The Cactaceae (Cactus) family includes the eastern prickly pear. There are around 1,800 species in this family, all native to the New World with the possible exception of one or two. With over 150 species in the genus Opuntia, the prickly pears are regarded as an ancient subgroup of the cactus family. It can be found from New Mexico and Montana east to Florida and Massachusetts, and it has the broadest distribution of any American cactus. Additionally, Ontario has it. Eastern prickly pears can grow in a region in big colonies or as a few lone plants. It is frequently referred to as Opuntiacompressa in older botanical manuals.
This species is a typical cactus with a stalk that performs photosynthetic leaf function. Water is also kept in this stem. It can endure the subfreezing conditions of the northern and middle states thanks to specific antifreeze compounds in its cells. The stems, or pads as they are more commonly known, can range in size from 4 to 12 centimeters (1.5 to 5 inches) in width and 5 to 17 centimeters (2 to 7 inches) in length. Pads can be joined in a branching or linear pattern.
Typically, the plants stretch out on the ground and grow little taller than 19 inches (0.5 meters). Some shrub-like plants in Florida can grow up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall.
Areoles, which resemble little dots, are scattered throughout the pads. Each areole has glochids (tiny barbs that hurt and irritate the skin when inserted), and the middle of the areole may or may not have a spine. At the tip of newly formed or actively expanding pads, there may occasionally be a little green structure paired with each areole. These are genuine leaves, but they will soon disappear.
Early summer sees the production of flowers at the ends of the pads. They are typically yellow, although the center of them is frequently crimson to orange east of the Appalachian Mountains and on dunes. In contrast to some other species, including the Indian Fig, Opuntia ficus-indica, the flesh of the reddish fruits is edible but typically not very sweet.
This cactus typically grows on calcareous rock or thin soil in wide-open, arid environments. It grows in or on fencerows, roadsides, prairie, rocky glades, rock outcrops, cliffs, abandoned quarries, and dunes. Well-drained grounds are essential since the roots need to remain dry during the winter to avoid decay.
Do they sell prickly pears at Trader Joe’s?
Here in the Sonoran Desert, I’m sharing a delicious prickly pear margarita recipe with you today.
Since I’m not a “desert rat,” this recipe required some trial and error. However, I was able to learn where to select the fruit (you shouldn’t pick it along the side of the road), how to handle it, and what the flavors are with the assistance of my neighbor.
This gorgeous, strong crimson margarita I made looks gorgeous and tastes fantastic!
Prickly Pear Margaritas A Sonoran Desert Recipe
Opuntia cactus produces a particular variety of cactus fruit known as prickly pears. Where I live in Arizona, it’s nearly everywhere, and is almost seen as a weed. Although I had never tried it before moving to Arizona, it is reportedly available at supermarkets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. If you can’t get prickly pear fruit to make your own, you can substitute prickly pear syrup, which I also discovered online, in your recipe.
As a family, we first went out early in the morning to get some wild prickly pear fruit.
Prickly Pear Fun Facts
The cactus has many spines, and even the fruit contains microscopic hairs that resemble thorns. We picked the fruit with tongs and put it in a pail. For kids who have to come very close to the cactus to access some of the fruit, long pants and shirts are a smart idea. To remove the rogue thorns that are certain to get stuck in at least one person, it is always a good idea to bring a pair of tweezers with you.
How simple are prickly pear cacti to grow?
Growing prickly pears is simple. Once planted, they can thrive on rainfall and require well-drained soil. The plant has to be watered every two to three weeks while it is rooted. Consider the size the cactus will reach when selecting one, and plant it far from walkways and other places where people will come in contact with it. A warm, dry climate is necessary for successful prickly pear cultivation.
Prickly pears are simple to grow in your own garden. Quick and easy propagation from pads is possible. In reality, the pads are flattened, specialized stems. Six-month-old pads are taken out of the plant and placed in a dry location to allow the cut end to develop a callus for a few weeks. For prickly pear pad planting, a soil and sand mixture should be used in equal parts. Within a few months, the pad will develop roots. It need assistance at this time and shouldn’t be watered. After the pad is able to stand upright, it can be watered.
