You’ve probably seen it endless times around Sydney’s beaches and along sand dunes with its trailing long stems. Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) is an Australian native succulent that is also edible.
What is Pigface
Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens), also known as angular sea fig and ice plant is an Australian native plant that grows in a creeping style with long, trailing stems that make it ideal as ground cover. Its thick and fleshy leaves are edible and contain a gel-like substance that can be used to alleviate stings and burns much like aloe vera.
The plant derives its botanical name from its edible fruits, karpos meaning fruit and brota meaning edible in Greek. It is so called because it is said to resemble a pig’s face but I think the fruit looks more like a crab claw.
From October to early January, pigface produces beautiful fuschia coloured daisy-like flowers which turn into a fleshy fruit with the texture of lychee and taste a salty sweet cross between strawberry and lychee.
Pigface Grow Guide
Pigface can grow in either full sun or partial shade. As per its natural habitat by the beach and along sand dunes, it favours open sunny positions and well-drained soil. The plant is salt tolerant and can even tolerate extended dry periods.
Pigface can be grown either from seed or propagated from a cutting, the latter being the simplest method. You could buy a little plant or get a cutting from a willing friend.
Propagating pigface couldn’t be any easier. I simply cut a piece about 10 cm long with a number of leaf nodes and stuck it in the ground. My soil is very shallow and sandy and as such doesn’t hold much water so I ensured I watered it well until it was established. You could also propagate it in a tube-like container with soil and keep it moist until you see roots forming but I found the easiest way was to put in soil, water well then forget.
Pigface has a prostrate growing habit which means it can take over the garden. I am growing it in multiple spaces as ground cover as well as in a raised garden bed dedicated to bush food plants. Every time I give it the odd prune to keep it in shape, I harvest the leaves and use them in the kitchen.
After the plant is established, it needs little care aside from the occasional watering when it doesn’t rain. Remember it grows in sandy soil along the beaches and will tolerate very dry soil. There’s no need to use a liquid fertiliser but the occasional seaweed solution might prove to be beneficial.
Why You Should Grow Pigface in Your Edible Garden
There are many reasons why you should grow this Australian native plant in your edible garden. Here are a few:
- All parts of the plant are edible, the leaves, the flowers and the fruit.
- It can be used in place of aloe vera to alleviate skin burns and bites. Simply break a piece, squeeze the gel and apply it to the area.
- It has the advantage of being as a fast growing ground cover so it’s handy to cover large areas very quickly.
- It is relatively pest free and recovers after periods of stress be it lack of water or the heat of summer.
- The leaves can be pickled and enjoyed with seafood.
- The fruit can be harvested and used in jams and other sweet dishes.
Next to come, I’ll be sharing different ways of eating pigface.