En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 26, 2011

From: Boerne, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Edible Plants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: What variety of Opuntia is best for eating in Boerne, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


Which variety of Opuntia, is best for eating the pads and which are the ones best eaten for fruit?


Mr. Smarty Plants isn’t aware of any taste tests that have been done, but looking on the web indicates there is still quite a bit of interest in eating Opuntia. It has been a staple of Mexican and Central American diets for thousands of years.

In “Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest”, Delena Tull cites Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii (Cactus apple) as being the most abundant prickly pear in West Texas. One of the major drawbacks to eating Opuntia is the spines and the glochids, so Opuntia ellisiana (Spineless prickly pear) might be a good choice for pads.

As for fruits, Opuntia ficus-indica has been cultivated for many years for its sweet juicy fruits called tunas. It is not as spiny as some of the other Opuntia species.

The links below have a lot of good information about prickly pears and their use as food.

plantbyplant.com   -good overview of the genus Opuntia.

motherearthnews.com   -a good “how to” for eating cactus along with recipes.

wikihow.com  -more recipes with tips for handling the pads.

wikipedia.org  -history of the use of Opuntia ficus-indica for its fruit.


From the Image Gallery

Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

More Edible Plants Questions

Edible plants beginning with I, T, X and Z in Colorado
March 26, 2009 - My friend would like to know a fruit or vegetable that he would plant in his garden and come back yearly. The plants would have to start with the letters I,T,X, & Z. It has to be edible, of course.
view the full question and answer

Is the fruit of Melothria pendula edible?
November 22, 2014 - Is the fruit of Melothria pendula edible?
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub/small tree with small purple fruit
July 31, 2013 - Hi! I have a tree/bush that has come up on its own in the backyard. This year it set what looks like small purple plums. Is there any chance that they might be poisonous?
view the full question and answer

Native Grasses as a Hay Crop in Beeville, TX
October 22, 2014 - I am looking to cut Hay on about 38 acres just west of Beeville, Texas. I want to convert the land to native grasses, but I still want to have a decent hay crop that I can sell. What is a good set of ...
view the full question and answer

Blueberries in Arlington TX
August 25, 2009 - Which wild or native blueberries can I grow in Arlington Texas? I think it is zone 8?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center