Waterblommetjies are one of the Cape's favourite old-time ingredients, and if you're lucky enough to find them, here are the best ways to use them.
If you happen to travel on a country road in the Western Cape during winter, you will see waterblommetjies floating like little white boats on farm dams.
According to Dr Bettie Marais of the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens the waterblommetjie (Aponogeton distachyos – what a tongue-twister!) is not only an indigenous plant, but is also peculiar to the Cape region.
We should relish this little gem and also serve it with pride to those who are not in the know, as it is farmed commercially now and therefore readily available in season.
For years mature waterblommetjies where served with their fat seedpods in a bredie (or stew).
For this dish, you slowly braise lamb and thickly sliced onions in a large pot until lightly browned. Turn the heat down; add a splash of white wine and simmer.
Add potato chunks when the meat is almost tender.
Rinse waterblommetjies well and place on top of potatoes about 10 minutes later.
Let those waterblommetjies steam on top of the bredie and please do not cook them to smithereens!
Gently stir your pot once the blommetjies are tender and add a little lemon juice. In the olden days suring (wild sorrel) stems where used.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve on rice.
Best of all are the first tender blommetjies, which require a much lighter touch than their more robust older sisters.
These young blommetjies can be turned into a delicious vegetarian starter, served with lemon aïoli and crusty bread.
WATERBLOMMETJIES WITH LEMON AIOLI
Select young, slender waterblommetjies (about 300 g which will serve 4 as a starter) and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Steam until just tender, but still al dente - it should take 3 - 4 minutes.
Remove from heat, place in a colander and sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve with lemon aioli.