This is an unusual vegetable that reappeared a few years ago - a product forgotten since the 1930s, and now highly appreciated again by gourmets. Its frosted appearance, slightly sour flavor and crisp structure (like purslane) make it a very interesting ingredient.
Ice plant originated in the coastal regions of South Africa, particularly around the Cape of Good Hope. However it is also found in the Canary Islands and Mediterranean regions, such as Greece.
It used to be grown as a decorative, rather than culinary, plant. Growing wild along the sea, it protects itself from the drying effect of the salt spray by covering its leaves and stems in little bladder cells filled with salt water that gleam in the sun, giving the impression of thousands of ice crystals.
The fleshy tender leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salads, in which they retain their slightly briny flavor. They add a refreshing note. The thousands of little bubbles explode on the tongue and delight diners. The first impression of acidity is quickly replaced by a salty note. Try it! Taste it like an oyster with a squeeze of lemon juice or a drop of vinegar and some minced shallot.
You can also cook ice plant like spinach, wilting it in a little butter. Serve with butter, cream or meat jus, without adding salt.
It's best to use it in small quantities to preserve its quality of surprise. In larger amounts, surprise gives way to monotony.
Hints & Tips