The cultivating of cactus requires
only that it be planted and left to grow on it's own, no fertilizer, no
watering, nada, nothing. Best grown on land useless for growing corn and other
Cattle feed stock. After a year or two, the pads are ready to eat and the
fruit is ready to harvest if so desired. After each feeding the cactus is left
to grow another meal which happens quite quickly in the desert lands of the
Prickly Pear Cactus is known for its ability to
lower blood sugar levels, helping with diabetes. Prickly Pear Cactus is
believed to lower blood glucose levels, partly due to its coating of the
Also is used as a hangover inhibiter. TEQUILA!
Prickly Pear Cactus is also good for the
digestive system, loaded with Vitamins B1 and B6 and Calcium.
Prickly Pear Cactus, also known as Nopal, is a
large cactus from the desert southwest. It grows up to 15 feet, and
produces hundreds of reddish fruits. The entire plant can be eaten ... once
you pluck the spines!.
When handling prickly pear-use tongs! They are
'spineless' but do have small furry spines that can drive you nuts... if
cooking run them over an open flame on stove first, This burns off the fine
spines. Or peel like a potato... but why waste them!
To root cuttings bury half the pad sections in
soil or just lay flat on the ground and sprinkle a little soil on top and
sides leaving one face exposed. Or cut pad in 3-4" pieces and root cut-sides up
for multiple plants.
Water cuttings once a week in dry areas and let
dry put completely for the first few months. After the first summer, cacti
should survive on rainfall. Water during prolonged droughts to promote plant
Prickly Pear Cactus is said to be effective if
taken prior to drinking alcohol in preventing hangover. Prickly Pear Cactus is
said to be effective in treating gastrointestinal infections, strengthening
the tissues of the digestive tract, and in lowering cholesterol.
Juice or split pad section also useful
topically in the healing of minor scrapes and burns.... also seems to work
getting the furry stickers out too! Used similar to agave.
The fruit is used to produce preserves, jelly,
pies, candy, syrup, sorbet, drinks, and wine....
The pads are used in many recipes and sold in
stores out here as Nopalitos. The fruits (pears) are known as 'Tuna'..
Nopalitos pads are good raw shredded in salads
or mixed in salsas or cooked with eggs, served as vegetable or eaten raw.
Search 'Luther Burbank nopal' you will be
amazed how many uses Burbank found for this cacti from hypoglycemia to
mosquito control! Amazing BIG cacti!
Prickly Pear Fruit is also known as
Fico'dinnia in Italy, the cactus grows wild and cultivated to heights of
12-16'. The fruits flower in three distinct colors, White, Yellow and Red.
They first appear in early May through the early summer and ripen from August
through October. The fruits, eaten, minus the thick outer skin, after chilling
in a refrigerator for a few hours. They have a taste similar to a juicy extra
sweet water melon, very refreshing on a hot summer or fall day. The bright
red/purple, or white/yellowish flesh contains many tiny hard seeds that are
usually swallowed, but should be avoided by those who have GI problems with
Jams and jellies are produced from the fruit, which resemble strawberries and
figs in color and flavor.
In the center of Sicily, in the Provence of "Enna", in a small village named "Gagliano
Castelferrata", a Prickly Pear flavored liqueur is produced called "Ficodi",
flavored somwhat like a medicinal/apertif.
In the early 1900's, in the United States the Prickly Pear fruit was imported
from Sicily and other Mediterranean producing countries to satisfy the growing
population of immigrants arriving from Italy (Sicily) and Greece. The fruit
lost it's popularity during the mid 1950's and has become increasing in
popularity recently in the late 1990's until today, due to the influx of
Mexican immigrants, because it was and is their favorite fruit.
Recently the Cattle industry of the Southwest United States has begun to
cultivate Opuntia ficus-indica as a fresh source of feed for Cattle. The
Cactus is grown both as a feed source and a boundary fence. Cattle avoid the
sharp spines of the Cactus and do not stray from an enclosed area of Opuntia
ficus-indica. The nutrition available in the cactus pads, which is what the
Cows feed on, far surpasses that found in corn and other Cattle feed. In
addition to the food value there is the moisture content that virtually
eliminates watering the Cattle and the human effort in achieving that chore.
The Cows can be moved to another Cactus feeding area. The only effort to fed
the Cattle is to walk through the selected cactus feeding area with a propane
backpack and torch. The torch burns the Pads, ever so slightly grilling the
Cactus Pads and burning off the spines, then the Cattle can have a feast
without getting stuck with the cactus spines. The cows become accustomed to
hearing the roar of the Propane torch which acts like a dinner bell for them.
Mexican and other southwestern residents eat the young Cactus Pads, (Nopales)
usually picked before the spines harden. They are sliced into strips skined or
unskined, and fried with eggs & jalape?os, served as a breakfast treat. They
have a texture and flavor like string beans.
Also, the cladodes are eaten as nopales. Other uses include as an ingredient
in adobe (to bind and waterproof).
Opuntia ficus-indica is cultivated (as well as other species in Opuntia and
Nopalea) to serve as a host plant for cochineal insects, which produce
desirable red and purple dyes. This practice dates from pre-Columbian times.
It is used to make Tungi Spirit on the island of Saint Helena.
O. ficus-indica has various medicinal uses - including use as a hangover cure
(see source at bottom of page). Recently, extracts for the cactus pear fruit
has shown to possess antioxidative properties and can cause reduction of DNA
damage in human peripheral lymphocytes. This extract has become a potential
source of raw material for pharmaceutical and functional food industries.
The shoots of O. ficus-indica have been shown to contain at least some
The plant spread to many parts of the Americas in pre-Columbian times, and
since Columbus, have spread to many parts of the world, especially the
Mediterranean where they have become naturalized (and in fact were believed to
be native by many). This spread was facilitated by the carrying of nopales on
ships to prevent scurvy.
There's no end to uses. See a great site for
many more just search "Prickly Pear Recipes" on net.