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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos)

Waterblommetjies also known as Cape pondweed, Cape hawthorn or Cape asparagus, is an ingredient in one of the most loved traditional dishes in the country called waterblommetjie-bredie (This word is a mouthful!!!!) While I lived briefly in other provinces of South Africa, I had to rely on the tinned products to make the popular stew. Here, of course, I am so close to many traditional food sources: only 90 km from where the bokkoms are harvested and a 3 minute walk from crayfish and other seafood. The nearest dams for harvesting waterblommetjies are on Lelieblom Farm in the Darling district. (The farm where I get so much material for my blogs!!)

I find that they appear in the markets more and more and this might mean that they will soon be available in fresh form all over the country. The ones I painted here were from a large fruit and veg market. The first people to utilize these greenish hard little flowers growing on long thin grass-like stems, were the Khoikoi people. They used it in stews, mostly with mutton, onions and potatoes and flavoured with salt, pepper and sorrel. Sorrel, of course grows in springtime so it is available at the same time as the waterblommetjies, and it is used to give a slightly acidic taste to the dish. I do not use the common garden sorrel at all, as it is much safer to have the plant positively verified by an expert. In fact, we will only eat it if three experts point them out! The little sorrel flowers on my cooked dish was placed there briefly for the photo!

Recipes? Just do what comes naturally. I always fry some onions first, then some lamb knuckles, add cubed potatoes and water, stock or wine and prepare for a slow simmer. Add the sorrel only if you know your garden weeds! The waterblommetjies are added last and steams on top of the dish as they soften and break up quickly. Mixed herbs, a little salt and some white pepper are a must. We find this dish filling and would eat it with salad things only, but rice is the traditional accompaniment.

For soup: Steam the waterblommetjies with potato and onion in a little milk and vegetable stock. Flavour with garlic and the usual dried herbs/salt/pepper. Liquidize, serve and enjoy this healthy vegetarian soup with some warm crusty bread.

I was unable to visit a waterblommetjie harvesting, but in the background I painted a man, knee-deep in water, harvesting the plants and putting them in a floating dish.


  1. I love your painting of the Waterblommetjies and since I have never eaten them or even seen them before, I found your post very interesting.

  2. First, I love the painting! I have always wanted an enamel colander (mine is plastic) and one day I will have one! LOL Can you tell me what these waterblommetjies taste like? (I guess you'd have to try to equate the taste to something I might know! LOL) They sound delicious!

  3. P. S. Forgot to mention how long your hair is getting. It looks fabulous!!

  4. The painting is beautiful and since I live in this part of the world far far away from you, I dont get to see this in real,, so enjoyed it so much on this post!

  5. Vanessa, thanks for popping in! With you being South African, we must make a plan for you to eat them one day. The bredie is truly unforgettable!

    Sherry, thank you for the nice remarks.
    Oh, and I wish I could send you a colander, they are not scarce or expensive here, but shipping will cost a fortune!
    Now, about the taste: I would say if you cook a lamb stew slowly and flavorful and add some artichokes/green beans, you will have a resemblance of this dish!
    Lastly, about my hair: when I was almost 60 I said that I would grow it for the last time. Now I am on my way to 70 and really there I'm going again! My dad had thick strong hair past 80. Thank you for the lovely compliment!

    Padmaja, thank you, I always feel the same about your posts. Sometimes not knowing a thing about the culture, but always willing to read and enjoy!

  6. what a beautiful painting and this food I have never heard of,, I learned something new today,, I also love that rooster!!

  7. Fabulous post Marie. Informative, as always. The painting is also wonderful and a very difficult subject to tackle.

  8. It is always so wonderful to visit your blog.. Not only are we treated to a wonderful painting, but we get to learn about life (and food) in your part of South Africa.


    So is this considered a "green" ... vegetable or is it starchy like potato????

  9. Laurie, yes strange food, who knows, Walmart may get an idea to put it on your tables one day. Thanks for the remark about the painting. I am writing to you regarding our snakes here!

    Carol, I liked painting this as I need not diminish or enlarge anything. I could just paint it lifesize!

    Marian, thank you for the kind words, you paint fast and well and I cannot keep up! Yes, this is a proper "green veg", not sweet like peas, but hearty like greenbeans!

