En Español

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

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.




 

From the Image Gallery


Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

Cactus apple
Opuntia engelmannii

More Edible Plants Questions

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

Texas plants useful to early settlers
June 05, 2012 - I'm working on some interpretation for a prairie heritage trail in SE TX (near Houston). I'd like to know where I can find some good information on plant remedies which might have been used by early...
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of leaves and berries of lantana
July 19, 2007 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants!!! I live in Columbia, SC and have fallen in love with the Lantana or Lanta plants. I have a lot of them because of their rapid growth. My question is -- in addition to all t...
view the full question and answer

Information on herbs for Northeast Ohio
May 03, 2006 - Hello there, I am writing you seeking some information on Northeast Ohio's native plants. This has been rather difficult to find—specific native plants that can be used as herbs. If you could h...
view the full question and answer

Fruit crops to grow in Tennessee mountains
May 27, 2013 - My property has a lot of rock formations throughout it and has hundreds of cedars where it is not pasture. I am wanting to grow fruit trees and berry bushes but don't know what can grow in this e...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center