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Edible indigenous South African plants

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Edible indigenous plants offer a great way to eat well and garden with indigenous plants.

Some great tips on indigenous plants that you can easily grow and harvest in your very own garden for medicinal remedies and exciting culinary experiences. We have a treasure trove of edible and medicinal plants within our rich plant kingdom in South Africa.

Pelargonium culallatum (wild malva)

  • The leaves of this plant diffused into a tea can be used to treat stomach disorders.
  • Add the leaves to your bath for a fragrant, relaxing soak to relieve tired muscles.
  • Grows up to a metre, and flowers beautifully in post-fire years. It grows best in a sunny position in well-drained soil and looks best if pruned after flowering to prevent it from getting leggy.

Pelargonium tomentosum
(peppermint-scented pelargonium)

  • Use the flowers in salads and to decorate cakes.
  • Makes a delicious flavouring for ice-cream.
  • A shady position, compost and a bit of water in summer will keep this fast-growing pelargonium happy. One plant can cover 0.75m².

Coleonema pulchellum (confetti bush)

  • Can be used in sweet or savoury dishes – strip the little leaves off the stems as one would with thyme.
  • Known as the false buchu, this lovely shrub grows to one metre or more. They like well-drained soil and a bit of compost, and they prefer a sunny position although they do tolerate light shade.

Oxalis pes-caprae (wild sorrel)

  • The flowers can be used in salads and the heart-shaped leaves used as a garnish.
  • The stalks and roots can be eaten raw or cooked in milk. Traditionally oxalis is used as an ingredient in ‘waterblommetjie stew’ and as a salt substitute.
  • Often taken for granted, it occurs naturally in the Western Cape and doesn’t have to be planted.
    They die down at the end of spring.

Carissa macrocarpa (num-num)

  • The beautiful berries of the num-num can be eaten as a fruit as they are very high in vitamin C & pectin.
  • Excellent for making jam and preserves.
  • This is a reasonably slow-growing summer rainfall coastal shrub that grows best in nutrient-rich soil. It is often used as a windbreak. It is drought-resistant and grows up to two metres. The num-num has lovely white flowers in spring and summer, which are followed by the delicious fruit.

Tulbachia violacea (wild garlic)

  • The flowers can be used in salads and as a garnish.
  • The leaves can be used as an insect repellent.
  • The roots have a very pungent garlic flavour (so use them sparingly) and can be used like regular garlic.
  • This excellent border plant has bluish-green leaves. It flowers profusely if watered through the summer months with attractive mauve flowers. Easy to grow.

Carpobrotus edulis (sour figs)

  • The succulent leaves are excellent for skin problems like sunburn, bee and blue bottle stings, rashes, cold sores and insect bites.
  • Chew on the leaves for sore throat relief.
  • The fruits have a tamarind-tasting juicy seed centre and are used to make jams, chutneys and sauces.
  • This fast-growing succulent ground cover flowers from August to October. Widespread and used as a pioneer plant to hold banks and exposed sand.

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