This is a well known local delicacy for the cold winter months.
It has become so popular that many commercial plantings have been
made in ponds around the western Cape. Cooked with onions, mutton
or lamb and a few leaves of the local sorrel/suring (Oxalis pes-caprae)
it makes a delicious stew.
long, oval shaped leaves float on the water, but it is usually the
flowers standing up out of the water above the leaves, that attract
Waterblommetjies flower in profusion during winter and spring.
Large areas of water in the western, southern and eastern Cape are
covered with their sweetly scented, white flowers.
flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence
bearing tiny, white, one-petalled flowers with brown anthers. The
flowers are also the edible part. Bees are very attracted to the
flowers and may be one of the main pollinators.
distachyos occurs naturally in the winter rainfall areas of
the Cape. It is adapted to growing in ponds and vleis which dry
up in summer. The dormant tubers sprout again as soon as the pools
fill in autumn.
The family Aponogetonaceae is regarded as one of the more primitive
of the plant families. There are several other species of Aponogeton
in southern Africa, but A. distachyos is the best known.
Aponogeton distachyos is a hardy plant and was introduced
into cultivation in Europe in the seventeenth century. It has naturalised
in southern France and has been cultivated in England where different
varieties have been named.
Growing Aponogeton distachyos
For a garden pond this is an excellent plant. Plant new tubers
in a pot with loam and place it in shallow water until the plants
starts growing strong. The pot can then slowly be moved to deeper
water in the sun. Plants can also be planted directly into the pond.
Waterblommetjies are vigorous growers that will seed themselves,
and in some areas might even need to be controlled.
The seed of Aponogeton germinates freely on the water surface.
The young seedlings can be collected and grown on. They will reach
flowering size in one season given ideal conditions. Another easy
way to propagate the plant is to divide the clumps of tubers in
summer. Dormant tubers are sometimes available from plant nurseries
in the Cape.
Recipe for Waterblommetjie Bredie (stew)
recipe below is adapted from Ina Paarman's recipe for a superior
stew.Waterblommetjies are usually available in the stores
in the winter months. Only the flowers and buds are used.
The quantities given below should be enough for 6 servings.
1 kg mutton (flank, shin or shoulder), cubed
2 T (30 ml) oil
1 T (15 ml) butter
1 t (5ml) seasoned salt, or salt, freshly ground black pepper
and a pinch of sugar
2 onions, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock or white wine or water
1 T (15 ml) vinegar (or lemon juice or a handful of sorrel/surings)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (optional)
pinch of chilli powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
500 g waterblommetjies cleaned
2 potatoes, diced
2 T (30 ml) wine vinegar
Brown the meat in the oil/butter mixture in a big heavy-bottomed
saucepan. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and season
with seasoned salt or salt, pepper and sugar. Saute the onions
in the same saucepan. Add the stock, vinegar, garlic and chilli
powder. Bring to the boil. Return the meat to the saucepan.
Simmer very slowly until the meat is nearly done. Add the
waterblommetjies, potatoes and vinegar. Simmer until the vegetables
are done. Season to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve
recipes are simpler and omit the garlic and chilli. They include
surings/local sorrel or lemon juice in the place of the wine
and vinegar, used above to sharpen the flavour.
Author: Liesl van der Walt