Prickly pears are they expensive?
Prickly pears are a fruit that Moroccans both adore and detest! Its name is appropriately given given that it is the cacti plant’s fruit and has a prickly exterior. During your Moroccan road journey, you will see an impressive quantity of these prickly pear cacti almost everywhere if you glance out the window.
Despite what its name in Moroccan Arabic, l’hindia (the Indian Fig), suggests, the prickly pear traveled all the way from Mexico to Morocco in the 1770s. It is currently thriving throughout North Africa and is ingrained in the daily lives of its inhabitants.
Moroccans Love and Hate Eating the Prickly Pear
The prickly pear season starts in the beginning of July. There are now street vendors in every region of the nation, in every town and city, and even on the sides of the motorways and major highways! Prickly pears are peeled and sold for around one dirham each. The majority of individuals consume their prickly find immediately, but some take it home and store it in the refrigerator for later. Its pulp can be used to make jams and spreads, but these products will lack the seeds, which are responsible for half of the fruit’s nutritional content.
Like many wonderful things, prickly pears are best enjoyed in moderation. Depending on your digestive system, eating more than 2-3 of these may cause you to get constipated for days, or the exact opposite issue. Yes, there is love and hate.
The Incredible Health Benefits of the Prickly Pear
A considerable portion of the prickly pear is used to make pharmaceuticals and treatments. Its seeds’ oil is used to treat cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. It has antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, soothes ulcers, lowers cholesterol, and combats obesity.
Although eating a lot of prickly pears won’t entirely heal you (as stated in the warning above), the oil they contain may be beneficial to your health and act as a catalyst for change in the way your body heals. It takes a ton of prickly pears to make only one liter of this priceless oil. Because of this, getting one liter costs roughly 10,000 dirhams, or about $800.
The high concentration of vitamins E, A, and C, Omega 6 fatty acids, and magnesium in superfruits is primarily responsible for their therapeutic and cosmetic effects.
The Prickly Pear in Beauty Care
This oil is regarded as a luxury organic skin care treatment and should be kept in a sacred location when used in a beauty regimen. especially while taking into account the cost! Prickly pear seed oil has proven to be quite effective at halting the negative effects of skin aging. Additionally, it is utilized for feeding, mending, and healing the skin, hair, and nails. Omega 6 and Vitamin E, which are highly desired ingredients in organic cosmetics, are abundant in it. In Morocco’s driest regions, Berber women have been utilizing this oil for decades. Many of them attribute the perfect skin they have despite working hard and being exposed to the sun, heat, and humidity to this miraculous oil.
The Prickly Pear Feeds Livestock
Animals can be fed the interior of cactus leaves since it is very affordable and simple to find. This is especially true in dry locations where it is difficult to find other plants and nutrients. Although it is not particularly high in protein, it is quite hydrating, which is very advantageous given that dehydration is a significant factor in animal fatalities during very dry summers.
The Prickly Pear Industry Empowers Women
Many women in various locations of Morocco have turned the laborious and demanding procedure of removing the seeds from the fruits into a business. These women, who are primarily from underprivileged rural areas, have discovered a financially advantageous buddy in the prickly pear. Around $4 is paid to these ladies for each kilogram of collected seeds. This may not seem like much, but for many rural Moroccan women who are trying to support their families or achieve some degree of financial independence, it is a critical amount of money. Therefore, you might respond, “Maybe not… but it kind of grows on cactus,’ the next time someone tells you that money doesn’t grow on trees. At least it does for these devoted Moroccan women.
About the Author
Meknsiya (a native of Mekns, Morocco) Lala Ouazzani enjoys exploring all that her home country has to offer. She has always loved food. Luckily for her, Morocco has a wide variety of mouthwatering foods to try. She loves learning about the history of her nation and sharing what she learns and experiences with as many people as she can. Casablanca serves as Lala’s current home base.
