Fruit comes from a flowering plant. It will contain seeds as the plant will flower towards the end of its growing season to seed itself. Simply put, if it has seeds inside, it is a fruit.
Vegetables do not contain seeds and are the edible parts of plants that include roots, shoots, stems, and leaves.
The fruit of prickly pears comes after the plant has flowered and contains seeds. You can also eat the “pads” of a prickly pear, making it both a fruit and veggie.
What Do You Call The Edible Part Of Prickly Pear Cactus?
Prickly pear fruit is oftentimes called a cactus pear, barbary fig, cactus apple, Indian fig, or tuna.
The pads are called nopales. You can eat the pads, which make prickly pear cacti both a fruit and a vegetable.
How To Eat A Prickly Pear Without Getting Pricked By Its Spines?
If you want to eat prickly pear fruits, you need first to scrape off the glochids. Glochids are tiny spines on the fruit that are very fine and hard to see.
You can also eat the nopales. The nopales are the green cactus “pads” of the prickly pear cactus plant.
They can be consumed raw or cooked. Make sure you wear gloves when handling prickly pear cactus before the spines are removed.
One great way to remove the spines is to use a peeler. You can simply brush the cactus in an upward motion with the peeler as you remove some of the skin and get all the spines.
You do not want to bite into a prickly pear cactus fruit or nopales without first removing the glochids and spines.
Can You Eat A Cactus Raw?
Yes, as stated above, you can eat a cactus raw. Just remember to remove the spines.
When working with prickly pear, it is recommended to cut off the outer edges of the pads as that is where the highest concentration of spines live, plus it is tough and chewy.
Health Benefits of Eating Prickly Pears.
The chief components of prickly pear cactus are the antioxidants, carotenoids, and the plant’s high antioxidant content.
They can help lower cholesterol. They also help with diabetes and obesity. Because of the antioxidants, it is also known as being a hangover cure.
It is also high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
Additionally, as they are found in hot climates, especially Latin America, they can be a real lifesaver as they produce a source of hydration. The fruits are especially hydrating.
What Other Types of Cactus Produce Edible Fruits?
A few different cactus produce fruits beyond opuntia ficus indica (species of prickly pear cactus).
- Dragonfruits (also known as Pitaya).
- Saguaro cactus fruits
- Barrel cactus fruits
- Cholla cactus fruits
- Be careful when harvesting fruits of the cholla cactus. The cactus plant has spines that will “jump” and attach readily to the skin. They can go as deep as muscle. Use caution.
What About Eating Cactus as a Vegetable?
Most of the fruit of cactus is safe to eat. However, it is not always safe to eat the green shoots, leaves, and stems of a cactus. For example, peyote (a type of cactus) can be toxic and make you ill. It can also make you hallucinate.
Prickly pear cactus is the safest bet when eating the nopales of a cactus. You should always research a plant before ingesting it.
What Food Group Is Cactus In?
A cactus belongs to the food group dietary vegetable. Other foods in this group are asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, eggplant (aubergine), lettuce and okra.
You should always remove all spines before attempting to eat any part of the cacti. Removing spines and glochids can be done with a vegetable peeler or a knife.
When you are armed with the correct information and research, you should have a safe experience eating cactus. You will find those prickly pear cacti are the most versatile and safe kind of cacti to harvest, process, and eat.