  10. JOAN SANFORD-COOK found it difficult to leave a comment on this blog and sent me this welcome e-mail: Hi Marie

    Seem to be having trouble sending blogger comments of late to some posts - just had to say I've just typed (and lost!) comment on the asparagus painting and the fact that I use my husband's grannie's metal colander the spitting image of ours.

    Also loved the rooster and the 'funny' photos - very clever positioning.


    Thank you very much, Joan!

  11. Never a dull moment..or post...on your blog, Marie!
    I love this painting!
    Strange food with strange names...Extremely interesting and educational.

  12. Beautiful painting, Marie. I like the way you worked the harvester into the background. What an exotic dish! I can only imagine. Does it taste anything like Asparagus or is that just because it resembles it?

  13. Hi Marie!...Always a pleasure to visit your colourful and information-crammed site.

    Aside for your nicely designed and carefully crafted paintings... your humour is joyful and information and background knowledge about your land is so absorbing!

    Nice extra..the indistrinct background worker in your marvellous still life!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  14. I always love to read your posts, very interesting. Your painting is just perfect, the colander is just amazing. Very nice!

  15. Marie, thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Good to hear from long-time blog friends.

    As always, I just love how I learn about the food, the culture, the economy, and the people of your area when I visit your blog. The painting is just lovely. I agree with Sherry about liking the porcelain colandar; mine is metal and not so pretty. Also, as Dean said, your unique approach to this still life with the harvester in the background makes for a very special piece.

    And yes, I love your longer hair. I am approaching 70, too, and I think its freeing to please ourselves!

  16. Great painting Marie. Never heard of these! Interesting post.

  17. Dean, you have the gift of expressing yourself, this was so well said! Thank you, and other bloggers enjoyed your comments too!

    Gwen, more like steamed greenbeans, if I have to choose something similar. But this dish is almost whispered about because the season is short and it is easy to miss having some!

  18. Bruce, thank you!!! When I open my blog, I say to myself: you are on, this is live, now talk! So what you said about my ramblings and the painting had me floating a few feet above the ground all day long!

    Thanks again!

  19. Thank you Barbara, I am glad you liked the colander!

    Mary, the colander is enamel. I have so many new and ancient enamel, that I think I must blog about them! The harvester happened by chance. One of my ocean paintings stood behind the colander (see the prep photo) and I was going to paint it, then thought of a pond scene.Thanks for the comment about my hair, yes 70 is the new 50!

    Giselle, thank you! I was not able to view your video and looked forward to hearing the Spanish guitar!

  20. CATHY GATLAND, she of the most enjoyable and expressive sketches, send me a lovely e-mail:
    Hi Marie

    Like Joan, I can’t seem to leave a comment on your blog – I think I’ve not kept up with technology as there are a few things Blogger no longer lets me see or do! But this was for your lovely waterblommetjie post:

    Mmm, its a long time since I had waterblommetjie-bredie, my mouth is watering! They make a beautiful painting too in your hands Marie, in the lovely colander. I will be looking out for them in the shops, though they won't be as fresh as yours!

    As always, I love ‘virtually’ visiting your wonderful and hospitable West Coast site, thank you for sharing it with us.
    Cathy Gatland

    What a lovely message, Cathy! Thanks for all you said and hugs from me!

  21. Hi marie, another wonderful, satisfying visit to your blog, after I have been away and out of touch for 10 days! Love the painting and the photos of dinner, again, thank you for a lovely feast for the eyes.

  22. Thank-you for educating us with your post and your wonderful painting, too! Bon appetite, Marie!!

  23. Oh Marie - what a great post! Wonderful painting and so creative putting the harvester in the background! I so enjoy coming here and learning more about South Africa!

  24. Thank you Cissy, coming and going is part of life! I have just been with the grandchildren for 10 days! Tx for always returning!

    Thank you Linny, we DO love our traditional food!

    Thank you Rosemarie, I hope I can always have a surprize for everyone!

  25. wow I learned something new today---Waterblommetjies ! It is a great painting---and it was fun to learn all about something I have never ever heard of!

  26. Thank you Celeste! I only wish you could have a taste. Maybe this plant will be marketed all over some day!


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