If you’ve walked through the sand dunes at the beach you may have noticed a succulent plant with a spectacular bright pink flower growing along the ground. Chances are it was Pig Face (Carpobrotus glaucescens), also known as ice plant or sea fig. Common on sand dunes and cliffs along the Victorian, South Australian and Tasmanian coastlines.
A ground running creeper with fleshy leaves and little purple flowers or red fruit. An Australian native plant that’s not only edible but has also been known to the indigenous people as bush medicine, for it’s healing properties . The red-purple fruit has a flavour described by some as like salty strawberry or kiwi fruit and by others as like salty apples. Its thick, fleshy leaves can also be eaten – raw or cooked (the roasted leaves may be used as a salt substitute) and the juice from the leaves can be used to soothe insect stings or burnt skin. The juice from the leaves can also be mixed with water and used as a gargle for sore throats and mild bacterial infections. The ripe pulpy fruit was also used as a bush medicine to treat chronic diarrhoea by helping to restore fluid balance and nutrients.
Pig Face can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten as greens. The juice apparently is really good on sandfly bites. It can also be made into a poultice of crushed leaves to apply to burns and scalds. The Ngaruk willum people of Port Phillip Bay Victoria used it as a balm to minimise pain.
Pigface’s plump, juicy leaves have a light, sweet, salty taste and add a unique flavour to meat dishes with a similar taste to strawberries or fresh figs. it provided a source of moisture, salt and plant sugars or carbohydrate and helped to stave off thirst and prevent dehydration. It acted similarly to modern day electrolytes – replenishing the body’s essential salts. Natures Gatorade!