Where To Buy Edible Cactus

Nopal is a common name in Spanish for both the Opuntia cactus (often known in English as prickly pear) and its pads. Nopal is derived from the Nahuatl word nohpalli[nopali] for the plant’s pads.

There are 114 species that have been identified in Mexico,[1] where it is a prevalent element in many recipes that are part of the cuisine. The nopal pads can be consumed raw or cooked, added to soups, stews, salads, marmalades, traditional medicines, or used as animal feed. Although the pads of nearly all Opuntia species are edible, nopales grown for food are most frequently of the species Opuntia ficus-indica or Opuntia matudae. The fruit, also known as the “prickly pear” in English and the “tuna” in Spanish, is the other portion of the nopal cactus that can be eaten.

In Mexico, nopales are typically sold fresh, free of thorns, and cut to the customer’s specifications right away. They can also be obtained as nopalitos in cans or bottles, and less frequently dried, particularly for export. Nopales have a crisp, mucilaginous texture and a mild, slightly acidic flavor akin to green beans when cut into slices or diced into cubes. Most recipes call for cooking with the mucilaginous liquid they contain. In the spring, they are at their most supple and luscious. [2]

In Mexican food, nopales are most frequently used in meals like huevos with nopales (“eggs with nopales”), carne con nopales (“meat with nopales”), tacos de nopales (“nopal tacos”), salads with tomato, onion, and queso panela (“panela cheese”), or just by themselves as a side vegetable. Nopales have developed into a crucial component of Tejano culture in Texas as well as New Mexican cuisine[3].

Can you eat cactus raw?

A major element of numerous Latin American cultures is the cactus plant. This desert-dwelling plant flourishes in the arid areas of Arizona, Southern California, and Latin America. The prickly pear-like cactus fruit and the flat cactus pad are the two sections of the plant that are generally consumed (nopales).

Cactus can be prepared in a variety of ways, including eating the fruits and pads fresh, cooking them in meals, and making juice. You can either gather them yourself or purchase them from a nearby market.

Cacti that can be eaten exist?

To be clear, cactus refers to the singular form, whereas cacti refers to groups of two or more. Around the world, cacti are succulent plants, but they are most common in dry or semi-arid regions. They can range in size from tiny to medium-sized to much taller than trees.

Cooking cacti aren’t the most recent trend in food. Cacti and other desert plants have long been used as a source of food and medicine by indigenous peoples living in dry areas. Both the Hohokam and Tohono O’odham populations settled in the Sonoran Desert region that is now known as northern Mexico and the state of Arizona. Particularly the saguaro cactus symbolized a sacred plant used for nourishment and significant seasonal rituals.

Some cacti are toxic to people and not all are safe to eat. Dragon fruit, prickly pear, barrel, cholla, and saguaro are the five most popular cacti varieties that are sought after as culinary treats, either for the fruit, the plant itself, or both. Certain cacti should be avoided, though, as they contain alkaloids that can be potent enough to result in severe vomiting, hallucinations, and other gastrointestinal problems. These include the peyote, San Pedro, and Bolivian cactus.

Can I consume nopales raw?

The nopal cactus’ pads are known as “nopales” or “nopalitos. In the American Southwest and Mexico, they are frequently found in eateries, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets as a nutritional vegetable.

They can be prepared as a side dish with tomatoes and onions or sauteed and added to a variety of recipes, including as tacos and scrambled eggs.

Raw nopales can also be eaten. They look like green peppers when they are diced. Additionally, they can be made into tea, jams, or juice.

The small, spherical, and frequently colorful fruit of the nopal plant is another edible option for people.

Mexico’s health-conscious population enjoys drinking prickly pear fruit juice.

What exactly is that cactus in the supermarket?

These fleshy oval leaves of the nopal (prickly pear) cactus are gaining appeal in the United States after being well-known in Mexico. Cactus paddles or pads are another name for nopales. Nopales have a delicate, somewhat sour green-bean flavor and varies in color from pale to dark green. In Mexican markets and select supermarket stores, you can always get fresh cactus pads. However, the spring is when they are the most luscious and tender. The flesh is often chopped into thin strips or pieces, cooked in water until tender, and then used in a variety of meals, including as salads and scrambled eggs. There are canned nopalitos (nopales that have been sliced or cut into strips) (pickled or packed in water). Nopales candied and wrapped in sugar syrup called actrones.

Pick firm pads that are tiny to medium-sized. The pads shouldn’t be sagging, overly soft, or wrinkled. The pads are at their best in the spring if you’re growing prickly pear cactuses in your yard.

a springtime. Harvest each leaf while it is still tender and new. The leaves will often be hand-size, have a glossy green shine, and be at least 3/8″ thick.

thick. The leaf will be pithy on the interior when it has become overly thick and has lost its gloss. The best way to detach the leaves from the main plant is to cut through the leaf about an inch above the place where it connects to the leaf below. A new leaf will typically emerge from the surface of the older, mature leaf left below the stub the next year.

The leaf must be free of any spines, glochids (the hair-like small spines that penetrate the skin), and green nubs that develop on the areoles of spineless kinds before it may be harvested. With a green cleaning pad or towel, the green nubs can be readily removed. A knife must be used to sever the spines and glochids by cutting through the skin underneath the

areole from which the glochids and spines develop. “Skinning” is the term for this procedure. The spines can also be removed with tweezers. To remove the bases, use a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Cut into pieces that are 2″ long and 1/4″ wide. Boil for approximately 15 minutes in salted water. Boiling with a raw onion or two cloves of garlic, which both absorb the “baba” (Spanish for the slimy fluid), will help you get rid of it. Cool. Now they are prepared for usage.

