Edible Indigenous South African Plants

22nd January 2018

Food foraging is a global trend that is finding its way into news stories, restaurants and our everyday eating. Edible plant varieties are all around us – it just takes a bit of knowledge to identify and cook them correctly. And more often than not, they’re also indigenous to our soils.

South Africa has a vast and beautiful array of indigenous plant species. They thrive in their natural conditions, and many are also water-wise or drought-tolerant, making them a logical choice for your garden.

Looking for plants that are both water-wise and useful in the kitchen? Look out for these varieties:

Confetti bush (Coleonema pulchellum)

A member of the buchu family, this fragrant herb is best used as you would thyme, by stripping off the leaves and infusing them with savoury or sweet dishes. The branches are also stunning in a floral arrangement.

How to grow: The confetti bush can be planted in a bed of fynbos or in a pot, where it will need to be pruned to be kept small and neat. It needs well-drained soil and a 3:2:1 fertiliser. Add a layer of mulch to retain soil moisture. While young, don’t allow the plant to dry out. Once it’s established, it will be able to withstand drought conditions.

Snake flower (Bulbine frutescens)

More medicinal than it is delicious, the leaf of the snake flower produces a jelly-like substance that can be rubbed over burns, blisters and rashes, or added to hot water to be sipped to soothe coughs and colds.

How to grow: The snake flower makes a fantastic water-wise ground cover in the toughest conditions. It requires minimum care and needs only well-draining soil, enriched with compost, and full sun. Prune when untidy and nip off the dead flower heads to encourage the plant to flower.

Kluitjieskraal (Agathosma ovata)

Commonly known as the false buchu, Kluitjieskraal can be used for medicinal purposes or as an essential oil. It is also delicious brewed with rooibos in a herbal tea, or used to infuse vinegars and oils for a distinct Cape flavour.

How to grow: Plant in well-draining, humus-rich soil where it will receive full sun. Water moderately only during very dry periods. Cut off new growth to encourage a bushy shape.

African wormwood (Artemisia apra)

As well as being a medicinal wonder plant for fevers, colds, flus and headaches, the African wormwood adds a unique herbal flavour to cocktails, ice teas and other herbal drinks. The flavour is strong, so use sparingly.

How to grow: Plant in well-drained, sandy soil where it receives full sun. Prune in winter to encourage abundant growth in spring.