Prickly Pear Cactus: Beautiful and Tasty

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This is the time of year when even the thorniest natives bloom. In particular, the prickly pear cactus grows in the Highland Lakes. Look around from April to June and you will see large flowers blooming widely at the state plant. The land of the hills abounds in these beauties, naturally complementing the rocky landscape.

Every part of the plant is edible. It is eaten by cattle, people eat it, and bees run wild for abundant pollen from flowers.

If you find it difficult to imagine that you are eating a cactus, keep in mind this: not only is it edible, but it is also a staple food for some people and has become a popular ingredient in the kitchen. It can usually be found in the fresh produce section of local grocery stores. Nopal in Spanish means cactus, nopales is the stem or pad of a cactus, and nopalitos is the name of a cooked cactus. 

Cactus pads and fruits are good sources of nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins A and C, fiber, and antioxidants.

The leaves of the nopales plant are eaten as a vegetable. Young nopals are said to taste better than older ones. After the thorns have been removed, the nopales are cut into slices and can be steamed, grilled, fried, stewed, fried, marinated, seasoned, and made jerky or even raw. It tastes like green beans.

The fruits of prickly pears are called tuna, and when ripe they turn red or purple. Eye-catching Flowers sit on the tuna. As soon as the flowers fall, the tuna ripens. The flavor of ripe tuna has been related to watermelon. The fruit is shitty and can be eaten in many ways. The fruit needs to be peeled and then eaten fresh (just spit out the seeds) or mash, boil and strain to make juice, jelly, wine, syrup, or tuna cheese (fruit oil).

While you can buy nopales and tuna from the grocery store, you can also get food for them. If you decide to choose your own, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Observe the ethics of gathering: respect the law, respect the land, respect the plants, and respect yourself. Feed by permission to leave the area as it was before your visit. When lifting nopal or tuna from a plant, apply a razor blade rather than breaking it to reduce stress on the plant. Identify the plant before you eat it.
  • Be careful when picking prickly pears: wear gloves. Even the “spineless” version of the prickly pear cactus has glochids, which are tiny, hard to see, hair-like barbs that are often much worse than a prick from the spine because they penetrate the skin easily and are difficult to remove.

When making cactus pieces to eat: it is extremely important to remove every spine and glochid before consumption as they pose a significant danger when swallowed. Here are easy ways for removing the spines and glochids and peeling the tuna and nopales. Contact us for guest posting services.