January 21, 2013
The sour fig or Hottentot fig is the edible fruit of the ice plant. These “figs” can be eaten raw, made into sour preserves, or candied; though they taste nothing like the fruit after which they are named. The seed covering is a mucilaginous mass that largely tasteless save for its prominent acidity.
The leaves are edible as well, but their high tannin content makes them unpalatable without preparation. Each boiling (after which the water is discarded) removes these astringent tannins. Or, like the fruits, they can be pickled or turned into a chutney.
The ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, is a creeping succulent invader. It tends to form mats that choke out local species. Ice plants are among the first to colonize distressed habitats and will quickly gain a foothold in emerging ecosystems.
Ice plant seeds survive digestion and are easily spread by small mammals, birds, and turtles. The spreading foliage provides cover for carnivorous reptiles that prey on these small animals.
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