Carissa berries are commonly known as ‘Num-num’s’. The humble Num-num bush has glossy dark green leaves and big spiky thorns, protecting its delicate jasmine-like flowers and plump, juicy red berries.
When you pick a Carissa berry, you will find a milky latex at the base of the berry– this milky latex is usually a warning sign in most plants – but in the Carissa berry, it is non-toxic.
The berries are rich in pectin, which makes them great to add to jams, preserves and relishes, binding everything beautifully and glossing it with a ruby-red hue. It is also very high in vitamin C making it a nutritious snack eaten raw. The taste of the berries are tart, sweet, with a cranberry like flavour.
Carissa berry, beetroot and apple relish
¼ cup of Carissa berries, sliced
2 apples cored, peeled and diced
4 small beetroots, peeled and diced
¼ cup of sugar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients in a small pot, except for the honey. Simmer over a low heat until most of the liquid has reduced, for approximately 40 minutes. When it starts to look bubbly and sticky, add the honey and simmer at a low heat for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool down. Pour it over a soft, room-temperature cheese such as Camembert or Brie cheese. Try to share it with your friends – that’s if it even makes it out of your kitchen!
How to grow Carissa
Carissa macrocarpa, or ‘Num-num’, is a handsome evergreen shrub with fairly large shiny leaves, and grows to about 2 meters in height. It has thick sharp thorns and can be used to create an effective, impenetrable hedge. Carissa is found naturally in coastal areas from Humansdorp, all the way up to Mozambique. Although able to survive drought and poor soil very well, it grows faster in good soil with some watering. Carissa berry produces beautifully-scented white flowers from spring to mid-summer, and is followed by large red fruits rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Carissa can be grown easily from seed sown in the spring, but it can also be grown
from semi-hardwood cuttings in spring.
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