Every day in the Valley, you pass prickly pear cactus while driving. Most likely, though, you were unaware that the entire plant—used by chefs around the Valley in their eateries—is edible.
Additionally, we’re not simply referring to prickly pear margaritas. (Though there is one on this list that is quite good.)
Nopales, also known as tuna in Spanish, are the brightly colored, oval fruits that grow on prickly pear cacti. Nopales are the flat cactus pads. They are available in virtually all grocery stores in Mexico. However, we have you covered if you’d like to let someone else handle the grubby labor. Here are our top ten cactus eateries in Phoenix.
In Arizona, are cacti eaten?
Ever tried eating cactus? You ought to if you haven’t. You may sample cactus, specifically prickly pear cactus, in many different ways around Arizona.
The fruit known as a “prickly pear” has an oval shape, is vivid purple in color, and can be used to make just about anything. It grows on top of cacti. According to some, the flavor is similar to a blend of watermelon and bubblegum, which is probably why it’s so fantastic.
The scientific name of the prickly pear is Opuntia cactaceae, but other names for the fruit include tuna fruit and nopal, which refers to the flat cactus pads. According to WebMD, prickly pear is used for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, hangovers, and more. It is also recognized to have nutritional value.
Prickly pear cacti are common in Arizona, and you can even go pick some if you want (but be careful, it’s a wonderful fruit but very rough), but you can also find it at various grocery shops. The fruit can be used to make jelly, jam, juice, margarita, candy, and much more. However, if you don’t want to prepare it yourself, check out these 12 locations to eat what may end up becoming your new favorite fruit.
In Phoenix, where can I locate cacti?
One of the biggest municipal parks in the country is South Mountain Park & Preserve, which is only a few miles south of the center of Phoenix. Saguaro cacti that have been flourishing there for years can be found on the park’s numerous paths and peaks. Dobbins Lookout, the highest point in the park at 2,330 feet, is one of the most well-liked locations. If you feel like taking a beautiful journey, you can get to Dobbins Lookout by car, bike, or foot. Enjoy the saguaros and the downtown Phoenix skyline while you’re there.
Where in Arizona can I find cacti?
Although the wildflower season may be largely finished, another kind of bloom is bringing color to the desolate, dry environment. Many different cactus species have brilliant flowers that come in a range of colors and are quite stunning to behold.
Before leaving, check the websites or Facebook pages of some of these locations to see whether they are open or have changed their hours.
How many of these places have you been to when they are in bloom? Have we missed your favorite place? If you want to learn more about Saguaro National Park, let us know and read our earlier article: In this special national park in Arizona, about 2 million cacti flourish.
Are there any establishments, shops, or tourist sites in Arizona that you feel the world should be aware of? You might see your nomination mentioned in a future story, so head over to our nomination page and scream them out!
Where can you get prickly pears in Arizona?
Flowers that range from yellow to orange bloom in the spring. The fruits range in color from deep red to purple. prickly pear of the Mojave (Opuntia erinacea): Arizona’s Mohave and Coconino Counties are home to this cactus. It develops between 3,500 and 8,000 feet above sea level.
What determines if a cactus is edible?
Edible cacti and succulents are incredibly low-maintenance plants that taste great if your climate is right for them.
Some people want to know the distinction between succulents and cacti. A cactus is technically a succulent plant since the term refers to “one that has thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.” The term “cacti” is typically used to refer to succulent plants with spines, but all true cacti actually belong to the plant family Cactaceae.
Let’s discuss the numerous edible cacti and succulents that you can use in your landscaping:
All genuine cactus fruit is edible, but certain varieties have greater flavors than others. Some are excellent when cooked, and most must first have their spines peeled or otherwise removed before being consumed! Of course, everyone has varied tastes in stuff. In order to ensure that you enjoy them and are not allergic, it is advised to test a few of the cactus you are contemplating before purchasing.
