Harvesting Prickly Pear Fruit: When And How To Pick Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickle Pileup Of Prickly Pear Fruit

Prickle Piles Of Green On A Tree.

Prickly Pear Pods (Cacti)

How To Eat A Prickle Pea Green?

The following are some tips to learn how to eat a prickly pear green. There are many ways to enjoy prickle pea greens. You may like them raw or cooked. They taste good with different kinds of food. Some people prefer to drink the juice from prickles, while others prefer it straight from the plant. If you want to have a snack, then you must make sure that your fingers do not get burned when eating prickly pear leaves. You will need to choose the right kind of leaf and cut it into small pieces. Then put the pieces into boiling water for a few minutes until they become soft enough to eat.

You can use the same method to prepare prickly pear pods. Just boil them in water until they become soft enough to eat. You can also find prickly pear fruit at your local grocery stores. They are known as “tuna fish” because of their color and taste like one too.

Canned prickly pear fruit can be eaten right from the can or you can also put them into a salad.

What Is Prickly Pear Cactus Used For?

Cactus leaves are edible, the flowers can be eaten, and the fruit is also safe to eat. You can make jam, jelly, syrup, juice and wine from the fruit. The nopales are cooked and eaten like vegetables. The pads or leaf-stems of the prickly pear cacti (not the true pears) are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They have a sour taste like rhubarb. When they are young, they have tiny hairs that can sting you, so they must be peeled before cooking.

Prickly pear fruit is a bit strange as the skin and flesh are the same color. When ripe it turns from green to bright purple or yellow. The flavor is like a mixture of banana and apple, but this varies depending on the type and how ripe it is. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is good in pies and jams.

You can buy it canned in syrup to make life even easier.

Prickly pear cactus pads (not the fruit) contain lots of water and are used like lilly pads, however they must be cooked as they are deadly raw. The early American explorers ate them on long journeys as they are very nutritious and contain lots of water.

Cooking the prickly pear cactus leaves makes them softer and takes away the toxicity. They still have a slightly sour taste. If cooked for long enough they become soft enough to eat like potatoes. They can be eaten on their own or can be added to other dishes such as stews and soups or even made into chips.

The juice from the prickly pear fruit is colored red or yellow and can be drank straight from the plant. It has a sweet flavor. The juice is also used as a substitute for lemon or lime juice in cooking and baking. It can be mixed with water as a refreshing drink or even used to make wine.

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The pads can also be harvested in the spring before they grow their spines. They can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or cooked in a variety of ways. They have a slight taste of cucumber and are good in salads or if made into chips.

Prickly pears can be cooked along with meat to improve the flavor and to help reduce the amount of fuel needed to cook it. It can also be cooked with other vegetables to add flavor and to save cooking time.

Preparing Prickly Pear Cactus For Eating

Before you can eat the prickly pear cactus, you’ll have to prepare it for the meal. The pads must be peeled or sliced into pieces and then boiled for 10-20 minutes to reduce their toxicity levels. Never eat them raw. After boiling or steaming, the pads can be eaten or used in recipes.

The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and has a delicious flavor. It can also be dried and used like raisins. The juice can be mixed with water, salt and garlic to make a tasty beverage or it can be used in cooking as well.

While the cactus pads are low in calories, they are high in vitamins and minerals and have twice the amount of vitamin C than an orange. The fruit is also nutritious and contains small amounts of many vital nutrients including; vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Prickly pears are available in the fall, winter and spring. If you’re stuck in a survival situation during the summer months (or live in a desert area where it grows year round), you can always store the pads with a layer of sand on top of them in a bucket and cover it with a tarp. This should keep them fresh for up to 2 years. After that, you’ll have to replant more.

Other Edible Parts

Aside from the fruit and pads of the prickly pear cactus there are a few other edible parts including; flowers, buds, and roots. The flower buds can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The flowers are also edible and can be eaten individually or made into a meal like soup or stew. The root of the prickly pear cactus is high in starch and can be ground like a potato and boiled.

You can eat them as a meal or use them to make cakes. The ground up roots can also be used as an alternative for bread crumbs when pan frying food.

All of these parts of the plant are edible, nutritious and best of all, free. All you need to do is gather them. You can eat these parts of the prickly pear year round.

