Today’s blog topic is on an unusual and up and coming topic. Indigenous edible plants are becoming important as a way to help problems of food insecurity as well as the fact that unusual food sources are becoming extremely fashionable. In this blog we will mention some of these indigenous plants and how to use them as well as some other interesting facts about these plants.

Portulacaria afra or spekboom is a large succulent shrub with juicy lime green foliage which has a zesty lemon flavour which lends itself to adding to salads and sauces. The leaves are extremely high in vitamin C. This succulent is well known for sucking up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the air. Therefore it is a great anti-pollution plant.

There are a lot of scented Pelargoniums which are used for cooking, baking (you can line cake tins etc with leaves), cool drinks, punches and cocktails, decorating foods etc. The petals make a tasty and beautiful garnish for example and are often added to cakes, biscuits etc. Some popular varieties are rose scented, peppermint and citrus scented pelargoniums. One can really experiment here and create some amazing dishes. Pelargoniums are extremely hardy medium shrubs which are very floral and have a lot of medicinal uses as well.

Eriocephalus africanus or Wild Rosemary can be used in the same way as normal rosemary is used, but the flavour is just not as strong. This herb is often used to flavour beans, fish dishes and is often added when making stuffing for roast chicken. The leaves are used to make a tea which treats coughs, colds and stomach problems. This medium size shrub is extremely attractive with its grey foliage, masses of white flowers and fluffy white seeds which are woolly and are sometimes used to stuff cushions.

Salvia Africana lutea or golden sage is used a lot in cooking and complements veg and pasta dishes, as well as chicken, sauces, stews and roasts. It must be used in the same way as normal sage where one adds some whilst cooking for a while and then removes the sprigs before it can make the food to bitter. Another tip is that leaves can be dried and stored in glass jars with your other spices. The orange blooms can also be added to salads to create a bright splash of colour. This medium shrub is a coastal plant and grows wild in coastal bush areas. It is classified as a pioneer plant.

Carissa macrocarpa or Num-Num / Amatungulu is a fruiting thorny shrub which bears masses of red plum like berries which are popular with animals as well as humans (poisonous to dogs). When eaten raw these berries taste a little like cranberries. They are very high in vitamin C. The fruits are commonly used to make jams and preserves and are also used for colouring syrups and cordials ruby red. This extremely thorny shrub is used commonly as a security and boundary plant and is extremely hardy tolerating sea salt laden air and drought conditions.

The leaves of Coleonema pulchellum or confetti bush are used as an alternative to thyme to flavour dishes. The flowers of Jasminum multipartitum or starry wild jasmine are used in salads, baking as flavouring, in teas and as a gorgeous garnish but must be used quickly to prevent discolouring.

Tulbaghia violacea or Wild Garlic is a useful culinary plant and all parts are edible. The flowers have a mild garlic flavour and are used in salads and as a garnish. They are wonderful in a potato salad and really make the salad look fancy. The leaves are used like chives and the roots have a strong garlic flavour and can be used in the same way being popular for stews and roasts. A soup made from the roots and leaves is actually useful for coughs and colds. Wild garlic is used as a plant for creating borders, mass groundcover and as an insect repellent plant in organic gardening.

Carpobrotus edulis or sour fig is an hardy succulent groundcover with masses of yellow or pink flowers dependant on the variety. The ripe and dried fruits have a sweet and salty, tamarind like juicy centre and this is used to make jams, chutneys and sauces. Supposedly the pink flowering variety produces sweeter fruits than the yellow. The leaves are known for being used for many skin conditions but what you may not know is that the leaves can be chewed to relieve a saw throat.

Doyvalis caffra or Kei apple produces apple like yellow fruits which can be used to make excellent jam, jelly, cake, drink, dessert or is added to fruit salad. The unripe fruit is used to make pickles. This fruit is very nutritious and many local communities make an income out of harvesting and selling these fruits. This large shrub or small tree has masses of large thorns and therefore is useful as a security plant. It is extremely drought tolerant and hardy but is a bit of a slow grower.

There are also a lot of indigenous trees with edible berries for example the Harpephyllum caffrum or wild plum, the Syzygium cordatum or waterberry and the list goes on.

In conclusion the list of plants and trees above is to mention only some of the amazing indigenous edibles we have available in our beautifully diverse country. It is well worth doing some homework on this topic and figuring out how you can make use of our indigenous flora to create your culinary masterpieces to impress any guest. All the plants mentioned are commonly found in retail nurseries and should be easy to find. Please note that you should make sure that you have correctly identified the plants etc before using them. If you are not sure, take a sample to your local nursery and ask if there is a horticulturist that can confirm identification. Also remember to not use any insecticides or chemicals on plants or fruits which you are planning on using.

We wish you happy gardening and very happy culinary experiences using our local fauna.

Article written by Jessica Ruger.

We hope the hints and tips in this blog will help you to create your perfectly landscaped garden that you have envisioned.

Follow us on Facebook for daily posts all about gardening!

Click Here to View Our Facebook Page