Which edible cactus you select will depend on its intended purpose and the aesthetic of your edible landscaping. More than 200 Opuntia species, often known as Nopales, Nopalitos, the Cactus Pear, or the Paddle Cactus, contain a variety of delicious cacti.
All Opuntias have edible leaves and egg-shaped fruit (sometimes known as “tunas”). An Opuntia is recognized by its oval, flat, spine-covered leaves, or “paddles.”
Of all the edible cacti, Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as the prickly pear cactus, is the most well-known and popular. Its fruit and leaves, which are also known as the Indian Fig, are a mainstay in many recipes throughout Central America and the southwest of the United States. Australia, northern Africa, and the Galapagos Islands are just a few of the diverse areas this cactus has been introduced.
Opuntias are quite tolerant of the cold, and they can be found as far north as British Columbia. In some areas, they have also spread invasively. They can still be a gorgeous focal point in rock gardens or other drought-tolerant environments, and they have a wide range of functions in landscaping (they make great barrier hedges).
When fully grown, the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), the graceful representation of the desert in the southwest of the US, has edible fruit (which can take decades). The Saguaro, however, is hard to come by and cannot be moved without a permit.
Despite being smaller and with “arms” that often develop near the base of the plant rather than higher up the main stem, the Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) resembles the Saguaro. It has red Pitahaya Dulce fruit, which is roughly the size of a golf ball, and lavender flowers.
Visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona (United States), which is home to many of these beautiful cacti, to observe them in their natural habitat.
Fruit from barrel cacti can be harvested and eaten raw, and because it lacks spines, it is simple to handle. Additionally edible are the buds and blooms. One of the American Wild West myths was that you could cut open a barrel cactus and squeeze the pulp for water to keep you alive in the harsh desert.
The Night-Blooming Cereus (Hylocereus undatus), a cactus with long fleshy leaves and bright red or yellow fruit with a white or crimson core and black, crunchy seeds with great nutritional content, is also known as the Dragon Fruit or Pitaya (and is also known as Pitahaya Dulce in some locations). The plant only blooms at night and has enormous, fragrant white flowers.
Some species, such Peniocereus greggii, are also referred to as “Night-Blooming Cereus.”
Although it appears very different from Hylocereus, the Peruvian Apple Cactus (Cereus repandus), which likewise produces sweet, vividly colored edible fruit, is another cactus that bears the name Pitaya.
The Epiphyllum species, sometimes known as the orchid cactus, are another genus of cacti that are edible. They resemble the Hylocereus species in appearance and behavior but have smaller fruits. All of these have gorgeous flowers!
Edible Succulent Plants
In northern Africa and India, vegetables made from a few of the Caralluma species—Caralluma fimbriata, Caralluma adscendens, and Caralluma edulis—are consumed.
Many Agave species can be rendered edible, but the most famous is Agave tequilana, which is used to make tequila.
All Sedum species, also known as stonecrops, can be eaten. They taste sour or spicy and are used in salads. Consume these in moderation; excessive consumption of some may result in dyspepsia.
Purslane is beneficial as a ground cover in wet locations, is simple to grow, rather attractive, and delicious when cooked.
Although purslane is regarded as a weed in the US, it tastes delicious fried and is ok in salads and works well in stews and soups.
Can saguaro be eaten?
Before the summer monsoon rains arrive, saguaro fruit, which ripen during the hottest and driest time of the year, give vital moisture and nutrition to animals and insects in the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaro cacti can yield an average of 150 fruits per tree, making them a genuine desert grocery store for a few months out of the year. In late May to late June, the succulent fruit splits into three or four halves, revealing the rich red pulp and a cluster of up to 3,500 seeds high atop the saguaro’s branches.
The pulp and seeds of the cactus fruit are consumed by birds and bats, and the fallen fruit is devoured by coyotes and other mammals on the desert floor. The saguaro provided nourishment for native Sonoran Desert dwellers like the River Pima, Tohono O’odham, and Southeastern Yavapai during the hot, dry season prior to monsoon rains.
