common sight in Arizona gardens is the Cow's Tongue Prickly Pear. Folks like
this cactus because of the unusual shape of the pads, which strongly resemble
a cow's tongue. It takes little water, and has yellow or orange flowers in the
spring that form along the margins of the pads, followed by numerous red
The cultivating of these 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
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 gastrointestinal tract.
Also is used as a hangover
Prickly Pear Cactus is also good
for the digestive system, loaded with Vitamins B1 and B6 and Calcium.
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 about 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 out completely for the first few months between waterings.
After the first summer, cacti should survive on rainfall. Water during
prolonged droughts to promote plant growth.
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
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.
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 clays).
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 recipes
many more just search "Prickly Pear Recipes" on net.