Waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos), also known as Cape pondweed, are bulbous plants that thrive in slow- moving water dams, particularly in the Western Cape. The flowers or stems of these plants are used in traditional soups and stews (bredies).
Sorrel is a natural accompaniment to waterblommetjies. Cultivated or wild sorrel can be used. If using cultivated sorrel, first cut off the thick stems and finely chop up the leaves. If sorrel is not available, fresh lemon juice or vinegar can be used as a substitute.
During the reign of the Dutch East India Company, people were already aware of the health benefits and high Vitamin C content of sorrel, and sorrel soup was often served to scurvy sufferers. The soup was prepared by boiling sorrel stems and leaves together with a small amount of water in a pot over the fire until a thick porridge formed. It was then left to cool and later whisked with cold milk or buttermilk.
If you can get your hands on some during their short flowering season in the Cape Winter, try this traditional Winelands recipe for waterblommetjie soup and do so while listening to Anton Goosen’s song, Waterblommetjies.
Waterblommetjie & Sorrel SoupIngredients
1½ cups (375 ml) wild sorrel or 3 cups (3x 250 ml) garden sorrel
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter
2 onions, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
5 cups (5 x 250 ml) waterblommetjies
½ tsp (2.5 ml) grated nutmeg
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
4 cups (4 x 250 ml) spinach leaves (optional, for colour)
Just over 1½ cups (400 ml) sour cream
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) ground white pepperMethod
If using wild sorrel, rinse well to remove any sand. Place the sorrel and 2 cups (500 ml) water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until it forms a thick porridge (the sorrel stock). Remove from the heat and set aside. (If using garden sorrel, add the same time as the spinach.)
Heat the butter in a separate, large saucepan and sweat the onions, leek celery and lemon zest until softened, but not browned.
Add the sorrel stock, waterblommetjies, nutmeg and chicken stock and simmer for about 30 minutes until cooked.
Add the lemon juice, spinach (if using) and sour cream, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to the stove to heat through, and serve.