The seeds of the saguaro, which are rich in protein and fat, have a nut-like flavor and are very pleasant tasting. The fruit can be consumed both fresh and cooked, its pulp dried into cakes, and its juice made into syrup and jam. Raw or dried and crushed into flour, the seeds are consumed. Both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks can be prepared from juice. The O’odham and Piipaash people still gather saguaro fruit today, carrying on a long-standing tradition and reaffirming the significance of this recognizable cactus in their life.
The Saguaro Cactus, a Natural History by David Yetman, Alberto Burquez, Kevin Hultine, and Michael Sanderson; A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert, 2nd Edition, edited by Mark A. Dimmitt, Patricia Wentworth Comus, and Linda M. Brewer; O’odham Action News, Baidaj Harvesting, by Dodie Manuel August 5, 2020; Food and Plants of the Sonoran Desert by Wendy C. Hodgson;
Where in Arizona are there large cacti?
In Tucson, Arizona, you may find the biggest cacti in the country. The enormous saguaro cactus is the common representation of the American West. Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the contemporary city of Tucson, provides protection for these magnificent plants, which are only present in a limited section of the United States. Here, you can see these giant cacti that are beautifully silhouetted by a stunning desert sunset.
How much is the value of my saguaro cactus?
Southwest Arizona, western Sonora, Mexico, and even a few locations in southeast California are home to saguaro cacti. They are typically found in the northern regions on slopes that face south, where the sun shines more frequently. The Saguaro Cactus is covered in protecting needles and bears a red fruit in the summer as well as tiny white blooms in the late spring.
Only in the Sonoran Desert does the suguaro cactus, also known as Carnegiea Gigantea, flourish.
A Saguaro will only grow about one to one and a half inches in its first eight years.
Moving a saguaro cactus off of private or public land without a permit is against the law in Arizona.
Saguaro cactus roots spread out like an accordion to take in as much water as they can.
Arizona’s state flower is the saguaro bloom, which blooms only after a saguaro has reached the age of 35.
SAGUARO CACTUS FACTS
The saguaro is a unique species of plant that can get rather big yet develops extremely slowly. The saguaro’s weight and height are often astounding, and the plant’s beauty is emblematic and significant to the magnificent state of Arizona.
- Arizona has rules and limitations regarding the gathering, harvesting, and disposal of these cacti. To learn more about the rules that apply to your region, get in touch with your neighborhood government.
- The Saguaro can survive for 150 to 200 years in the appropriate growing circumstances.
- The cactus has one major root that extends down approximately 2 feet while the remaining roots all extend out till they reach the height of the plant and only go down about 5 inches.
- Saguaro growth is particularly slow. A saguaro may only be 1.5 inches tall after a whole decade of growth. They can potentially grow to a height of 40–60 feet under the right circumstances! After a rainy season, a completely hydrated Saguaro may weigh between 3,200 and 4,800 pounds.
- Arizona legislation allows for the collection of saguaro “ribs,” which are used to create jewelry, furniture, roofs, fences, picture frames, and other things. Even the Native Americans used the ribs as water containers before the canteen was created.
HOW MUCH DOES A CACTUS COST?
According to DFRanchandGardens, the average price of a saguaro cactus in the US for 2020 is between $20 and $2,000 per foot.
The saguaro will cost less the smaller it is, according to osieOnTheHouse. However, if they are merely spears and in good condition, they typically sell for $100 or more per foot. The price of saguaros with arms is higher.
Saguaro cacti can be found in Arizona where?
Carnegiea gigantea, the saguaro cactus, is found only in the Sonoran Desert. They do not, however, grow everywhere in the Sonoran Desert. This map shows the range of the Saguaro cactus with a crosshatched representation of the Sonoran Desert (solid). Freezing conditions throughout the wintertime restrict the saguaro’s range.
Elevation also places restrictions on saguaros. They typically grow between sea level and an elevation of about 4,000 feet. Saguaros that reach heights of more than 4,000 feet are typically found on south-facing slopes where cold temperatures are less common or last less time.
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.
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.