The Urban Hunter Gatherer

Charles Standing is a multi-faceted man, a modern day Renaissance guy if you like. He chops wood with an axe, has been mountaineering in the Andes, was a school teacher and even portrayed Father Christmas at a children’s party…….and he can cook. But this story isn’t about any of those things, it’s about Charlie, The Urban Hunter Gatherer as he is otherwise known. As an urban forager, Charlie likes to do his grocery shopping off the city, as in public parks and off pavements. He doesn’t rifle through dirt bins and such, looking for expired Woolies yoghurt and ready-made pasta, but rather, forages within the city limits and surrounding public spaces in Cape Town for items like Natal plums, mushrooms, sorrel and gooseberries. I can even testify to the fact that his neighbour’s fig trees produce fresh ingredients for his delicious Fennel & Fig Preserve ice-cream. (the Fennel also probably foraged along a highway or an empty plot somewhere in District 6). Charlie’s foraging is by no means restricted to land based ingredients either. Besides diving for


crayfish and picking mussels, Charlie has learned a thing or two about the magic of seaweed. On his surf menu are Straightmops – Harders pickled with foraged agave, Peruvian peppercorns, fennel florets and lemon leaves for starters. Main course is seaweed lasagne with minced limpets using kelp instead of wheat pasta, followed by pelargonium infused seaweed jelly – both of them great banting options. All ingredients are seasonal of course.

So when did the interest in foraging start? A memory that sticks out, Charlie says, was around 5 years old when he ate guinea fowl for the first time. He remembers the wild flavour distinctly because it was so unfamiliar. My mind immediately conjured up images of Charles hopping around the city hunting squawking Guinea Fowl with a bow and arrow. He has assured me he does not do this……yet.

Other memories of foraging are of collecting mussels and octopus in rock pools as a child with his dad and fishing in gullies with makeshift bamboo rods catching rockfish.

Smoked snoek with foraged Loquats

‘I used to entertain myself by experimenting on friends with all the ‘culinary inventions’ I’d created and cooked. Things really got going when I, very very briefly, got hooked up to DSTV and had access to all those cooking legends, like Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater and Rick Stein on the Food Channel.’ That’s when I got the delusion in my head, maybe I should become a famous chef? Maybe even write a book?’ He knew he needed an original angle, what with the likes of Nigel and Nigella around and decided foraging adventures would be it.

I wanted to offer a ‘total’ food experience and started taking people on foraging tours, in and around the incredible City of Cape Town.

Our foraged bounty often reflects the history of humans on the southern tip of Africa; from the tasty

Seaweed for Lasagne

indigenous plants and coastal delights that indigenous man would have survived on, to the more recognizable edibles brought from the colonies.

Another passion of Charlie’s is sustainability, particularly in the kitchen. His aim is to cook healthy food in a way that has a low impact on our environment. From time to time, Charlie and his mates host pop-up dinners in unique locations with daring and exciting menus. Again the focus is on anything foraged and demonstrates an environmentally conscious approach to food.

Charles still salivates everytime he says one of those confused birds flapping around the streets of Cape Town and he continues to dream about writing a book and becoming famous.

For more information about The Urban Hunter Gatherer please visit:

And for a delicious foraged Spanakopita (Spinach and Feta) pie recipe go to:

Keep an eye out for more of The Urban Hunter Gatherer’s recipes in the future.

The Urban Hunter Gatherer – Spanakopita

Charles Standing’s Dune Spinach Spanakopita puts a lovely local twist on that Greek favourite we all struggle to pronounce.  Instead of English spinach, opt for a foraged dune spinach, failing that, store bought will work just as well.

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

2 double handfuls of spinach leaves (in this case dune spinach)

1 onion chopped

1 egg

1 grating of nutmeg

1 sprig of chopped herbs (in this case wild sage, oregano is good too)

200g of ricotta or feta (in this case ‘fake feta’)

4 sheets of phyllo pastry cut in half

50g melted butter or 50ml of olive oil

A glug of olive oil for frying

1 salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large frying pan on medium heat, fry the onions until soft. Add the herbs, nutmeg and spinach. Place a lid on the mix, while turning occasionally until the spinach is wilted and dramatically reduced in size. Allow to cool.

Once cooled, squeeze out excess fluids (I do this in the pan angled over the sink by pressing the spinach with the back of a large serving spoon). Now thoroughly mix in the cheese and egg. Season with salt and pepper (if you are using feta, be careful with the salt, because dune spinach is salty too). Your filling is now done… scoop it into an appropriate sized baking dish and lightly flatten.