It’s not necessary to prune prickly pears, but they can be cut back. To keep the pads’ size and shape, take out individual ones as necessary. Holding the pad in place with tongs, cut it off at the junction or line where it attaches to the following pad. Pads can be calloused off and shared with pals or planted somewhere else. Find out more about propagation below.
Amendments & Fertilizer:
Young plants should be fertilized with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. A water-soluble fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10 or even 0-10-10 can encourage more flowers and fruit in established plants. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer if you’re growing for the pads.
Prickly pears can withstand severe droughts. For the first month, don’t water newly propagated pads. After that, water during the first year every two to four weeks—twice a month in the summer and once a month throughout the other seasons. Rainfall will usually be sufficient to keep established plants alive. When there is a drought, you can supplement with the twice-monthly/once-monthly seasonal schedule.
off a pad pruning, a new prickly pear plant has grown. Selma Jacquet/Alamy Stock Photo provided the image.
Since seeds grow slowly at first, it can take your plant three to four years to begin blooming and bearing fruit. The seeds should be maintained moist until they begin to sprout since they require shade.
Pad propagation is considerably easier and produces results more quickly. This is how:
- By according to the above pruning rules, you can take off pads that are at least six months old.
- The cut end of the pads should create a callus if they are left to dry out in a spot with some light shade. This can take two to four weeks in warm, dry weather, but it may take longer under cool or humid conditions. It prevents the new plant from decomposing at the base.
- Plant pads at a depth of 1 inch in a mixture of half soil and half sand once they have fully calloused over. Your plant could rot if it were buried any deeper.
- For the first month, don’t water it because the pad already has enough moisture to survive.
- Until roots develop during the course of the following month, support it with rocks or another type of structure. Your plant should be able to stand on its own after a month, but if it’s still a little unsteady, keep providing support.
- You can water it at this time and follow the previous watering instructions, just make sure to let it totally dry between waterings.
Flowers and fruit normally start to appear on young plants by the second or third growing pad.
Can you eat prickly pear cactus?
The lower 48 states of the United States are home to the eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa). In addition to being a lovely plant, it is edible, offers sustenance and safety to wildlife, and can be utilized in natural landscaping.
This cactus is simple to locate, especially in Indiana. The prickly pear features flat, fleshy pads (known as cladodes) covered in spiky spines, similar to other spiny succulents. Showy yellow blossoms are produced by the prickly pear.
How to eat a prickly pear
A red, egg-shaped fruit starts to form after flowering. After removing the skin, the fruits can be eaten raw and are edible. The fruit is frequently converted into jams, candies, and other sweets, and some people even eat the plant’s fleshy pads as a snack.
For thousands of years, the prickly pear cactus has been an essential part of Mexican and Central American cuisine. Prickly pears are becoming more popular as food in various areas of the United States.
The nopal, or cactus pad, which is frequently used as a vegetable, and the pear, or fruit, are the only two edible portions of the prickly pear plant.
Where can I find prickly pears?
In Indiana, such as the Kankakee Sands and the Lake Michigan shore dunes, the prickly pear cactus can be found in open sand and arid places.
Another fantastic location to see Indiana’s sole cactus is the lovely Ober Savanna in Starke County.
Prickly pear in your yard
The fact that this native cactus is challenging to manage is unknown to many who like planting it in their backyards. A single plant can develop into a tangled, dense colony very fast.
The best approach to stop the prickly pear from spreading is to plant it in a pot. Purdue Pest & Plant Diagnostics Lab has a few options to get rid of prickly pear from your property if it is already out of control on the cactus.
When handling this lovely native cactus, be sure to use thick gloves. Their long, thorny spines, which can reach a length of several inches, are the least of your concerns. Glochids are painful and challenging to remove because of their hair-like appearance and decreased visibility.