organic at heart - the alternative eater's dream

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Tue, 2011-11-01 10:36

A wonderful mosaic stands at the doorA wonderful mosaic stands at the door

In the quiet Cape Town suburb of Plumstead a listed national monument building houses a vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurant that specialises in fresh and fantastic lunch buffets.

Michelle Carelse, the owner of Organic at Heart, took us for a walk around the kitchen garden - a space that was car park only 8 months back, now a thriving veg patch - where we discuss companion planting, worm-composting and the joys of eating as fresh as the last pick.

‘I like the idea of sustainable living,’ says Michelle. ‘This garden inspires people to start their own vegetable gardens. It’s not difficult to start growing your own herbs and salads – if everybody could just grow a little bit we could be well on our way to becoming a more self-sufficient society.’

Wine bottles are a great re-use and also deter moles!!Wine bottles are a great re-use and also deter moles!!

She ingeniously plants insect-deterring plants in each bed and has used empty wine bottles placed neck down in the earth to mark the edges – not only are they a great initiative for reusing waste, but I am told the vibrations they create help keep moles away!

Michelle owns a business in the alternative health industry (Feel Good Health products) and has plans to start a kitchen garden box sale project, as well as to set up a deli/health shop in the reception area of the restaurant. She is obviously a business-woman with many great ideas and a lush wisdom of nature’s gifts.

Ten minutes in Michelle’s garden and I learn from her that comfrey is a great garden fertiliser, a herb garden needs full sun, wild dagga tea can help fight diabetes, plants can definitely be grown without insecticides – as her creative quirky techniques show evidence of – and that any soil can come alive quickly with the right attitude and a whole lot of heart.

Kenny adds to one of Organic at Heart's many worm bathsKenny adds to one of Organic at Heart's many worm baths

On our way to the restaurant we pass a lemon tree, where we had found Michelle lovingly pruning upon our arrival. She tells us the story of how she insisted it remained even as they put down exposed aggregate and now, some time later, the tree still flourishes, offering up it’s bounty of lemons.

Michelle is obviously the real deal : as we pass the tables of Organic at Heart, she explains candidly that they are made of restored Oregon Pine, pointing out too the charming light features: claimed and reconditioned from demolition sales.

‘Sustainable living is not a new thing for me. I chose to be like this because it seems like an honest way to live,’ Michelle explains as she rubs a piece of lavender between her fingers. A nostalgic smile always seems to play at her lips.

A shy-smiling kitchen staff member...A shy-smiling kitchen staff member...

Moving into the kitchen, the no-go zone of many restaurants, I am greeted by a smiling-shy kitchen staff as they are busy preparing the lunch buffet.
‘We have a fantastic team here now, but I still sometimes have to check that the recycling is being done properly and remind them that I don't want products like Doom used in this kitchen,’ Michelle tells me afterwards, and I am suddenly made aware of Organic at Hearts potential to grow into a holistic eco-educational experience.

Next we move on to the main feature of the visit, the lunch buffet: an array of delicious dishes served every weekday at 12pm, catering to meat-eaters (organic and free-range), vegetarians and vegans. Some of the cakes and things are also gluten-free, and every meal is marked on the chalk-board in a series of abbreviations – GF for gluten-free, EF for egg-free, VGN for vegan and VEG for vegetarian.

I ate some of the free-range organic lamb, something I dont usually doI ate some of the free-range organic lamb, something I dont usually do

‘We source everything locally-grown, from organically certified farms or – our last resort- from Woolies,' explains Michelle, and I am not surprised at all, as the final puzzle piece fits into place of her brilliant business. My heart is in organic, but to get 100% organic is really hard. In some areas, you just have to comply with the rules of the restaurant industry.’

As we polish off an amazing spread, we chat a little about the conventional psychology industry, of which Michelle has some background. Try some fresh herbs in a glass of water,’ she suggests. ‘ You’d be surprised how soothing it can be.’
And there’s that smile again.

A brie, pear and walnut saladA brie, pear and walnut salad

Organic at Heart's facebook page is very active, and there are regular updates about the buffet menu plus their specials on unique breakfasts and freshly-made juices.