant can be used for cooking and how it can be prepared. Some are only edible after specific preparation and in certain seasons—spice up your recipes with these garden-fresh ingredients.

Africa has made a very substantial contribution to the world’s major food crops, not only in the total number of species used in international trade but also in the importance of the products. Coffee (Coffea arabica L.) is arguably one of the most valuable commodities, with an annual production of nearly 7 million tons ( Other examples of significant commodities include sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] and West African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). Peters et al. (1992) recorded 2155 African species used as food, representing 4.3% of the African flora. A similar statistic can be calculated for southern Africa: Fox and Norwood Young (1982) described 1002 southern African food plants, representing 4.4% of the southern African flora. The global review of commercialised food plants by Van Wyk (2005) showed that Africa has made a substantial contribution, with 119 species. This compares favourably with estimates of 126 for Europe, 68 for Central America and 97 for South America.

Here is a link to the WRC Report on the Nutritional value and water use of African Leafy Vegetables for improved livelihoods—a very interesting read.

2. Classroom Garden

Classroom gardens are more than just science lessons about the life cycles of plants. A classroom garden will allow your students to care for another living thing while also learning a wealth of information. In fact, according to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, growing a garden in your classroom will teach your students about nutrition, health, and wellness in a hands-on, experimental way. Students who have a connection with their food are more likely to eat it and enjoy it. Children who grow their own food also form an emotional connection with nutritious food because they do the hard work of nurturing it into an edible plant. Even growing herbs, flowers, or houseplants can be a satisfying and educational way to get your students more connected to nature.

Circular Economy for Food

“A circular economy for food mimics natural systems of regeneration so that waste does not exist, but is instead feedstock for another cycle.In a circular economy, organic resources such as those from food by-products, are free from contaminants and can safely be returned to the soil in the form of organic fertiliser. Some of these by-products can provide additional value before this happens by creating new food products, fabrics for the fashion industry, or as sources of bioenergy. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources, and support biodiversity.

Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2023)