Fresh, earthy food without the vegetarians’ fuss

All the customers at the Fresh Earth Food Store in Emmarentia seem to have that well-scrubbed, bright-eyed look, as if they have just stepped out of a yoga class, or a spa.

It is part-restaurant, part-shop, and all manner of health products are stacked from floor to ceiling. There are granolas, seeds, nuts, quinoa, organic vegetables, essential oils, even a New Age-like music section.

The challenge will be fitting all this into the store’s 10m2 stall at the FoodWineDesign Fair in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, this weekend, said owner Matthew Ballenden.

The stall will have gluten-free cakes as well as muffins, biscuits (including Florentines) and rusks. There will also be 11 types of bread, including quinoa rye bread, potato bread, gluten-free rice bread and buckwheat and millet breads.

The store’s falafels and raw granolas, including goji berry granola and pumpkin seed granola, will also be on offer, as well as Macadamia nut and almond butters, and unpreserved dried fruits.

Many people seem to be developing an allergy to gluten — a composite protein found cereal grains, especially wheat.

Ballenden said wheat was sprayed with pesticides and, once harvested, treated with gas to stop mould. This, coupled with high stress and people “not respecting their bodies”, led to gluten intolerance, in his opinion.

The shop used to be called Fruits and Roots but Ballenden said he had “agreed to disagree” with the previous owners and they parted ways. He has since “deradicalised” and reinvented the venue by changing it from a health shop to a food store. A health shop is “dusty, purist, with some hippy helping you”, whereas Ballenden has tried to make it “accessible to everyone”. The store also has an excellent website with reams of recipes and a feature called “live help” that has a health consultant who answers any questions one may have.

No preaching to the converted
The café-style menu ranges from omelettes to something called the “Big Boer”, which includes two eggs, two slices of rye with hummus, breakfast sausage, mushroom, potato and grilled tomato, for R52. No meat is to be found on the menu, but there is no preaching about vegetarianism or veganism.

“You don’t come here to hear that eating meat is bad for you. Who is to say being a vegetarian will save the planet? Vegans and vegetarians are the world’s worst when it comes to making people feel guilty about how they live their lives.”

Ballenden said he would occasionally eat a steak, provided it came from a sustainable source. He mentioned the Braeside Butchery in Parkhurst as one that sold high-­quality free-range meat.

The Fresh Earth Food Store is packed at lunchtime when it lays out a buffet. On a recent Saturday there were at least 15 dishes, including a good coleslaw with shredded red cabbage, chopped spring onions, goji berries and dried cherries. There was a bowl of roasted baby onions and potatoes, an earthy lentil bake and a plate piled with roasted aubergine and chickpeas.

The falafels are also good, with a nice thick crust.

One man, seemingly taking advantage of the R72 all-you-can-eat option, had piled his plate at least 10cm high — but he was rail thin and I guess he knew what he was doing.

Fresh Earth Store, 103 Komatie Road, Emmarentia. Tel: 011 646 4404

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Beast-free burgers are on a roll

Pioneering food firms are winning over fast food fans with meat alternatives – and even the beefy SA market is starting to bite

Idiom restaurant celebrates a decade of excellence with paired wine tasting

Tucked away in the hills of the Helderberg, the new Idiom restaurant and wine tasting centre feels like an escape to another world.

Review: Jo’burg restaurant ‘Town’ serves some yummy dim sum

The portions may be on the small side, but the food bar is fast becoming the go-to spot in Jo’burg’s cultural heartland, writes Milisuthando Bongela.

How running junkies find their next fix

Runners live by a guide that describes every race in the land - and there's at least one every weekend.

Highlights from the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair

Artlogic events curator Roberta Coci shares five highlights visitors can look forward to at this year's Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair.

Peddling peace and pudding

Parktown North now offers an exciting culinary refuge from the fight or flight of city living at the Pudding Shop, writes Lisa Johnston.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday