This rooibos, apricot and maple granola is a little tribute to the wonderful flavours of South Africa. On a recent work trip there I had the chance to not only drink litres of delicious rooibos tea, but also to learn a little about this indigenous plant, its health properties and the challenges it faces. That, combined with the delightful discovery of peaches and apricots soaked in rooibos, is how I landed on this granola combo! I find it to be a tasty, nutritious and filling way to start the day, and hope you love it too. As a bonus, it is also free from refined sugar, which store bought granola is often packed with.
Health benefits of rooibos
But anyway, back to the amazing plant that is Rooibos! You probably already know Rooibos tea – it is a delicious and slightly sweet red herbal tea that is naturally caffeine free. Although there has not been extensive research, initial studies suggest that rooibos tea is full of antioxidants , can work as an anti-inflammatory and may help prevent weight gain. No wonder it is becoming popular the world over!
The pitfalls of popularity – the social and environmental challenges of Rooibos production
Originally considered a “poor mans” tea, it has more recently gained serious popularity not only in its native South Africa, but also around the world. This is, not surprisingly, presenting both opportunities and challenges in the area that it is grown.
Rooibos is actually endemic to certain parts of the western cape of South Africa, meaning it ONLY grows there. With its needle like leaves and very long roots, it has adapted to grow in this very dry and hot part of the world. Currently it is harvested in the wild or cultivated in large commercial monocultures. This large scale production utilises varieties that are less resistant to droughts and pests than the wild varieties and leads to the expansion of land for cultivation which threatens biodiversity and contributes to soil degradation.
Aside from these environmental challenges, Rooibos is linked to a number of social, cultural and historical struggles. In the region where it grows, descendants of the Khoisan (the “first people” of South Africa) mostly live on the “economic fringes” of society, despite the fact that apartheid was abolished in 1994. The KhoiSan are often confined to marginal areas in terms of land and depend on work as farm labourers. However they have an immense traditional knowledge of rooibos and how to cultivate it, as they have used the plant for medicinal purposes for centuries.
What is being done?
Thankfully, some forward looking organizations are taking action to try and tackle these issues. One of these is the Heiveld Co-operative, which was started by a group of 14 small-scale rooibos farmers in 2001. The fully producer owned and managed cooperative brings together 74 small-scale producers from the area to collectively produce, process, package and export organic and fair trade certified Rooibos tea. Thirty percent of the coop’s profits are distributed to disadvantaged people or groups in the community, with the remaining profit divided among the members. The organization also actively engages with research organizations, NGO’s and international organizations to support research and knowledge sharing (especially indigenous) to improve the environmental and social sustainability of the rooibos sector.
What can you do?
When I find out all this interesting and complex stuff about a particular food or drink, I always ask myself what I can do to contribute in a positive way. The answers are not always simple. But I find that some common principles usually hold, as is the case here– enjoy quality (in terms of how it is produced) rooibos in moderation, be willing to pay a higher price for it and find out all you can about the positive and negative impacts of our consumption to furhter inform what you do.
So on that note, perhaps you want to track down some high quality, perhaps even wild, rooibos tea and enjoy this rooibos apricot and maple granola! Just scroll down for the recipe….
- ½ Cup Rolled or Quick/Instant Oats
- ½ Cup Ground Almonds or Hazelnuts
- 3 heaped Tablespoons (approx. 50ml) Sesame Seeds
- 100g Dried Apricots, finely chopped (I use the tangy California type, however the sweeter Turkish type will also work, your choice! If you are sensitive to Sulphur, use organic ones)
- 3 heaped Tablespoons (approx. 50ml) Sunflower Seeds
- ½ Cup Boiling Water
- 3 Teabags of Rooibos Tea
- ½ Cup (70g) Pecans, roughly chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup (or liquid honey, and if you want it sweeter you can add a little more)
- 1.5 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (melted – you can sit it in a small dish in the bottom of the warm oven for a couple of minutes to melt it)
- ½ Teaspoon Bourbon Vanilla (optional)
- ½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
- Baking Paper
- Baking tray
- Two medium mixing bowls
- Preheat oven to 160 °C without fan.
- In a small mixing bowl, place the ½ cup boiling water, add the 3 teabags and leave to infuse a few mins. Then add the finely chopped dried apricots and the sunflower seeds. Leave the dried apricots and sunflower seeds to soak in this tea mix for around 30 mins or longer if possible (leave the teabags in during this time to help more flavour infuse). You can also prepare this the night before and leave to soak overnight in the fridge.
- Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. Place the oats, ground hazelnuts (or almonds) and sesame seeds on the tray. Mix around with your fingers or a wooden spoon until well combined. Place in the top of the oven for 15 mins. Remember to put the timer on because you don’t want to forget about it!
- When the oat mixture is ready, remove from the oven and pour it into a medium mixing bowl. Hold onto the baking paper because you will use it again.
- Spoon the soaked apricot and sunflower seed mixture into the mixing bowl with the oats. You can transfer some of the liquid as you do this, so that when you are done there is only a little bit of liquid and the teabags left in the other bowl.
- Add the chopped pecan nuts, the vanilla and the cinnamon, and then mix everything together until it is well combined.
- Add the melted coconut oil and the maple syrup. Mix through until everything is well combined.
- Transfer the mixture back onto the baking tray lined with baking paper. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to spread out the mixture until it is evenly distributed.
- Return to the oven and bake at 160 °C without fan for 20-30 mins. 20 mins will give you a softer, chewier granola and 30 mins a very crunchy granola. Take it out when it is how you prefer it, just remember that it will always look a little less cooked in the oven than it will actually end up after it has cooled.
- Leave the tray on the bench to cool. When cool, place in an airtight container and store in the cupboard. Can be kept in the cupboard for several weeks, and for up to three months in the freezer.