Whether you explore the ancient food culture of the Khomani San, or prop up the bar at the venerable Kimberley Club, the food terroir of the Northern Cape offers food fundis a platter of unique epicurean opportunities and delicious traditional dishes.

Did you know?

Saffron, one of the world’s costliest spices, is being cultivated at Vredendal in the Northern Cape.

As you seek to understand the food terroir of the Northern Cape, you’ll come to the delicious realisation that in this province, nothing is as it seems.

The Northern Cape is predominantly arid, and what arable land there is, is used to farm cattle and sheep, and to stock game for safaris or hunting. The red sands of the Kalahari appear empty, but for those who care to look, Northern Cape food terroir offers a plethora of ancient and absolutely unique tastes.

In the north-western reaches of the province, adventurers can discover the ancient culinary culture of the Khoi-Khoin. Descended from the earliest San hunter-gatherers, Khoi-Khoin cooks use indigenous edible flowers, plants and bulbs, known as veldkos, to create delicacies like num-num preserve, agurkie jam, and kukumakranka liqueur. 

The essence of Northern Cape food can be eaten in the Karoo. The word Karoo is a Khoi-Khoi term meaning thirsty land, but the apparently arid plains are filled with liquid-retaining indigenous edible plants. The diets of Karoo goats and lambs, which are so good to eat, are rich in these plants, including wild mint, wild garlic, buchu and purslane. 

Those wishing to sample regionally specific cuisine should stop off at the Hantam Huis in Calvinia, where kambro preserves are served alongside wild rosemary-infused venison, and roasted sheep’s head. Tswalu Kalahari Reserve and the Rooipan Guesthouse outside Upington offer n’abbas, the desert truffle that’s unique to the Kalahari. 

It’s not all ancient cultures and indigenous roots, however. Gourmet glamour also has a place Northern Cape food terroir.

Kimberley, the centre of South Africa’s diamond industry in the 19th century, saw fortunes made and lost, and, while the role of mining in the city has considerably diminished, retro-chic gourmet is still on the menu at the venerable Kimberley Hotel and the Star of the West bar. 

The Green Kalahari Region of the Northern Cape contrasts rust-red soil with the green vines of the Orange River Wine Route. Delicious dried fruit is to be found in Kakamas, and in Upington chilly evenings draw hungry diners to the fireside for roosterkoek, venison potjies, roasted legs of lamb, and slow-cooked pens-en-pootjies (tripe and trotters) stew.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Northern Cape Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)53 832 2657/2643/2789
Fax: +27 (0)53 831 2937
Email: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net

Die Hantam Huis, Calvinia
Tel: +27 (0)27 341 1606 Email: hantamhuis@calvinia.co.za

Rooipan Guesthouse
Tel: +27 (0)82 415 1579 

Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve
Phone: +27 (0)53 781 9331/3
Email: res@tswalu.com

Kimberley Club at the Kimberley Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)53 832 4224 Email: reception@kimberleyclub.co.za

Melkkraal Women’s Group
Tel: +27 (0)27 218 1029

How to get here

Both Kimberley and Upington have air links with all major South African cities. Kimberley also has rail links with major South African cities. The best way to travel the Northern Cape is by car so that you can take your time and enjoy the vast space.

Best time to visit

Spring and autumn are the coolest seasons, summer can be scorching, and winter days, though sunny and warm, see temperatures plummet at night.

Tours to do

A tour of the Orange River Wine Route with tastings and cellar visits. The Melkkraal Women’s Group offer farm tours and insights into the edible and medicinal plants of their region.

Get around

The Northern Cape is vast, so self-drive is recommended. Some areas require 4x4 vehicle access.

What will it cost

Meal prices vary enormously, depending on what's on the menu. Expect to pay anything from a couple of rands to a couple of hundred rands - the latter for 3-course fine dining with top wines included.

Length of stay

The Northern Cape is not a weekend destination. Plan to spend at least 1 week.

What to pack

Sun protection is recommended all year round. In summer, carry extra bottled water.

Where to stay

Because of the vast distances, outside the Northern Cape's towns and cities, most accommodation is in the form of guest houses or farm stays. Staying in a Khoi-Khoin grass hut is one of the more unusual options while Tswalu Kalahari Reserve has three 5-star lodges.

What to eat

From May to April, if seasonal rains have been good, try n'abbas, (Kalahari truffles). Other traditional delicacies include roosterkoek (ash bread), sklipadjies (liver wrapped in caul fat, similar to a faggot), stertjies (lambs tails) and peertjies (lambs testicles).

Best buys

Orange River Cellar wine, Kalahari gourmet salt, biltong, lamb and venison.