As terroir is to wine, so the wild free natural environment of the Tanqua Karoo, unconditioned by agricultural domination, is to the produce of the Tanqua Karoo.
Tanqua Karoo Natural Produce (TKNP) cultivates and locally sources an abundance of seasonal, natural, fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the Tanqua Karoo region according to natural systems of nature and principles of biodiversity.
TKNP is driven by their deep, long standing and intense love of the silent and mysterious Tanqua Karoo – where horizons dictate their daily activities – where sunrise and sunsets, moonrise and moonsets, all play an integral part in giving life to this rich biosphere and intriguing ecosystem.
This healthy ecosystem, with its long-term enrichment and productivity of the land is more important than producing food on demand and the manipulation of natural cycles to do so.
TKNP is a product of this system, and the food they sell is a result of a far more important chain of natural systems, natural forces, plants, animals and terrain.
The Tanqua Karoo is where the purity of air and soil, the happiness of bees and donkeys, and the sound of rain falling on the dusty hard earth matters, while the slow movement of the dung-beetle as it scrabbles over the thornbush anticipating that there will be more rain at sunset. What is really significant is the silent power of nature untamed and suspended in the space between mountains and rivers, bees and scorpions, the space and the time between these elements taking place.
Fritz Rabe was born into the Constantia valley on a small holding where the family had their own fruit and vegetable gardens that laid the foundation for TKNP. After completing school he studied Agriculture at Grootfontein Agricultural College, Middelburg in the Eastern Cape. In 1970 Fritz’s father bought a Tanqua Karoo farm. After graduating he started a landscaping company, and travelled extensively to obtain experience in the field of landscaping and farming with a holistic approach.
To him the principles of farming and landscaping stays the same – dealing with one thing only – the earth and Mother Nature, which can never be separated.
Where is the Tanqua Karoo?
For decades the Tanqua Karoo is known as an area where few people travel, but where Mother Nature offers so much. ‘Tanqua’, is an old Bushman term for the area which was previously known as Ceres Karoo, meaning, very ‘dry’ land’. The Bushmen lived in this valley with relics on farms as evidence of people being there before any settlers arrived in this country, with most of its history overlooked – ‘The forgotten farmers of South Africa’.
The Tanqua Karoo is a very specific area on Route 355 stretching 257km from Ceres in the south to Calvinia in the north – with an arid plain framed in the west by the Cederberg, in the east by the Roggeveld Mountains, and in the south, by the Koedoesberg.
Fritz was inspired to source produce in and around the Tanqua Karoo area, linking the farmer to the market, cutting out lengthy supply chains and distribution systems that guarantee freshly hand delivered produce directly from the farm to the market or store.
TKNP choose to practise and support farmers who produce according to the farming principles of biodiversity – working with diverse plant species and encouraging varied specie interaction to generate and rebuild ecosystems.
TKNP is presently the producer of small batches of farm-made foods and lists over 190 products, all sourced from the Tanqua Karoo, made in the Tanqua, by the Tanqua people, on Tanqua farms, using Tanqua water.
Tanqua Karoo is a pollution free area where the Ongeluks and Doring Rivers flow freely, with open fields, where natural farming is implemented with no insecticides, sprays or chemical fertilizers – the perfect environment for natural Karoo produce to grow.
The TKNP guideline for growing fresh foods is observing nature in the Tanqua area, fitting into the cycles of nature rather than working against it.
“Work with the land rather than on it. The farmer should bring as little as possible through his farm gate as this lessens the value of his product. The product must stay true to itself,” says Fritz.
Vegetables and fruit are still hand sown, hand selected and even hand harvested. The products are also prepared the old fashioned way, hand finished, hand bottled the traditional way with no chemicals added, and hand labelled.
The TKNP range of fresh, honest produce include dates, nuts, figs, prickly pears, lemons, oranges, quinces, citrus, kale, swiss chard, beetroot, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pomegranates and many more.
From fresh products, juice, jams, preserves, silan, prickly pears peel sweets, aloe sweets, and quince nibbles, are produced preservative-free in The Tanqua Kombuis where these recipes are created, depending on what nature has to serve.
Among the products they offer are the Cancerbush tea, Cancerbush flower tea, and the Sceletium tonic – a mood enhancer. In the olden days these plants were much-respected and long-used as medicinal plants.
Aligned to the Health awareness program of the 21st century, TKNP intends to go sugar free on all their products; if need be, they will replace processed sugars with natural silan and date extract or honey. They strive to improve their products every year. The most exciting project is the “Mesquite” flour sourced from the part of a thorn tree which, as an invader, grows in the area, providing pods that can be processed into flour.
Another big project in the pipeline will be the donkey milk diary. Donkey milk has wonderful properties and is said to cure TB. Donkey milk cheese is also on the cards. Thereby the donkey’s lost shine will be regained.
Market and Consumer
TKNP engage in fresh markets and share information with their customers on a one on one basis on all their products. They have a niche market and supply selected supermarkets and farm stalls.
TKNP understand the rapidly growing levels of consumer scrutiny into the backstory of the foods they eat, and the surging demand for food that is produced naturally by the forces of nature, food produced in nature’s own time and in its own place.
For more information contact Fritz Rabe email: [email protected] or call 082 882 9083