In some places in the world, prickly pear cacti is an invasive species that grows out of control. If you live in an area like this or if you live in a desert area where these types of cacti naturally grow, you can gather as much as you want without worrying about damaging the environment.

Warnings and Hazards

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Prickly pears are not the same thing as the common pear. While they look somewhat similar from a distance, prickly pears are anything but delicious and should not be eaten and certainly not used in recipes with other food!

If you’re foraging for prickly pears, make sure you’re collecting the right plant. It is fairly easy to identify since it has large flat oval shaped pads that are a greenish-tan in color. The edges of the pad have small thorns around them. The flowers grow on tall stalks and have a distinct purple hue to them.

There are numerous other types of plants with similar names. Some of these plants include the sand pear, the tumbleweed, the Jerusalem cricket and other types of cacti. None of these should be eaten.

The pads of the prickly pear cactus have tiny little barbs on them that can be painful to the touch. Avoid direct contact with these pads and do not attempt to wipe your hands on your clothing if they do come into contact with them. You can suffer from a rash if you do.

While the prickly pear cactus is a survival superfood, it doesn’t give you license to over indulge. Eating too much of it can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps. You can suffer from an upset stomach if you eat too much of any food, so be careful. If you need to, stretch out your servings to twice per day or eat small amounts often instead of larger amounts a few times per day.

There are numerous types of cacti and other plants in the world that look very similar to the prickly pear cactus. If you’re not sure if you’ve got the right one, there are a few ways to double check. First, everything but the pads can be eaten and the taste is fairly distinctive. Second, check the edges of the pad for small thorns.

They may be small, but they will be visible if you look closely.

Foraging For The Prickly Pear

In places where they naturally occur, prickly pears grow in sunny areas like deserts and open fields with loose sand. They love dry heat and are very tolerant of drought. If you’re in an area that naturally gets hot, dry weather, check the edges of fields and other sunny open areas for a large plant with oval pads. They are a greenish-tan color and have small thorns around the edge of each pad.

If you’re in an area that naturally gets cold, prickly pears may still be available, but they’re most likely going to be growing in sheltered areas like canyons or under a cliff overhang. Check these types of areas. They still need a lot of sun so look for large plants with oval pads, even if they’re a bit shadowed.

You can also plant your own prickly pear cacti. Start with a ripe pad and some sand or loose soil. Scrub the prickly pear well with water and then slice it up into smaller sections with a knife. Push the pads deep into the soil and keep them watered.

Harvesting Prickly Pear Fruit: When And How To Pick Prickly Pear Cactus - Image

They won’t fruit for several years, but once they’re growing, you’ll have plenty of food for yourself and plenty to share with anyone else you come across.

Collecting Prickly Pear Fruit

Collecting prickly pear fruit is fairly easy. Most of the time, the cacti have ripe fruit right at eye level for you. The pads will be a deep magenta color. Some of them will even be split open and have turned a lighter pink/magenta color with some being a light orange.

There won’t be any green in the fruit. If you see green in the pads, do not collect them. The fruit is not ripe yet and the green is probably toxic.

Collecting the fruit is fairly easy. You can slice open the pad and pick off pieces one by one (this works best on pads that are split open). You can also break open the pad against something hard like a rock and then pick off pieces that way. Or you can use your knife to cut it free and then pick it up.

If you’re really hungry, you can just pick the whole pad (carefully) and take it with you to eat later.

You can also use the fruit as a survival water filter. Cut it up into a container, add some sand or other sediment to the container and then pour the contents through the sand. This will help to remove harmful substances from the fruit and draw out more of the moisture.

Sources & references used in this article:

The effect of harvest times on bioactive properties and fatty acid compositions of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-barbarica A. Berger) fruits by F Al Juhaimi, K Ghafoor, N Uslu, IAM Ahmed… – Food chemistry, 2020 – Elsevier

Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties of Semi-Processed Frozen Prickly Pear Juice as Affected by Cultivar and Harvest Time by R Palmeri, L Parafati, E Arena, E Grassenio… – Foods, 2020 – mdpi.com

Postharvest physiology of prickly pear cactus stems by M Cantwell, A Rodriguez-Felix, F Robles-Contreras – Scientia Horticulturae, 1992 – Elsevier

Growth and compositional changes during the development of prickly pear fruit by JO Kuti – Journal of Horticultural Science, 1992 – Taylor & Francis



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