Karoo Kitchens and Peach Pip Floors

Karoo kitchen

By Julienne du Toit

Photographs Chris Marais

All over the Karoo, you’ll find ‘house museums’, and the most fascinating part is always the kitchen.

This is where you’ll discover cunning little peach peelers, raisin pip removers, nutmeg graters, sugar-cane cutters, egg-boxes, coffee roasters, candle-moulds, sausage-makers, giant soap pots and copper water heaters that fitted neatly next to the hearth.

Urquhart House, one of the Graaff-Reinet Museums, has one of the best old-time kitchens where you can marvel at Victorian ingenuity and Karoo practicality.

Urquhart House Museum in Graaff-Reinet has a kitchen with a peach pip floor.
Urquhart House Museum in Graaff-Reinet has a kitchen with a peach pip floor.

But the first thing you’ll notice is the floor.

Peach pips used to be embedded to strengthen clay floors across the Karoo, according to the late Helena Marincowitz of Prince Albert. In her book Karoostyle: Folk Architecture of Prince Albert, she writes “They were placed in rows and beaten down with a wooden board to obtain a smooth surface. After six months, the floor was coated with a layer of aloe juice; this was to keep the insects away.”

These days, designers from all around the world sing the praises of this uniquely South African flooring technique. So interesting to the eye, so easy to clean, so therapeutic to walk on, beetle-resistant, eco-friendly and warp-free, they enthuse. Freshly varnished with aloe juice, the floor gleams as if freshly polished.Moving to the Platteland 3

Yet it’s hardly used these days. One of the rare exceptions is the Elandsberg Wilderness Camp at Tankwa Karoo National Park which features peach pip floors in the open plan kitchens.


7 thoughts on “Karoo Kitchens and Peach Pip Floors

  1. Timothy Twidle says:

    Very interesting article and good photographs too. Well done Julienne and Chris. We need more articles of this kind about the folklore of South Africa.

  2. Clarence Wissekerke says:

    Good day i am from Rustenburg and am looking for Peach Pips for sale to use in a house restoration

  3. Rina says:

    Hello both of you

    Quite a while ago I started a discussion on floors on some or other thread somewhere or other, and expressed my delight with peach pip floors. It was a joy how many weird and wonderful floors other contributors came up with — e.g. rice, for instance. Right now I live with concrete floors in part of my Joburg suburban house. Long story, but I had to rip up flooring and didn’t have the wherewithal to replace it. Lousy for resale, which alas is probably coming sooner than I would like, but I’ve learnt to love the strange patchy discoloured concrete I walk on. Peach pips, however, would give me daily foot massage.

    Much love


  4. Elna roux says:

    Hi I would like to make a peach pip floor in my bathroom. Can somebody let me know how to do it. I am a nature lover and living in Riebeek Kasteel. Thnks elna

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.