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Top 5 Edible Indigenous Leaves

Leaves are mostly cooked and added to dry meal to make a green porridge. Fresh leaves are added just before serving. Cooked leaves are also made into cakes which are served as a side dish. At the end of summer, leaves are dried for winter use. Fresh leaves are also used in salads.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'.

Eriocephalus africanus

(Wild Rosemary)

An evergreen shrub that grows about 1m high x 1m wide.The fine, grey, aromatic foliage, the snow white flowers and the fluffy cotton wool seeds ensure that it has year long appeal. It can withstand the most adverse conditions of weather, soil and habitat. The flowers open in summer. Wild rosemary can be pruned to make a neat border hedge and can be used to soften rock and succulent gardens. The fluffy, white seeds that develop after flowering cover the bush, giving rise to the Afrikaans common name Kapokbos, meaning 'snow bush'. These fragrant seeds are used to stuff pillows. It attracts birds and butterflies and can be used instead of culinary Rosemary in cooking. Useful to flavour bean , and fish dishes and also useful in stuffing for roast chicken. The leaves are used to brew a tea to treat colds, coughs, colic and flatulence. It is added to the bath to treat delayed menstruation, oedema and can be used as a fragrant hair rince. A excellent shrub for every garden. The name is derived from Greek erion=wool and kephale=head, referring to the wooly seed heads

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

Centella asiatica

(Pennywort||Waterhearts)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 15cm high and spreads. It produces cream flowers in summer and should be planted in sun, shade or semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for wetlands as it thrives in moist soil and will be suitable for containers where it will scamper over the edge. It is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, skin ailments like oily skin, blemishes, coarse open pores, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins and thread veins, fever, diuretic, purgative, TB, leprosy, syphilis and to aid the memory. It is excellent for treating sunburn and gives aging skin back its elasticity. In Australia one or two leaves is chopped into a salad and eaten daily. This is said to be the right dose to aid the memory as large amounts eaten at a sitting are said to have a narcotic effect however in South Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach. It is the larval host for the Uranus Opal butterfly and one moth specie. A face cream can be made by simmering half a cup of aqueous cream with half a cup of finely chopped leaves in a double boiler for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil. Fill a container and enjoy the benefits. It can also be made into a lotion by boiling 3 liters of water with 3 cups of leaves for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. This can be used for aching legs, varicose veins, swellings, infections and rashes. Cheap as chips and worth a try. It was recorded in the French pharmacopoeia in 1884 and is used in Hindu medicine. The name comes from the Greek kentron=a spur or sharp point and ella=diminutive referring to the small pointed styles.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

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