Edible Cactus

Discussion in 'Survival & Emergency Preparedness' started by Common Tator, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    A couple of weeks ago Hubby and I watched part of the History channel program about life after the apocalypse. We didn't turn on the TV until part way through the show. The family was in the desert, and already in bad shape. They were walking right past cactus that they could have eaten and sustained themselves quite well. I tried it when I attended Air Force survival school in Texas. It wasn't bad at all.

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    So there were store ads in today's mail, and one of the ads is for a local Hispanic market. They are selling Nopal, which is the leaves of the prickly Pear family of cactus. These are eaten regularly by Hispanics. The fruit of these cactus are really quite delicious too!

    If you live in an area where cactus grow, don't overlook cactus as a food source.

    This site has recipes. http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/2163-cooking-with-cactus-nopales-cactus

    We have a different variety of cactus at our house in the burbs. It always produced huge beautiful flowers about the time the kids started school each September. It was sitting directly in the sun and for years I didn't water it. I dug it up a couple of years ago and moved it to the back yard, where it gets fertilized and occasionally watered. Boy, that thing has really taken off! I noticed that this year it produced fruit! I did a google image search on "cactus fruit" and discovered that what I have is an Asian delicacy called "Dragon Fruit" Mine aren't quite as delicious and sweet as the prickly pear fruit, but I may be able to improve that with proper fertilization, so I'll give that a try.

    I have been looking at my ranch, and I think I will try to plant some prickly pear in a section of hillside that is on a South facing slope that gets direct sun. Chaparral grows there now, and at the elevations not much lower than us, Prickly pear grows naturally and in abundance.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  2. countrymech

    countrymech Well-Known Member

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    Ahhh, prickly pear cactus. Back when I was a Boy Scout we used to eat that quite a bit. Of course, being from Wyoming, edible plants are hard to find. It really isn't bad. However that was almost 30 years ago. Now I usually cus it because my kids don't watch where they are going while geocaching. It is very abundant here in Wyoming. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
     

  3. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    It's a trip down memory lane for me too, and a survival item that grows over vast swaths of the country. Knowing it is edible could save lives in a SHTF situation.
     
  4. damoc

    damoc Well-Known Member

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    i have been growing a lot

    my bees love the flowers a good soak with water every couple of weeks will
    keep the flowers blossoming for long periods of time and will plump the fruit
    out.
    when the pads start to look shrunken they need water unless it is winter
    in which case they do that naturally

    fruit can be eaten
    pads can be eaten
    the seeds can be ground into flour

    i made a dull flavored wine out of the fruit this year but cant recomend it
    could be a source of ethanol if you had nothing better

    rabbits love the spineless variety

    dethorn by quick bit of flame prior to peeling

    read somewhere it may be good for diabetics

    also read they are a good emergency food for cattle and other stock if dethorned by fire first.and very good for drought because the beast does not need as much water

    we had some very cold weather which did a lot of damage to the spineless
    variety but the nasty thorny one did fine
     
  5. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    Thanks Damoc, I didn't know you could burn the thorns off!
     
  6. waking_giant

    waking_giant Well-Known Member

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    Double post. Please delete.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  7. waking_giant

    waking_giant Well-Known Member

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    Cactus can upset the stomach, especially if eaten raw. If you are already dehydrated I would eat a small portion for starters and see how your stomach reacts to it. It could make a bad situation even worse. This is true for many wild plants that we are not used to ingesting.

    I boil the young thorn-less pads (sliced) with green beans, dried cranberries and butter and I love it. But I am a weirdo. :rock:
     
  8. springvalley

    springvalley Family Jersey Dairy Supporter

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    How many of you men also know that these cactus are also good for your prostate also, so eat up and get healthy, but yes cook them first. Thanks Marc
     
  9. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    I keep a jar of cactus in the fridge... a little slimy, but it's good... I add it to several mexican dishes...
     
  10. NoClue

    NoClue Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In Texas, Nopalitos are a common food among the Mexican American population, especially during Lent (which starts today) it's used as a meat substitute. The rest of the year it's used as a garnish. I've always liked nopalito and eggs so much that I eat it all year round. Also for lent, my family ate 'cactus soup' which is still comfort food for me.

    You can find nopalitos at Mexican grocers or in most chain grocery stores in the Mexican or International foods section. They're relatively cheap and last a long time in refrigerator.

    The down side is that Nopalitos can cause some serious gas.
     
  11. NCLee

    NCLee Well-Known Member

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    I have some cactus, that looks just like what's in the picture. Found it at an old homestead site years ago. The only difference is that the leaves (pads) are much, much smaller than the pads that I see in the stores. Blooms with a beautiful yellow flower. The fruit is a little larger than a big marble. Grows fairly low to the ground. It's not a tall upright plant like the ones I see in hardscape landscapes.

    Is this the same thing? I don't know enough about the types of cactus to know whether this is some other type that shouldn't be eaten. Are cactus like mushrooms? Some good, some bad?

    Thanks for any insight.
     
  12. Ernie

    Ernie Well-Known Member

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    We used to cut the fruit off, skewer it with long sticks, and then roast it over a campfire. The fruit has all these little hairs that will really irritate the heck out of your hands and probably your mouth too if you were so foolish as to pop one right in. But when roasted it burns all those little hair-thorns off and softens the fruit a little.
     
  13. NoClue

    NoClue Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There are some cacti that are definitely not safe to eat. Peyote, for example, is a strong hallucinogenic.
     
  14. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    Yours sounds like it is in the prickly pear family, which means it would be edible. I found this article that describes it in detail. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/1984-05-01/Cactus-Its-Edible.aspx
    "Joanadel Hurst In tales about the West, the cactus is sometimes portrayed as a water-bearing plant that saves thirsting cowpokes lost in the desert. But any hungry range rider worth his spurs would know that some types can provide right good eating, too, especially those known as Indian figs, nopales, prickly pears, or beaver tail cacti.

    In fact, there are dozens of varieties of these hardy forageables. They're members of the genus Opuntia, which encompasses well over 200 species. These can be divided into two broad groups: the inedible — or at least basically unpalatable — cholla cacti (which have slender, rounded stems) and the edible prickly pears (distinguished by flat pads resembling beavers' tails)."


    If you are concerned, post a picture, or ask your county extension agent.
     
  15. 7thswan

    7thswan Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is one that looks like this that will grow here in Michigan but I know nothing about it. A woman sells sections at the farm auction in the spring, looks like I'll see if it's edible.
     
  16. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    If it is edible, and grows in your climate, you can buy some and start your own plant, or several. Sometimes here in California I see hedges that were made by planting many prickly pear in a straight line. It would be an effective barrier, because of the spines. Most folks would see it and think it is ornamental. If you did this with a variety that you knew to be edible, you would have it as a food source.

    That is why I am going to go to the local hispanic market and buy some and try to start my own plants.

    This ehow article tells how to start your own plant from one pad. http://www.ehow.com/how_5607572_grow-nopal-cactus.html
     
  17. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    They sell it in the #10 cans here. I bought a can to try.
     
  18. Common Tator

    Common Tator Uber Tuber

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    Is it dried? Powdered? Cubed?
     
  19. NCLee

    NCLee Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your replies. I "think" I have prickly pear cactus. Flat pads about the size of the palm of my hand or a little smaller.

    I'll try to get someone to confirm (camera not working right now to post a pix) that they are indeed prickly pear

    Thanks, again.
    Lee
     
  20. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    It is sliced and canned. Not dried. Haven't opened it yet.