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Veldkos finds - the waterblommetjie

Blog by Loubie Rusch of Making KOS and Deni Archer. Photos by Loubie Rusch, edited by Deni Archer.

Waterblommetjie, Cape Pond Weed, Water Hawthorn, Vleikos

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

Aponogeton distachyos (Aponogetonaceae)

The waterblommetjie 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.

Important notes on responsible foraging!
  1. Be absolutely sure that you have identified the right plant before picking or eating it. Refer to books as well plant identification sites on the web, but be weary of using Facebook groups - where non-experts often comment - to definitively ID edibles. This is not advised. Triple check if necessary - if in doubt, don't.
  2. Always taste new foods with caution and in small amounts at first, bearing in mind that individuals manifest food intolerance differently.
  3. As there are currently no permits required for foraging plant material, please do take care to harvest indigenous plants sustainably - always leave enough behind for the plant to be able to continue to grow or reproduce abundantly, be careful to not over-harvest seeds, leave roots in place, and take care not to trample plants whilst foraging.
  4. Exotic weeds may be picked in great quantity, knowing that you are performing a service to the environment.
  5. Get permission if you are harvesting on private land, whether foraging exotics or indigenous plants.
  6. Never remove or eat plants from a nature reserve.
  7. Always wash your haul very thoroughly, and make sure you are picking from an unpolluted site.
  8. Bear in mind that some edible plants can be toxic if eaten in large quantity, or if not prepared correctly.
  9. Always be informed about what you are doing and be prepared to take responsibility for your actions, both during harvesting and eating.
For more, follow Loubie on her Facebook page, Making KOS

Waterblommetjies grow on ponds and vleis in winter rainfall areas. When foraging, you may spot them on road side water bodies that spring up in the wet season.

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjieVeldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

Trim the stems and wash very well before use to properly cleanse. Growing water quality cannot always be determined.

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

Split the flowers in two, or even quarter them in length if they are very big.

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

Waterblommetjies (front right) stir fried with dune spinach (front left), onions and coriander. Add plum sauce at the end and you've got a Chinese meal with an African twist (below).

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjieVeldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

A hearty stew of kudu, quince and waterblommetjie.

Veldkos-finds---the-waterblommetjie

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