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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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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.




 

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