Here is a thorough list of five popular cacti varieties that are safe to eat if you want to add some edible cactus plants to your home garden:
Prickly Pear Cactus
The genus Opuntia contains roughly 180 species of cactus that are collectively known as prickly pears. Prickly pear fruit and pads can both be consumed. In fact, prickly pear pads are frequently marketed as “nopales” in grocery stores.
However, because the pads contain microscopic, sharp spines, you must make sure they are properly prepared before consumption. You can cook the pads as you would any vegetable after removing the prickly spines on the pads, or you can eat them raw in a salad.
The prickly pear’s ripe, scarlet fruits have a delicious flavor. However, you must first remove the fruit’s irritant-filled glochids and skin in order to reach its luscious inside.
The most common edible feature of this particular species of cactus—rather than the leaves or the fruits—are the flowers. Even though cholla fruit is equally tasty, it is difficult to ignore the plant’s unopened flower buds for their nutritional advantages.
Calcium, a mineral that supports the growth of bones and muscles, is abundant in cholla buds. The thorny glochids on Cholla buds must be removed before eating. After that, you may eat them with beans or include them into an antipasto salad.
Dragon Fruit Cactus
Natives of Central America adore the dragon fruit cactus for its palatable stems, flowers, and fruits. The stems, on the other hand, can be fairly challenging to chew, therefore we advise combining them to create a smoother. The flavor can range from bland to mildly sweet.
In the interim, you can add Dragon Fruit flower buds to a stir-fry or soup. The blossoms can be dried and then used to flavor hot drinks. Finally, by slicing through the fruit’s inedible skin, you can also consume the fleshy interior.
The barrel cactus, which is distinguished by its notably long and sharp spines, has edible blooms, fruits, and pads/stems. The tiny, black seeds inside the fruits of the barrel cactus are also edible, which sets it apart from other cacti species with edible fruits.
You’ll want to avoid eating the seeds raw, as they have a bland flavor. Instead, you can crush them and add them to flatbreads like tortillas for a strong, nutty flavor after toasting them.
The plant’s bright red blossoms are frequently used to season food. The edible cactus fruits, meanwhile, have a sharp, lemon-like flavor. The absence of glochids in barrel cactus fruits makes them simpler to handle and consume than the majority of other cactus fruits.
Saguaro cacti are well known for their palatable fruits and seeds. There are numerous methods to prepare and consume saguaro fruit. For instance, you can consume the fresh fruit or juice it. As an alternative, you might dry it and store it for future use as dried fruit.
Additionally, wine, jam, and syrup are all made from saguaro fruit. The tiny black seeds can be dried and ground into porridge with a nutty flavor. The delicious saguaro cactus seed can also be extracted for oil, which you can then add to your favorite foods.
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.
Cacti that can be eaten exist?
There are numerous varieties of edible cactus to add to your environment in arid, heated areas. Latin grocery stores and even specialized supermarkets might have options. Particularly popular in both fresh and canned form are nopales. Many ethnic grocers carry prickly pear “tunas” (or fruits).
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.
What cactus bears palatable fruit?
For gardeners who don’t want to stop growing because of the winter weather, starting an indoor garden is an easy choice. Producing the same old fruits and veggies inside can get a little boring, yet growing your own lettuce and garlic on your windowsill can still be gratifying.
We have options for you if you want to be a little more experimental. One alternative that can be really tasty is edible cacti and succulents. And the majority of them require little upkeep. We’ve put together a list of five with instructions on how to cultivate them indoors.
Dragon Fruit, Hylocereus undatus.
In case you didn’t know, dragon fruit is a member of the cactus family. This prickly fruit tastes like a cross between a kiwi and a pear and has a distinct crunch. They go well with smoothies and are also delicious on their own. Dragon fruit grows well in hot, dry climates. Make sure to put yours in a south-facing window or somewhere that receives sunlight for 6 to 8 hours per day. About once a week, water it. Each time you water your soil, it should feel completely dry.
You can either grow this cactus from a seed or a cutting, depending on how long you want to wait until you get fruit that can be harvested. It takes six years to grow from a seed, and one year to grow from a cutting.
Elephant Bush, Portulacaria afra
You can eat the elephant bush, sometimes known as elephant chow, in addition to elephants. Remove the leaves from the stem and mix them in with a salad. They may also be cooked and added to soup. They have a sour flavor and a crunchy texture.
These plants do well in cactus soil, well-draining potting soil, or potting soil that contains 50% sand. Indirect sunlight is preferred by this succulent. A south-facing window is great indoors. It’s vital to remember that this plant can burn its leaves to a crisp and lose them if it receives too much sun. If the tips of the elephant bush begin to turn yellow or red, it has received too much sun. When watering the elephant bush, make sure to direct the water away from the leaves and into the soil. If water is left on top of leaves for an extended period of time, it can rot the leaves.
We advise adopting the soak-and-dry technique, which involves using the soil’s ability to dry out as a cue to water the plant. It’s time for some water if the top inch of soil feels entirely dry.
Prickly Pear, Opuntia ficus-indica
The prickly pear cactus is well known for producing tasty, syrupy fruit. The petals, however, are also a delectable snack that may be eaten on its own, in salads, or added to omelettes.
They can be grown in almost any kind of container. It requires at least six hours of daily direct sunshine to grow. The ideal windows are those that face west or south. Additionally, it needs soil that drains effectively because too much moisture in the soil might damage the prickly pear. When the top half to inch of soil in the pot becomes dry, or every ten to fourteen days, water the plants.
This cactus produces fruit more slowly than other species; it can take a young plant three to four years to begin bearing fruit. So take a moment to admire its blossoms.
Glasswort, Salicornia europaea
South African native glasswort, sometimes known as the common man’s asparagus, is a succulent. In broad sun, glasswort grows best. This succulent can remain on your windowsill all day. Make sure it is buried in sandy or well-draining soil. Using saline water will be necessary to care for this plant. Stir in two tablespoons of sea salt for every two cups of water. You need always keep your soil moist, so keep an eye on this plant and make sure you are giving it regular waterings.
Glasswort is edible and goes well with salads when eaten raw. In addition, it can be stir-fried, pickled, or steamed. When the stems are about 5 inches long, they are at their best and ready for harvest.
Purslane, Portulaca oleracea
An annual succulent called purslane is sometimes known as red root or pursley. It has six times as much vitamin E as spinach and seven times as much beta-carotene as carrots. It has been described as one of the most nutrient-dense wild plants by Michael Pollan.
The ideal amount of sun exposure for this low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant is eight hours. It requires well-drained soil and needs watering once a week, or if the top inch or layer of soil dries up. This plant should never receive water to the point where the soil feels moist.
The plant’s leaves can be used in meals just like spinach or microgreens. Their leaves have a peppery flavor and are tart.
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.
The best way 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.