The Western Cape is preparing for a massive waterblommetjie harvest after consecutive years of poor rainfall and warmer than normal winter temperatures.
Waterblommetjies - or "Cape pond weed" (Aponogeton distachyos) - are edible freshwater plants indigenous to the lagoons and seasonal ponds of the Western Cape and Mpumalanga.
The global agricultural news platform Freshplaza reported that for the past two years there have been nearly “non-existent” waterblommetjie harvests in the commercial producing regions of the Cape Winelands.
Liza Geldenhuys, from waterblommetjie producer Windmeul near the Paarl, explained that waterblommetjies need sufficient rain and sunny warm days for optimum growth. She says without sufficient rainfall, seasonal ponds did not fill up which severely hindered the growth of waterblommetjies.
“Conditions have already improved dramatically in 2018, and a far bigger harvest is expected,” Geldenhuys told Business Insider South Africa.
The South African waterblommetjie season run normally from the end May until middle October, but this year some of the earliest producers already started harvesting in April. Consumption has seen growth, particularly among consumers in Gauteng and the Free State, reports Freshplaza.
Waterblommetjies, typically used in stews, were first used by the Khoikhoi people in the Western Cape, Geldenhuys says.
“The Khoikhoi people taught settlers how to use waterblommetjies which led to a wide variety of uses.”
“Waterblommetjies are high in vitamins and minerals. The juices from the stem can also be used as a soothing treatment for burns and scrapes if applied frequently, and directly after the injury.”
Waterblommetjies were introduced for cultivation in Europe in the seventeenth century. Today it can now also be found in Southern France and England.
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