Cut four sheets of phyllo pastry in half and brush with melted butter/olive oil. Loosely crunch each greased pastry sheet and place on top of the spinach mix in the baking dish… repeat until the dish is covered in phyllo pastry. Pop into the oven and bake until the pastry is golden, about half an hour.

Chomp and enjoy.

How to find your purpose

By Si Ekin

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as human beings, I believe, is, “what is my purpose?”. This article explains how to find your purpose.

When we can achieve congruence between our purpose and our actions, it’s a winning formula. It’s a great place to come from and provides an easy reference point. If we don’t, we risk a life of endless wheel spinning.

You might find that finding your purpose is easier than you think. You can learn how to find your purpose. Here’s how I found mine…

What is my purpose?

It was one of those sweltering, humid Durban days as I strolled back home from school. I was seven years old. It was 1975. Apartheid South Africa was in full swing.

I walked up the hill, crossed Innes Road and walk up our road, Venice Road. At first, I couldn’t place the sound, alien in the humdrum of my day-to-day suburban life. Singing and pounding.

I rounded the corner and saw about 20 Zulu men digging a ditch and singing and chanting, as they dug and pounded in rhythm with pick-axes. These sweating, working, bare-chested men.

I wandered into the house. It was quiet and cool. I closed the door and said hello to my dad who was walking down the stairs, and strolled into the kitchen to see my mum who was doing some baking.

Then it hit me, something is not right here. Why was it that these men were sweating and toiling and my parents were not? Why was it that, as far as I could see, the people with dark skin worked hard and had hard lives and us -the light-skinned people – didn’t work so hard and had easy lives?

“Please can we take some drink to those men out there, it’s not fair and it’s not right,” I said to my mother, which she agreed to. Ten minutes later, I walked out to the group of men, with a tray of lemonade and glasses.

I looked up at the expressions on the faces of those men: laughter, gratitude and appreciation; I can see it as if it were yesterday.

In that moment, I made a decision, the type of decision that indomitably- spirited seven year old might make; my purpose was born, my ‘why’ was created: I am going to make the world a better, fairer, more loving one.

It took years to find it, it’s a process, but when you find it, you feel it.

​How to find your purpose

What’s your why, your purpose?

It’s taken me a long time and much work to get mine. It’s fine if you don’t know, because it’s a journey.

Here are two questions that might be useful to you:

  • What do you feel strongly about?
  • When you think back on your childhood, what is the first and strongest memory you remember having?

Write down your answers and you will begin the process of learning how to find your purpose in life.

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Introducing TheTreeApp, South Africa


It’s that time of year when we settle into summer and start taking advantage of some time off. Perfect for going on picnics, meandering hikes and exploring our beautiful country’s vegetation. But how often do we admire a tree – it’s flowers, its unusual leaves or its spectacular size and shape – and not know its name? How awesome would it be to quickly identify it, learn more about it and share the knowledge with your family and friends?

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice in accessing information and the biggest challenge is being able to sort the accurate from the incorrect. That’s where high quality, research-based smartphone and tablet applications (apps) offer the most value. With a couple of taps you can sound like an expert, thanks to the experts who have developed an app that assists in the identification of trees.

A team of ardent pioneers, including Val Thomas, Dr Robbie (Ernest) Robison and Herman Van den Berg, have made South Africa’s vast array of tree species the subject of the award-winning app, TheTreeApp South Africa.

It is beautifully illustrated and constructed allowing for easy navigation. It only requires Wi-Fi once, to download the app. Thereafter it won’t require any more data connection for its usage. An initial thorough going-over of the ‘Help’ section, will make the tree identification experience a lot more engaging. It is highly absorbing so prepare to have to drag yourself out of the garden if you need to get any holiday chores done.

Using the phone’s location setting, the app offers up options that are relevant to any specific area within South Africa, within a range of a 12,5 km radius, to help the user narrow down the possible species. This aspect of the app is most helpful, considering that, in total it features more than 1,100 species including 979 indigenous trees and 135 invasive species.

Identification can be made using leaves, flowers, fruit, growth, form, woody features, thorns or latex. The number of potential options is reduced with every identifier until a positive identification can be made. The structure and terminology are designed to appeal equally to the layman (being available in all 11 official languages) as well to those more familiar with the Latin terms and scientific information.

To find out more about this useful app visit: