Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for Ice Plant (Also Called Sour Fig & Hottentot Fig)

When I first started researching articles for the AtoZ Challenge, I came across an Ice Plant (popularly known as sour fig), a perennial fruit native to South Africa.

For a while I was confused, thinking it might be a fruit we called turksvy (Afrikaans name for prickly pear), especially as both plants are cacti and bear fruit.

Turksvy

We used to pick turksvy in the wild when I was growing up. It was delicious, but not my favourite because you had to navigate a big, thorn-laden tree to pick the fruit and to peel it carefully and thoroughly before eating it. There are easier ways to find food:)

As it turned out, they were two completely different plants. The ice plant is a creeping, mat-forming plant that brings out yellow, light pink or deep magenta flowers and is used by many as ground cover. Its leaves are edible and you can cook them like spinach.

source: wikimedia

Opinion is divided as to whether the fruit can pass the taste test, with some people saying it has a strong, astringent, salty, sour taste (This woman initially disliked it, adding slimy to the epitephs) but she changed her mind. I also found people who eat it dry or as a jam.
Source
Soil preparation: I doubt I would eat it, but I like it as potential ground cover around the yard, on three sides between my fence and the roads.

The problem with that space is weed grows so fast I can't keep up, affecting our  curb appeal. The municipality sends people, but the weeds grow back faster than they can make another round, so I end up investing resources to tidy it up.

The ice plant is an attractive option as ground cover because it's easy to grow, tolerates poor soil, heavy drought and salt in the soil (for those near the sea). It's also heat and fire resistant and apparently, deer don't like it, though its flowers attract butterflies. So I can propagate and then ignore it.

The planting process: Press the seeds into the soil at six inch intervals, then water the bed. They will germinate between 21-28 days.

Plant care: Once the seeds have germinated, you don't really have to do anything except make sure it only creeps in the allocated space.

Harvesting: After you pick the fruit, peel it first before eating it. Some people recommend that you dry it, while others say it's delicious if the dried fruit is soaked in water overnight before eating or making jam with it.
dried fruit available from teddy's
Serving suggestions: Here's a recipe for ice plant/sour fig jam.  If you ever eat ice plant, please come back and tell us about it, thank you.

14 comments:

  1. Another nice and informative post...Loving these series..

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    1. I'm learning a lot too, especially from the online research and I'm finding out that even though I might have a plant in my garden, I don't know as much as I should about it.

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  2. very informative.. I am tempted to try out gardening.. you are doing such a great job. By the way do you have deer eating away your plants ?

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    1. I'm glad I can inspire you to try something new/that you didn't even know you might want to do. Thank you.

      I don't think that there is any kind of deer native to South Africa .. so nah... we don't have a deer problem. I was only referring to it for people who do have it in their own regions.

      We used to have hyenas, jackals and monkey.. but most of that wildlife has been displaced by human settlements. Though a couple of months ago a monkey ran through my yard going from one street to another. I saw it from my office window and ran outside to see it properly, but it ran right into my opposite neighbour's yard. It didn't looked freaked out by yards and fences though, so we wondered if it was someone's pet that should not have been running around on its own.

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  3. Hi Damaria .. interesting that you can eat the Ice Plant leaves and fruits .. but I do love that ice pink colour ... oh I do love seeing your photos and I for implanting myself back to SA for a few minutes! I'd like to try some ... at some stage .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary

      Thanks. It's such a pleasure to see your image when I come to my blog. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad I can give you a bit of South Africa:)

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  4. That sounds like my kind of edible plant. And what pretty flowers, Damaria.
    We have a particular greens variety that has sour leaves, used in lieu of tamarind - so anything made with those leaves is quite tasty. Not sure what it is called in English.Okay, just checked and the Wikipedia lists "gongura" as Kenaf/ Hibiscus cannabinus or Roselle/ Hibiscus sabdariffa,

    I've never tasted a cactus!

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    1. I'll look up gongura to see what it's like. I've tasted cactus when I was little. It was supposed to be for medicinal purposes but can't remember what exactly. I decided the cure would probably kill me faster than the illness:)

      Thanks for coming by Vidya.

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  5. 'Deer don't like it' is reason enough to plant it for me, but I live where it is very wet and also very cold.

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  6. Interesting. I would love the chance to try it and see what my palate says. I would never have guessed such a plant existed, or thought of actually putting something like that in my mouth.

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  7. I used to have cacti that grew prickly pear and didn't even know you could eat it! Now I wish I did so I could've tried it. Darn! :)

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    1. You poor tongue thanks you for dodging that prickly bullet:)

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  8. Visiting on the 10th day of the #atozchallenge. Fantastic blog created by a fellow writer and gardener. I will begin to follow. Thanks for all the hard work to present your readers with worthwhile information. If you have time or interest, I am writing about gardening and related topics this month. Come and visit.

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