The Cactus Pear: How To Harvest And Prepare

The Cactus Pear

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 12/4/2022

Cactus Pear, also known as Opuntia, is a very versatile food source. Although one can consume the pads (nopales) and the fruit (tunas), one must use extreme caution when collecting and preparing any part of the plant.

Although the pads may or may not have spines, the places and the fruit have small hair-like thorns called thorns or "glochids." Spines may or may not be present on the pads, and these quickly detach and become embedded in the skin or other vulnerable membranes if they come into contact with them.

After the thorns have been removed from the cactus pads and fruit, you may run them under the faucet to rinse them. It is possible to wash away some of the tiny thorns from the needle bed, but there may still be more remaining on the plant. Even if the cactus species is spineless, it still possesses glochids. Therefore be careful to dethorn any Opuntia food products.

Cactus Fruit

Cactus Fruit

Even if they are not very large, the glochids present in an Opuntia variety that is said to be "dethroned" can nonetheless be rather unpleasant.

The collection process should be carried out using gloves made of leather or rubber and tongs. Once picked, fruits will not continue to ripen. Thus to ensure that they have the most excellent possible sugar content, they should be picked when they are fully mature. To detach the fruit from the pad, gently twist it while holding it in the tongs. It is recommended to place the fruit in a paper bag or any container that will prevent the glochids from emerging.

There are a few different ways to prepare the prickly Pear fruit. The first way involves torching the fruit with an open flame, which can be from a lighter, a blow torch, a gas burner, or even a candle. This should be done with extreme caution. The glochids are destroyed pretty readily by the fire. Even if it is possible to peel the fruit without first burning it, it is in everyone's best interest to err on the side of caution. After being cooked, the fruit may get slippery, so it is vital to ensure that you have a firm grasp on it with the tongs. Make it a point to keep burning each location until no more embers are left on the glochid beds or the fruit.

Cactus pear

Can remove The skin of the fruit by burning it first. To peel the fruit, cut off both of the fruit's ends and then make a slit that runs from the top to the bottom. The incisions must be made in the shape of the letter "I." The dethorned fruit will become visible once the skin is delicately peeled away from the fruit, beginning at the slit.

There are alternative ways to prepare the fruit if one is solely interested in extracting the juice. Putting the fruit in the freezer for the night is one approach you may use. After the fruit has been frozen, defrost it in a colander lined with paper towels and hanging over a bowl or saucepan. As a liner, you can place anything like a pillow cover or an old T-shirt in between the fruit and the colander. The liquid from the fruit will expel as it thaws, and it will strain into the other container. The thorns, skins, pulp, and seeds will be left behind.

Cactus pear

Putting the fruit inside a canning distiller is another way to extract juice from it. The fruit is held in place over a basin that collects the liquid, and the distiller uses steam to extract the juice from the fruit. The bowl is attached to a tube that allows the fluid to be dispensed into jars while the fruit skins, seeds, and glochids are left behind.

Pads Of Prickly Pear Cactus

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To harvest pads, a sterilized knife is used to separate individual residences at the point where they are attached to a supporting place. Use some protection, such as gloves or tongs, bend the pad until it is almost at the end of breaking, then cut neatly through the joint. It is best to harvest pads between the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon since the acid content of prickly pear pads, and consequently their flavor, varies throughout the day and is at its lowest between these hours. Additionally, because younger pads tend to be more delicate, preference is given to using them.

Because the pads make up the bulk of the plant, returning them can be a bit more challenging. Because the spines on the pads, in addition to the glochids, tend to be more evident and harmful. The nopal pad's spineless form is farmed for commercial purposes.

Pads That Remove Thorns

If the prickly Pear has spines, you can remove them with a knife by cutting the nodes or the needle beds, depending on their size. Once the glochids and spines have been removed from both sides of the pad, you may take off the remainder of the spines and glochids by slicing the outer edge away and cutting off the bottom half an inch of the base. It will expose the underside of the pad.

The Nutrition Of Prickly Pears

The Nutrition Of Prickly Pears

The fruits of the prickly Pear have an outstanding nutritional foundation. Tuna is considered a "superfood" because it is one of the fruits containing the highest concentration of nutrients on the entire planet.

Depending on the color of the fruit, the opuntia fruit can be an excellent source of various vitamins and minerals. The two types of fruit that appear more commonly are the red fruit and the yellow fruit. The red type, characterized by its dark pink hue, is the most frequent. Out of all the many kinds of fruit, this one has the highest concentration of ascorbic acid, and it contributes to the citric properties and flavor of the fruit.

The fruits with yellow skin contain more carotenoids than their relatives with red skin. Carotenoids are an early precursor of vitamin A, a potent antioxidant that is particularly beneficial in avoiding certain malignancies and heart disease. In addition to that, the immune system receives a benefit from this particular vitamin. The yellow fruit might have a flavor closer to that of vegetables because the nutrients in these fruits vary. It may be due to carotenoids in orange vegetables, such as carrots and certain kinds of squash.

Cactus pear

Both types provide extra benefits that are beneficial to one's health. In early Native American communities, prickly pears were a panacea for many ailments, and the Cactus treated various conditions, from indigestion to burn wounds. Both kinds of fruit are rich sources of calcium and vitamin C in similar proportions. Because they contain a lot of dietary fiber, which is another reason they are helpful for digestive problems. They also include a significant quantity of kaempferol, which is extra assistance against cancer and heart disease. Furthermore, they have many antioxidants and proteins, which assist the body in fighting infection and other diseases.

In addition, they contain a small amount of cholesterol, carbohydrates, and fats, making the fruit an exceptionally nutritious delicacy.

