Welcome back waterblommetjies
As autumn approaches, it’s time to keep a lookout for the winter delicacy waterblommetjies (literally, water flowers).
Also called Cape Pond Weed - a rather unappetising sounding name - or vleikos (wetlands food), because it occurs naturally in ponds and vleis (wetlands), waterblommetjies are a winter treat that local cooks relish.
Botanists know the edible water lily as Aponogeton distachyos. In his book on Cape Cookery, Louis Leipoldt, refers to them in English as Water Hawthorn.
Ordinary South Africans from the West Coast to the Boland, know waterblommetjies as the secret ingredient of a traditional South African winter lamb bredie, or stew.
Found in the winter rainfall areas of the western, southern and eastern Cape, waterblommetjies flower during winter and spring (early July to mid-October) when their sweet-scented white flowers grow in profusion in ponds and dams.
Their taste is described by some as a cross between green beans and artichokes, with a subtle sourness and a mineral tang such as you’d find in seaweed, or samphire.
Hardcore foodies love to brag about foraging (read: wade around in freezing water) for waterblommetjies. Once picked, you also need to clean and soak the edible flowers and stems in salted water a few times.
The good news for the non-Bear Grylls among us is that of all the indigenous food plants that comprise our edible heritage waterblommetjies are the only one commercially sold. Scour farm stalls, local grocers and even the odd supermarket.
If you’d like to try this seasonal indulgence, it’s much prized by local chefs, who turn it into soups, tempura, and the ubiquitous, but utterly delicious, waterblommejtjie bredie.
Lelieblom farm restaurant in Darling will serve you a traditional waterblommetjie bredie made with wild sorrel, and sell you the edible flowers harvested from their dam to take home.
Fyndraai restaurant in Franschhoek specialises in Kaapse kos (regional Cape food) and makes a delicious waterblommetjie soup. In Wellington, the chef at the Stone Kitchen in Dunstone winery serves a bredie made more wonderful by the estate’s fabulous Shiraz. At Paddagang restaurant in Tulbagh, the waterblommetjie bredie is definitely more-ish.
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Category: Arts & Entertainment