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A Taste Of Waterblommetjies

A Taste Of Waterblommetjies

By Elaine Francke

The waterblommetjie (Aponogeton distachyos) is one of South Africa's most famous edible plants. It has a long history of use by the indigenous Khoikhoi, both medicinally and as a nutritious food. The name means “little water flowers” and though it’s an edible flower, it’s not the sort that is used to garnish a salad. This one is hardy enough to be used in the most proud of South African stews, the waterblommetjiebredie.

In the garden:
As an aquatic winter rainfall ornamental, it’s excellent for garden ponds or vleis in sun or part shade; it can lie dormant in dry soil or remain submerged in a pot. Displays white, sweetly perfumed flowers that fatten up and become green.

As a food:
The young flowers can be eaten lightly steamed; excellent braised, stewed, stir-fried or pickled. Traditionally used with lamb in a bredie (stew), but excellent with chicken or in vegetarian dishes, and in salads when still young.

For your health:
The entire plant is high in vitamins and minerals, and has medicinal value in treating burns, rashes and even acne.

Where to find it:
One of the few Western Cape Indigenous foods currently commercially grown on a small scale, although it’s not always easily available in food stores or at retail nurseries for ornamental use. For foraging, it can be found growing seasonally in road side standing water, or ponds and vleis.

When cooking with it:
Trim the stem ends and wash very well before using - the quality of water they were growing in cannot always be determined. Younger blomme need less cooking than older ones which are often better braised or stewed. Split them in two or even quarter them in length if they are very big.

Cooking ideas:
  • Young, still white flowers, open and sweetly fragrant are wonderful left whole, lightly steamed and dressed on their own, or even added to a leafy salad.
  • Braise them with fennel, celeriac or celery and spring onion in generous lashings of olive oil and lemon juice and cook until they’re just tender (in the Greek style). Served lukewarm.
  • Stew them with chicken, leek, potato and green peppercorns, adding cream at the end or using extra stock to make this a soup.
  • Stir fry with other crisp veggies and add plum sauce at the end for a Chinese twist.
  • Go Spanish and use them in a frittata, lightly cooked before if they are older flowers.
  • Stick to the traditional slow cooked lamb bredie, not forgetting to add suurings at the end.

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