It’s no secret that at Explore Sideways we live for unique, off the beaten track experiences, especially when it involves food and wine. You may have seen our last post about foraging with chef Chris from Foliage where seasonal mushrooms were the name of the game but now the game just got bigger… Our latest tailor-made experience includes foraging across the entire Cape for seasonal ingredients, which you will make into your own meal.

The best part is that urban foraging is so much more than just an culinary adventure, it’s a fantastic way to understand the Cape’s rich history and to learn about the surrounding nature unlike ever before.

Seeing as the closest thing to “foraging” for most of us is picking through the pile of avocados in the supermarket searching for the perfectly ripe ones, we wanted to get more info on what the concept is really all about. So we sat down the Charlie, the Cape’s ultimate urban forager to get the inside info on how it all works.

And if you want to book this experience, please contact us for info.

What exactly does it mean to be an “urban forager?”

Urban foraging is about going out and finding edible foragables on our front doorstep.  Even in an urban environment there is so much available to us, whether it’s fruit trees, wild herbs, plants we never knew were edible or even weeds.

How long have you been a forager and how did you get into it?

I’ve been a forager all my life, just like most people.  It’s inherent in all of us.  Everyone has a memory of picking fruit off the tree as a kid.  On a more serious note, I’ve been doing it for the last ten years.  I got into it via my interest in cooking, wanting to explore new ideas but keeping a strong link with our cultural background, also I love being outdoors.

What interesting or surprising items can guest expect to forage on a trip with you and what unique recipes will they get to prepare?

Guests can forage for such a wide variety of items.  My current obsessions are seaweeds and plants that grow along the coastal dunes such as dune spinach and soutslaai.  We like to be as creative as possible with the ingredients but kelp lasagne and various pestos have become firm favourites.

Also, Delicious Monster fruit is interesting.  Most people don’t even know what a Delicious Monster plant is much less that it has such sweet fruit yet it grows abundantly around us in the Cape.  We’ve experimented with making various liqueurs and syrups with this suburban favourite.

Where do you take guests when foraging around the Cape?

Everywhere we go is based on seasonality. Our foraging adventures can take place anywhere from the coastline to the forest and even inside the city center. I like to take people along the Sea Point Promenade to forage inside the tidal pools. We often take beautiful walks through the beautiful Cecelia Forest in Constantia to find things like sorrels. And I even can find some incredible ingredients inside Cape Town’s Woodstock and District Six areas. As long as you know what to look for, there are endless possibilities right outside your doorstep.

What do you think makes foraging a unique and special experience for visitors to the Western Cape?

Foraging is a unique way to explore our heritage and the natural wonders around us.  It is a way to reconnect with our surroundings in a fun, tasty and informative outing.  When foraging and eating our indigenous plants and coastal delights, one can’t help get a sense of what it must have been like for early man roaming our shoreline, possibly as long ago two hundred thousand years ago. 

Much much later… food was at the heart of the Capes dubious colonial history,  it was integral as a refreshment station on The Dutch East India Companies’ spice route. Incidentally the company is recognised as the worlds first global company (in my mind another dubious distinction). This is reflected in the wide diversity of foraging available here.  Just like my own forefathers many of our plants have emigrated from around the world.  For example, the prolific pine and oak trees growing here allow us to forage porcini mushrooms.

Do you have a personal philosophy about foraging?

Foraging is all about sustainability and lowering our carbon footprint by making use of ingredients growing on our doorstep rather than going to the shops and buying over-packaged goodies that have been flown in from around the world. Don’t get me wrong, if everybody had to go and forage that too wouldn’t be sustainable, but maybe if we altered our preconditioned pallets, we could cultivate and embrace many of our indigenous flavours and hardy edible plants, thus being kinder to the planet, by way of using less water, no toxic pest control or artificial fertilisers. It is about stopping to smell the flowers….and maybe picking a few to eat.  Each tour is unique as it depends on the seasons and the availability of the wild foods.

Stay updated on all of Charlie’s foraged findings on his blog, the Urban Hunter Gatherer.

*Feature photo by Illona Pelser