Grannie’s Kitchen

The Green File by Johan Wentzel

With the festive season ahead of us we can expect to experience some discomfort from time to time due to a little indulgence. With the price of food nowadays, I thought it appropriate to look at Grannie’s kitchen for some solutions.
If caffeine is keeping you awake or make you too energetic during this period of festivities, don’t despair. The roots of the Sheppard’s tree (Boscia albutrunca) make a brilliant coffee. The recipe to perfect this ritual is a bit challenging, but should be viewed as part of the experience. If it is a bit uncoffee-like for you, you can also mix in a few coffee beans before you grind the dried roots. This tree does not occur in our area, but you will find it where it is slightly drier, like the Bushveld and the Northern Cape. A good alternative to use is the Wild Coffee Bean, Bauhinia petersiana, but we leave this discussion for another day.
If coffee is not your favourite and you prefer a cuppa early in the morning, don’t despair. Rooibos (Aspalathus teres) is commercially available, so we will skip it. A local plant that is quite fragrant and will also bring down a fever (or something similar) is the “koorsbossie”, Lippia javanica. When the fresh leaves of this small shrub are crushed, it gives off a very fresh lemon smell. Dry the leaves and follow the instructions on the Rooibos pack. If you cannot find it, ask the manager at Jacana Bay – they have beautiful bushes.
For the sweet tooth, help is available. Most of the fruits of suitable plants can either be eaten as is or can be turned into a very nice preserve. Quite a few are locally available, such as the Tranvaal milk plum (Englerophytum magaliesmontanum). The fruit ripens in December and if you can beat the baboons, you can use it either fresh (a bit on the sour side, but very refreshing) or prepare a very nice preserve. I am sure Ina Paarman must have a recipe somewhere, for those that use recipe books. (I read recipe books for entertainment and then look in the fridge and vegetable garden what is available before I decide on the meal to be prepared). There are some other interesting locals as well.
For a refreshing drink, try the fruits of the Marula (Sclerocarya birrea). Just don’t leave your elixir too long in the fridge as is potency rises exponentially with time. Unless, of course, that was your aim. There are quite a few more stalwarts such as the wild apricot (Dovyalis zeyherii) and the wild medlar (Vangueria infausta). The last one worth mentioning is also a local stalwart, namely the Tranvaal red milkwood (Mimusops zeyherii). The fruits are really very tasty and are very rich in vitamin C. Most of these plants do well in a garden. However, most of the trees
occur on the ridges where frost is minimal.
For ailments, there is a whole plethora available. I suggest if this topic interests you, obtain a copy of Ben-Erik van Wyk’s book Medicinal Plants of South Africa, published by Briza. If you consider the cost of conventional medication, I suspect this book will be lying on you bedside table soon.
This is the last edition for this year and may you survive (unscathed) the festive season with grace. For more information on our indigenous plants, visit the website www.plantzafrica.com. Dr Johan Wentzel can be contacted on 082 801 1741.

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