Which Prickly Pear Cactus Is Edible

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.

What do prickly pears taste like?

Cactus pears have a sweet, rather bland flavor that is comparable to melon. The fruit is not technically a member of the pear family, despite its name. It was merely given that name because the prickly fruit looks and acts like a pear.

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.

What characteristics make a prickly pear cactus edible?

The prickly pear belongs to the Opuntia genus of the Cactaceae family of cacti and is a native of the Western Hemisphere. This particular type of cactus is widespread throughout the world’s semi-arid and dry climates, especially in Mexico, the Americas, the Mediterranean, Australia, and Africa.

There are more than 200 different species of cacti in the Opuntia genus, even though there is only one member—the prickly pear cactus. Several distinguishing characteristics are present in all prickly pear cactus species:

Prickly Pear Characteristics

  • The huge nopales, or paddle-shaped leaves, that they produce are actually flattened stems or branches. They can be prepared like a vegetable and are edible. Nopales are frequently used in Mexican cuisine.
  • Fruits: The fruits, commonly referred to as tunas, range in hue from deep magenta to a bright yellow-green. They range in size from a little plum to a huge kiwi, and the sweetness is dependent on how ripe they are.
  • Flowers: The flowers come in a range of hues, including mauve, yellow, orange, and red. They are also edible.

Other Names

Depending on where you are in the world, there are numerous names for prickly pears. Nopal or nopales, sabra, tuna (fruit), opuntia, paddle cactus, Barbary fig, and Indian fig are a few of their common names.

Which prickly pears contain poison?

What Cacti are the Most Poisonous. The Prickly Pear, Peyote, San Pedro, Echinopsis Peruviana, Saguaro, Barrel, Euphorbia canariensis, and Cholla cacti are among the most lethal cacti.

Are prickly pears from cacti edible?

Few people are aware that the fruit of nopales cacti—cacti with paddles resembling beaver tails—are surprisingly tasty. These neon-colored fruits are known as prickly pears, and their juice tastes like a cross between watermelon and all-natural bubble gum (if such a thing exists).

Appearance & Flavor

This peculiar fruit has a kiwi-like form and is coated with sharp spines and ridges. The spines resemble hair strands in size and thickness. They have thick, golden-yellow skin that has spots of pale pink and orange color. Their juicy, yellowish-orange flesh has black-brown seeds that are tough but still tasty. They have notes of melon, citrus, and fig when they are mature and are sweet, albeit not quite as sweet as the red type. Pick ones that are firm and free of mold or flaws.

Ways to Enjoy

The best way to eat them is typically raw because cooking them dulls their flavor. They taste well in salsa, smoothies, and fruit salads. You may also sprinkle them on top of yogurt and cereal. Try using them to make jam or syrup if you really want to cook with them. With this dressed-up water, you can stay hydrated the rest of the summer.

Availability & Origin

From late summer through the beginning of winter, yellow cactus pears are available. Numerous regions, including Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Australia, Italy, and the United States, are home to this species. They are most frequently seen at farmer’s markets and speciality supermarkets.


You should get five days out of them if you store them in a plastic bag unwashed when they are ripe. They should ripen if kept at room temperature when very firm and unripe. You should use everything you prepared because once they are chopped, they do not store well.

What species of cactus can you eat?

Cacti are fleshy and appear to be suitable as vegetables. It’s crucial to understand that there are edible and deadly cacti varieties before you start eating them.

All authentic cactus fruit is safe to consume. After the spines are removed, some varieties of cactus, including cholla, dragon fruit, and prickly pear, can be used as vegetables. Other cactus species, such as peyote, Bolivian, and San Pedro, are poisonous and should not be consumed.

Cacti of many types are frequently planted as indoor and outdoor ornamental plants. Check to see if the cactus variety is poisonous or suitable for people or pets to eat before choosing it for your garden.

What signs do cacti have that they are poisonous?

There are many people who enjoy cacti, but the majority avoid handling them frequently because to their thorns. So, are the spines of cacti poisonous? Are the spines of cacti harmful? You may learn more about different varieties of cactus spines, whether they are poisonous or harmful, and other information in this post.

The spines of cacti are not toxic. However, some cactus spines (such as Cholla or hairlike spines) can be harmful if they penetrate deeply into tissues and can result in bruising, bleeding, and even dead tissues.

Are prickly pear and bunny ear cacti the same thing?

The rabbit ear cactus, also known as Opuntia microdasys or angel’s wings, is a smaller relative of the more well-known prickly pear cactus. Despite not having many culinary applications, it is a common houseplant because of how simple it is to care for and how adorable it looks. The glochids and pads of this cactus sometimes resemble bunny ears, giving it its common name.

If you recently purchased an Opuntia microdasys or are considering purchasing one, continue reading to learn everything there is to know about this type of cactus.

Are dragon pears thorny pears?

The Latin American origins of this lovely exotic fruit is where the term pitaya or pitahaya, which are equivalent, originates. It comes from Central America (dating back to the 13th century). However, it found its way to Malaysia and Vietnam, where it is now widely grown (perhaps as a result of its appeal to Asian customers). According to what we’ve heard, the Vietnamese term “thang loy,” which means “dragon fruit,” somehow translates into English. While Vietnamese producers refer to their fruit as “dragon fruit,” those in Israel, where the fruit is grown professionally and sold into the United States, prefer to call it “pitaya or “pitahaya.

Therefore, they are essentially the same fruit whether you see them labeled pitayas, pitahayas, or dragon fruits. They’re probably beginning to appear everywhere now. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh in the fruit section of your grocery store, in your favorite juice shop, or even as an air freshener’s aroma.

Dragon fruit also comes in a variety of interior colors:

You may also recall seeing some lovely fruit from Israel earlier this year that was marked “Pitaya” or “Pitahaya.”

The high levels of fiber and vitamin C in most dragon fruit are the only thing they have in common in terms of nutrition. However, the flavor characteristic of each fruit can vary. The white-fleshed fruit from Vietnam has a beautiful exterior but a bland, unremarkable flavor. In contrast, Nicaraguan fruit has dark-purple crimson flesh that is similar to a sweet, juicy, meaty watermelon.

The cactus pear is actually related to dragon fruit. In contrast to cactus pear seeds, which are crunchy like those in passion fruit, the seeds of the dragon fruit are fully soft and edible (much like those of a kiwifruit). Additionally, the dragon fruit lacks thorns on its skin, in contrast to the cactus pear.

Therefore, the next time you pass a large display of tropical fruits in your produce area, don’t be hesitant to buy one and give it a try. Due to their limited shelf life, it is preferable to bring home some dragon fruit and use them in a fruit salad or smoothie that same day or the following.

Rough pears that are green turn red?

Observe how their green tint transforms into a solid red or yellow tone. This is the key indicator of the fruit’s ripeness in commercial harvesting and frequently the only one.

How are prickly pear cactus fruits prepared?

The prickly pear can now be cut up for eating after the skin has been removed. The prickly pear features tiny, tough seeds that are impossible to bite through, but you can safely consume them if you’d rather. Alternately, you might chew the fruit and spit the seeds out. To get rid of the seeds, you can alternatively use a juicer or strainer.