Wild & Edible: Sour Fig Ice Plant
**Our Wild & Edible series showcases different wild and edible plants in the San Diego region. The purpose of this section is to educate the masses about our native plants and their uses. We feel it is important to have this knowledge in case you are ever stuck in a sticky situation, such as being lost on a hike and need to forage in order to survive. It also helps re-connect us to the land, which thanks to technology, most of us are being pulled further and further away.
Native plants may grow on your own property, or a friend’s property, in which case it is completely legal to harvest from. Plant nurseries often have a native plant section as well, in which case you can purchase your own plants! Otherwise, wild harvesting is considered illegal in most places in San Diego. Learn your plants and grow your wisdom! Wisdom is power, afterall.**
Ice plant is one of the most common ground covers to be seen around San Diego. Growing on both manicured landscapes and wild against coastal regions, this drought-tolerant plant is both easy to maintain and also beautiful when in bloom.
Originally from South Africa, ice plant was introduced to California as a ground-stabilizing plant to help halt the erosion on the coastal dunes. It is now classified as a weed, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about weeds it’s that most are delicious and super nutritious!
In the springtime ice plant will burst with either bright purple, magenta or yellow flowers. Later in the season the plant becomes less sightly with dry yellow and red hues due to the aftermath of the dead blooms. What most don’t realize is that once the flower dies, an edible fruit has actually grown out of it!
That fig is commonly known as Sour Fig, with a sweet/salt taste that reminds me of Mexican candy. They are so much fun to peel and eat while out on a walk. Just look for ones that are yellow and squishy and pull off easily from the plant. Make sure you’re not eating from a plant that has been sprayed with pesticides!
Sour figs leaves are bitter, antiseptic and can be chewed to relieve a sore throat, mouth infections, sunburn, itches, cold sores, nappy rash and blue bottle stings. Other medical uses include a cure for Tuberculosis (a syrup is made of the leave juice, olive oil and honey) and to treat constipation (by eating a syrup made from the fruit). It is also used to treat digestive issues and diabetes.
The leaf juice is used in a similar fashion to treat sunburns, bruises, scrapes and cuts. Chewing the leaf can also sooth a sour throat. Sour fig grows easily from cuttings and enjoys well-drained soil and a sunny position.