Fruit Or Tunas Are:

Fruit Or Tunas Are:

  • Containing a lot of vitamin C
  • Rich in calcium content
  • Rich in antioxidant properties
  • An excellent supply of fiber for the diet
  • Having a low-calorie count
  • Neither saturated fats nor cholesterol are present.
  • Low in salt content.
  • Good dietary options for those seeking carbs
  • Potassium-rich foods and other sound sources
  • Magnesium-rich foods and other good sources
  • Fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus

Pads Or Nopales:

Pads Or Nopales:

  • Iron and vitamin A are included in it (which are lacking or low in the fruits)
  • Containing a lot of vitamin C
  • Rich in calcium content
  • Riboflavin content is very high.
  • High in the mineral magnesium.
  • containing a lot of vitamin K
  • High in the mineral potassium.
  • High in the fiber found in food
  • Having a low-calorie count
  • Loaded with water for hydration

Pads Of Prickly Pear Cactus

Pads Of Prickly Pear Cactus

The pads also provide great nutritional value in ways that the fruit might not. Consuming the places and the plant's fruit leads to consuming various nutrients. The high levels of vitamin A, a potent antioxidant, are the most significant benefit to one's health that may be derived from the pads. Although the fruits contain carotenoids, in contrast to the pads, they do not provide the whole amount of vitamin A.

The pads also include a high concentration of other nutrients, such as potassium, which contributes to preserving the electrolyte balance in the body. Calcium, also found in high quantities in the pads, helps strengthen bone strength and prevent osteoporosis. Potassium is also present in the cushions. The pads, much like the fruit, have a high concentration of dietary fiber known as cellulose.

In addition, the pads have a high concentration of amino acids, which are the structural components of proteins. In addition, the cactus pads have a high concentration of flavonoids, which are known to reduce inflammation, as well as salt and vitamin C, all of which contribute to the body's ability to absorb iron and other minerals.

Cactus pear

The pads contain various nutrients, but one of the most interesting is water. Water makes up about 85 percent of the composition of edible places. Because of this quality, the cactus pads can serve as an excellent source of fodder, and other animal feeds. Prickly pears provide food for tortoises in the form of their residences, blooms, and fruit. The high nutrient levels and water content make this a desirable food source for animals. The animals may require additional protein supplements, but if they are given an adequate amount of pads, it will significantly reduce their water intake because of the high water content of the Cactus. This answers for ranching in locations experiencing drought and desert environments, or it may simply function as a method for conserving water in other areas. The cactus pads, like the fruit, have shallow sugar content, a very low-calorie count, and very little to almost no fat. It is accurate to say that Cactus is a superfood.

Recipes Using Prickly Pears

Recipes Using Prickly Pears

Because of its more robust citrus flavor in the morning, the optimum time to harvest Cactus for food, including fruit and the pads, is in the early hours of the day. The older pads have a distinct flavor that is less desired, and thus the younger places are the ones that are recommended. Pads still relatively young are simpler to peel and more manageable in general. Freezing the juice or the fruits of the prickly pear plant makes it possible to keep them for later use. The pads can be cut and preserved by pickling, but they cannot remain fresh in the refrigerator for more than a week.

Most prickly pear tunas and nopales may be consumed without seasoning or preparation. Prickly pears are used to prepare a wide variety of meals, mainly fruit, which is used to make syrups, sweets, and jellies. On the other hand, the pads are also edible after being cooked or when added to a salad. The Conservation Aides at the Southern Nevada Field Laboratory have come up with a few delicious recipes for you to try out in your own time.

Lemonade Made From Prickly Pears:

Lemonade Made From Prickly Pears:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cactus juice
  • Two lemons
  • 3 cups sugar
  • Four and a half cups of water
  • Extract the juice from the lemons and prickly pears. Mix the liquids, then add the sugar and mix it in. After the sugar has completely dissolved, pour it into the water, and enjoy!

This recipe yields around 2 quarts.

Jelly Made From Cactus:

cactus gelly

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cactus fruit juice (½ lemon juice can be replaced if desired)
  • 5 cups sugar
  • Two different pectin packets

The juice should be placed in a big saucepan and brought to a rolling boil. After adding the sugar, continue to boil the mixture for three minutes or until it thickens into a gel. Put the mixture in jars that have been sterilized and then seal them.

Nopales A La Plancha:

Nopales A La Plancha:

Ingredients:

  • Cactus nopales
  • Oil made from olives

Even when grilled in their most basic form, nopales may provide a flavorful dish. After the nopales have been chopped and prepped, rub the skin with olive oil and place them on a grill until they reach the required degree of softness.

Nopales Stuffed With:

Nopales Stuffed With:

Ingredients:

  • Eight pads
  • One clove of garlic, peeled and split in half lengthwise.
  • One onion, peeled and diced very finely, medium size
  • Eight slices of cheese. Gouda or cheddar will have a more subdued flavor, while pepper jack and Mexican cheese will have a more assertive flavor.
  • ½ cup flour
  • Three eggs were broken and set apart.
  • 1 cup oil, either olive or corn
  • Salt as desired
  • Tomato sauce or salsa if desired

Remove the paddles from the boat. Place the cactus paddles and garlic cloves in a large saucepan, cover, and bring the water to a boil. Cook the pads in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes or until they are soft but not mushy. The pads need to be drained and washed.

Nopales Stuffed With:

The next step is to fillet the pads by cutting them in half horizontally. However, do not cut off the final inch of the paddle, as this is where it connects to the main plant. Put some cheese and onion in the pads and then stuff them. Flour the pads by dragging them through the flour, then set them aside.

Should beat Egg whites until they form firm peaks, and carefully fold the remaining egg yolks. Start heating the oil. Fry the pads after dipping them into the egg mixture. If preferred, serve with an additional helping of the sauce.