So good I named it twice…
Carpobrotus edulis or Cape fig, originally from the cape territories of South Africa was introduced to many territories around the world as an ornamental garden plant, beautiful and useful (fire-retardant, erosion control, medicinal and edible) but ultimately a garden escapee than can run amok in the wild… But one that we can help control with our knife and fork.
As many know and as many may guess ‘edulis’ means edible but Carpobrotus, if we didn’t already know or guess, reminds us further that this plant is comestible – karpos, from the Greek means fruit, and brotos, also Greek – means edible. It is not related to figs or the Moraceae family, but it’s fruit is somewhat fig-like in shape and texture hence the many common names referencing fig.
And like figs, its fruit is wonderful cooked into a curry and also in chutney. And like figs can find their way into a salad or a pickle. The fresh fruits can be a be a bit too mucilaginous and astringent from some tastes while to others the juice is prized- simply wait for the flower to die off then pick the receptacle and squeeze the often very sweet juice straight into your mouth. A sugar rush for your tongue.
If you let it ripen well before harvesting, then the fruit takes on a stronger, salty and sour taste and also it drys and cooks well too upon maturity.. and remember that you are removing its self-seeding potential in this manner, so stopping some further spread. Leaves are also utilized in culinary and medicinal applications too.
How to ID it – Carpobrotus edulis is a robust, carpeting and trailing succulent perennial. It roots at nodes and at the growing point it sends out horizontal stems in an upwards curve. The foliage is sharply 3-angled and when sliced is triangular in cross-section. Its solitary, flowers are 100-150 mm in diameter and yellow in colour to begin but fade to pale pink. The fruit is fleshy and indehiscent, approximately 35 mm in diameter, somewhat fig-shaped, becoming yellow and more fragrant as it ripens, wrinkling with age It can flower at different times in different territories but it is blooming when summer comes.
If you have a nice recipe for cape fig or any other invasive — do share!