All prickly pear cacti are edible, right?

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.

Planting the prickly pear in a pot is an excellent strategy to control the spreading. 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 cactus has poison?

Due of its pointed spines, most people frequently choose to avoid cactus. Most cactus are not venomous, which may surprise you. Nevertheless, you might want to keep your kids and pets away from the following ones!

The most lethal cacti include the prickly pear, San Pedro cactus, Echinopsis Peruviana, Peyote, Barrel cactus, Saguaro cactus, Cholla cactus, and Euphorbia canariensis.

Can you eat purple cacti?

One of my favorites is the Santa-Rita prickly pear (Opuntia violaceae var. santa rita). Their blue-gray pads stand out so vividly in the environment against the various purple tones.

A stunning accent plant for the landscape, this cactus. Fruit and the pads are both edible (but you might want to remove the spines first ;-). Drought and cold temperatures make the purple color more intense.

The Santa-rita prickly pear is a native of the American Southwest. Although they have a maximum size of 6 feet by 6 feet, they can be pruned to keep a lesser size. Making pruning cuts at the intersection where the pads connect is how pruning is done skillfully.

In the spring, lovely yellow blooms appear, followed by red fruit in the summer. The pads can occasionally be eaten by javelina, rabbits, and pack rats. Pack rats construct their houses out of the pads.

The prickly pear’s pads are coated in glochids, which are small spines that cluster together in pairs. Glochids quickly separate from the pad and cause severe skin irritation. They feature a little sting at the tip, which makes it challenging to get them off your skin. Use a piece of carpet or a couple layers of newspaper to manage them if necessary. Avoid contacting the pads with gloves as this will cause the glochids to attach and render the gloves unusable (I ruined a perfectly good pair this way).

There are other techniques for getting rid of these tiny spines, including using Elmer’s glue (let it dry, then pick them off), but many people have found duct tape to be more effective.

USES: This type of prickly pear can be utilized as a screen as well as an accent plant in the landscape. Some people might be surprised to hear that they make wonderful container plants as well; just keep them away from locations with high foot activity. They thrive on well-drained soil and either direct sunlight or mild shade.

Prickly pears are extremely low-maintenance plants. To pick up the pruned pads, I always use tongs, although you could also use newspaper.

Despite their incredible drought tolerance, watering your prickly pears once a month during the hot summer months in the absence of rain will be appreciated and enhance their appearance. Shriveled pads are a sign of extreme drought stress.

The emergence of white, cotton-like patches on the pads is sometimes interpreted as an indication of a fungal infection. However, it is brought on by a tiny bug known as cochineal scale, which secretes the white cottony mass. The control is simple. That’s all there is to it—just give it a strong hose-jet wash!

Prickly pears can be grown from seeds, but there is a far simpler method. Simply remove a pad with a minimum height of 6 inches. Place the pad upright for at least two weeks in a dry, shaded area. As a result, a callus can develop at the bottom.

For the first month, do not water the plant; the bottom is prone to fungus infections. Plant with the cut end downward. Water the plant every 23 weeks after the first month until it gets established. Provide shade until the plant is established if planted in the summer (about three months). *In general, I advise against planting in the winter and in favor of waiting until the soil has warmed up in the spring.

If you have a sizable prickly pear, you can prune it or start anew by removing it, chopping off some of the pads, and planting them in the same spot. My clients have done this frequently and have been pleased with the outcomes.

Interesting historical fact: The cochineal scale insects release a dark red dye when crushed, which is why the Aztecs would grow prickly pear cactus afflicted with them. Clothes were dyed using this. This dye was brought back to Europe by the Spanish from Mexico, where it was used to color royal clothing and British military outfits. The Spanish regarded the dye highly, second only to gold and silver. One pound of dye requires 70,000 insects to be produced.

*There are several lovely prickly pear species that can be grown in a backyard garden. What is your favorite variety of prickly pear cactus?

Can you eat the raw pads of a prickly pear cactus?

Most nopales and prickly pear tunas can be consumed simply. A wide range of dishes, particularly the fruit for syrups, sweets, and jellies, are made from prickly pears. The pads can, however, either be cooked or included in a salad.

Can you get sick by eating cactus?

You may have heard that if you ever become stranded and dehydrated in the desert, a cactus may provide you with water. Although it seems like a good survival tip to keep on hand, is it really that simple? It transpires that a cactus is not essentially a freshwater basin covered in spines. In a dry environment full of thirsty creatures, such a plant would not survive for very long. In addition to their frightening spines, most cactus species further guard their spongy flesh with acids and powerful alkaloids since water is a very valuable resource in a desert. Most people find these substances to be too bitter to tolerate, and ingesting them puts a strain on the kidneys. Some cactus species’ meat can also result in temporary paralysis, vomiting, and diarrhea—none of which are helpful for your survival in a crisis. The prickly pear and one species of barrel cactus, the fishhook barrel, stand out as prominent outliers to this norm (Ferocactus wislizeni). While both of these plants are fairly unpleasant to consume raw, they contain fewer harmful compounds and could provide some hydration in an emergency. Better options include cactus fruits, however many are unpleasant to eat raw.

*Of course, all of this assumes that you are stranded in a desert in the New World with real cacti. Members of the Euphorbiaceae family, which resemble cactus plants, are poisonous and can be found in the deserts of Madagascar and southern Africa. If this plant’s milky sap gets in your eyes, it can permanently blind you and burn your skin and mucous membranes. Do not attempt to consume those.

Christopher Columbus claimed to have seen mermaids off the coast of what is now the Dominican Republic; however, they were manatees, and he described them as “not half as beautiful as how they were drawn.”