Do you like cactus? Yes, then today’s post is definitely for you. we will discuss some of the common edible cactus that you can try on. Some of these are native varieties while others are not. Do check for the legalities before trying to buy them. Some edible cactus varieties are small while others are bigger than trees. Cactus fruits are consumed raw while fleshy stems are cooked to eat.
Check out my previous post: Vegetables that Start With A to Z- Beginners Guide
Let’s continue with the list-
8 Common Edible Cactus VArieties
- Prickly Pear. the prickly pear syrup is very delicious. You should give it a try.
- Barrel Cactus
- Dragon fruit cactus
- Peruvian apple – Cereus peruvianus
- Agave cactus
- Cholla Cactus
- Organ Pipe Cactus
- Scarlet Hedgehog cactus- Echinocereus
There are many more edible cactus varieties yet to be listed here. If you know some of them then let us know in the comments. Check the list of live cactus plants on Amazon.
1 Prickly Pear
Prickly pear is the most common cactus which is edible. You can eat the leaves as well as the fruits of the plant. These are very easily grown needs almost no maintenance. The fruits of the plant can be eaten raw when ripe properly. You can eat the sweet prickly pear fruit without cooking right off after plucking it from the plant.
The fruit is green in color and turns light red or yellowish when ripe. Large oval-shaped fruits with blacks spots on them. These spots are actually not thorns fruits have glochids that have to be removed carefully before touching with bare hands.
The cactus leaf or flat pads of the prickly pear plant is also edible. It is commonly used in many Mexican dishes. The method of cooking is simple and it tastes more like a bottle guard or zucchini. You just have to be careful while cleaning the paddles as it is covered with thorns.
Cactus pads can be roasted or cooked as a curry. You can fry them in a pan and serve them with bread or rice. Cactus taste good and also helpful in treating diabetes, high cholesterol, and many health problems. you can plant prickly pear in your garden easily and have it whenever you need it.
2 Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus plants produce edible fruits that you can eat raw. At the top of a mature plant, you can see several fruits in a bunch. Fruits generally grow at the top middle of the plant in a group. You can pick them up and have them directly off of the plant.
Southern Barrel cactus fruits are commonly known as Fishhook barrel cactus fruit. The nice yellow fruits look like a miniature of a pineapple. There are hundreds of black tiny seeds inside the fruit. You can see the seeds while eating them but no worries the seeds are edible too. Even the seed has more nutrition than that of fruits. It can be a life savior for you if you are in a desert and running out of food.
3 Dragon fruit cactus
Dragon fruit cactus produce yummy fruits and is very common among us. This cactus needs more water than other cactus and can tolerate some extreme conditions. We know it as pitahaya or pitaya fruits. Dragon fruit plant can be grown as an Indoor plant.
You can separate the seeds from the pulp of the fruit easily. Then clean and dry them before storing them in a container. Grow these seeds in a pot as a home plant or your garden as per your preference. But keep in mind, plant grown from seeds usually takes longer time to produce fruits.
One of the easiest alternatives is to use grafting or cutting of a mature plant. The plant will start producing fruits within a 6-month time span. Fruits have thick red or yellow scaly layered skin. Inside it is white juicy sweet pulp with lots of crunchy seeds.
If you are planning to get an edible cactus at your place, you can definitely go for dragonfruit cactus. It is easy to grow, needs very less maintenance and fruits are super yummy.
4 Cereus peruvianus
Cereus peruvianus is a variety of cactus we commonly call as Peruvian apple. The Peruvian apple cactus is also known as a queen of the night. It is a green or bluish desert cactus that is native to South America. This cactus grows upright in a single column with 4-5 blades. It is easy to grow normal-looking cactus.
Peruvian cactus produce apple-like fruits and that’s why called so. The fruits are purple-blue in color when raw and turn red or orangish when fully riped. It looks very much similar to dragon fruit when we talk about the color. But in reality, Peruvian apple fruits look way different than dragon fruits.
There are no thorns or scales on the fruit. The skin or outer surface of the fruit is very smooth and a little bit shiny. Although there is very thick skin on the fruits but very easy to peel. Even the peel falls off itself if over riped. Inside the peel, there is white crystal-like pulp. It is a bit different than other fruit’s pulp. There is a light crunchiness and as you crunch the pulp, it will melt into your mouth. This yummy fruit is as sweet as a cane with some light flavors or fruit.
Agave is a Popular variety of cactus. It is widely grown for liquor production- Tequila. Yes, if you are a tequila lover then you should know this. Agave has three edible parts flowers, stalks, and sap. You can collect the stalks before it blooms. Clean and roast them before having them. It tastes very similar to molasses. Then in summer agave produce flowers.
The Agave flowers are edible. You can boil or roast them. Agave plants produce a huge amount of flowers in each plant. For the sap, you have to leave the depression of the stalks at the bottom. After some time it will fill with sap which can be used for tequila.
6 Cholla cactus
Cholla cactus fruit and buds are edible. You can use the flower buds for making curry or just stew it if you want. Basically, it’s up to you, you can cook whatever you like with it. Yes, the buds of the cholla cactus are edible and taste really amazing. It tastes like asparagus and artichoke.
During the spring cholla cactus plant start producing flower buds. You can collect them and dry them to store for long-term use. Also, soak or boil them in water before cooking. The process of cooking can be the same as green beans or asparagus.
After the flowers bloom and shed, cholla produce fruits. The fruit of the cholla cactus is similar to that of prickly pear. It can be used to make fruit syrup or eat them as it is.
7 Organ pipe cactus
The organ pipe cactus is of the most useful varieties of cactus. You can eat both the fruits and the seeds. You can make flour by grinding the dry seeds. Use this seed flour to make delicious cakes. Well, if you are a good cook you can try new recipes with it and yeah, do not forget to share them with me.
Sweet pitaya or pitaya dulce is the common name for organ pipe cactus fruits. But it is different from dragon fruit. You can eat the organ pipe cactus fruit raw. The fresh fruits from the plants are very delicious. Fresh fruit juice is easy to extra and tastes great. You can also ferment the fruit pulp to make wine. Pitaya dulce wine is a great cocktail companion.
Echinocereus cactus is also known as Scarlet Hedgehog cactus. It produces beautiful bright color flowers. The stem can be cooked and eaten as veggies. In winter you can cook them and enjoy them at your home. The fruits are also edible and yummy too.
I think this list is just a glimpse of what the cactus family can contribute. Cactus was an important part of ancient native American cusine. Some of these are considered healthy and nutritious. These spiny plants have a deep relation with ancient traditions. They thought of the cactus as a connection between humans and the spirit world. Spooky isn’t it? What is your opinion about edible cactus plants? Let us know in the comments.
Keep reading keep gardening!