The Glacial Ficoid, an unusual and gastronomic plant

With the botanical name Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, the Glacial Ficoid, also called “Ice Grass” or “Icy Purslane”, immediately stands out in the vegetable garden because it stands out for its beauty and originality, not to mention that it is also perfectly edible! It is a creeping succulent that is both very graceful, but also and above all very tasty. All its originality lies in the foliage, wavy, soft green and fleshy, covered with small transparent vesicles, giving it a matte appearance, as if covered with a large number of micro water droplets. This unusual and forgotten edible plant has recently reappeared on the plates, spurred on by great chefs who are showing an increasing interest in it.

Originally from the coastal areas of the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa, the frosty fig tree was introduced to Europe in the second half of the 18th century. At the end of the 19th century, it appeared in all the catalogs of seed merchants in Europe and America. However, it was withdrawn during the last century, but in recent years it has seen a real resurgence in popularity with chefs who appreciate its meaty matted appearance, its crunchy side and its surprising spicy taste. However, in vegetable gardens and on horticultural stalls, it is still extremely rare!

Glacial Ficoid in the kitchen…and in cream!

The leaves are edible cooked as spinach or raw in a salad. They have an iodized taste reminiscent of samphire, or even certain seafood. The leaves with a fleshy, slightly greasy texture combine with a very spectacular freezing effect, unprecedented in cooking.

In Réunion, where this plant is very popular, it is called “Brède glaciale”. Its sour taste and firm texture make it a surprising salad that goes very well with seafood. Both the stems and the leaves are eaten, raw and even cooked, quickly fried in butter.

For the little anecdote, large cosmetic laboratories are also interested in this plant, in particular Yves Rocher and Dr. Hauschka who conducted studies on its benefits. It turns out that one of these composters is said to be anti-aging for the cells of the skin, especially against wrinkles! You will find a whole range of skin creams with icy Ficoid, “strengthening” creams, “plumping” serum and so on!

Detail of the “pearls” of Mesembryanthemum crystallinum – Photo: Rexania.

How To Grow Glacial Ficoid In The Vegetable Garden?

Glacial Ficoide is a very easy plant to grow. It is part of the botanical family of Aizoacées and the etymology of its family name confirms that it is strong: “Aizoon” is derived from the Greek “Aeízoon”, meaning eternal, and “Zóos” meaning alive, a designation that qualifies for a plant known to survive almost all conditions! Indeed, the frosty fig tree is a perennial that tolerates drought and poor soil well. The only requirement is that the soil where it will be planted is draining.

Sowing is done in buckets under shelter (at 15-20°C) between March and April, in a mixture of potting soil and sand, or place in May-June, frost-free. Barely cover the seeds, as they are extremely fine, and keep them moist until they germinate. Germination takes place between 2 and 3 weeks. The young plants are then transplanted into the ground when the frost is no longer to be feared. When planting, keep a distance between plants of 30 to 40 cm in all directions.