ICE PLANT LETTUCE (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum aka Ficoide glaciale), also known as Herb Frost, is not a lettuce at all, but I list it here because it is all the rage among chefs for use in salads and is commonly referred to as a lettuce. I first read about it in the New York Times and simply had to try it. Its unique look and exquisite texture and flavor make it a special treat indeed. Ficoide glaciale is a succulent, not unlike purslane, with a frosty appearance (hence the common name) due to the little silvery bubbles that cover its surfaces and which pop when eaten, giving a burst of refreshing marine citrus flavor. Originally from South Africa, it arrived in Europe in the 18th Century and is now beginning to appear on high end salad plates on the West Coast of America. It can be eaten fresh and is often paired with seafood, tasting somewhat like spinach and so full of Vitamin C it was once used to prevent scurvy. It is particularly well-adapted (ironically) for Southern gardens as it prefers hot dry soil, also like purslane. It has been used in bio-remediation of soils as it takes up salts, so if you are growing for the salad plate, be sure to grow in organic soils, not soil that has been treated with chemical fertilizer. Thus it makes a very suitable container plant where you can more easily control the soil it grows in. It produces anemone like flowers all summer and fruits, known as "Fig Marigolds." All in all, a unique treasure for your kitchen garden. Please note: These seeds are not organic but they are sustainably grown. So rare, I have made an exception. Perennial Self Seeding. 50 Seeds.
MEDICINAL USES: The leaves and seeds are edible. High in Vitamin C, Magnesium, Amino Acids, Flavonoids and Betanine and Sodium Carbonate. It was historically used as a foodstuff but also in soap and soda production. But most importantly, the fresh sap has been modernly found to benefit itching or inflamed skin such as psoriasis.
GROWING TIPS: Ice Lettuce grows about 4" high so it is suitable for rockery. Direct sow in well draining sterilized seed starting medium (either pots or flats) from February to April. Cover oh so lightly and tap oh so gently so there is contact with the soil. Keep moist but not wet. Covering helps keep the soil humid, but you must guard against "damping off." When you have true leaves, remove the cover and when sufficiently started, begin the "hardening off" process of acclimating to the outside. Transplant when soil is sufficiently warmed but before the real heat sets in so it does not suffer shock. Ice plant develops as a low carpet that glistens in the sun and produces large anemone-like flowers and "fruits" or seeds. Can turn pink under certain growing conditions. Truly amazing!