Water Hawthorn

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

water hawthorn a name given to herbaceous water plants of the genus Aponogeton, whose flowers have a slight hawthorn scent. They belong to southern Africa but have only become semi-naturalized in parts of France and Italy (Aponus is the name of a warm-water spring near Padua).

The roots of A. cordatus are eaten in the Malagasy Republic; and the flowering spikes and leaves of A. distachyos are consumed locally in parts of S. Africa, with enthusiasm; indeed, it is the best-known and most highly prized wild plant of the Cape region. Leipoldt (1976) writes of its

beautiful white, strongly-scented flowers studding the surface of quiet wayside pools … It has a thick fleshy bulb which is edible, but is rarely used, the flower buds being much preferred. Bundles of these can still be bought on the Cape Town Parade and sometimes in the streets from itinerant hawkers, four bunches making a kooksel, or sufficient for an average dish. The flowers must be fresh, partly-opened, with the calyces bright green.