The cactus is an unusual, strong plant that grows under high temperatures and dry soil. Its thorns keep away potential predators, including people. However different people from around the world eat certain cactus species. The cactus produces fruit and fleshy leaves are the specific parts of the plant that are the most commonly eaten. The following are the 3 most common parts of a cactus used as food:
- Orchid Cactus
The orchid cactus, also called hybrid Epiphyllum cactus, produces bright fruit and flowers. The soft fruit is the size like a fist, with small seeds on the inside. This type of cactus produces fruit like “Dragon Fruit” or “Pithaya” which can be found in different colors (red or yellow). They all have a sweet taste. Find more about Dragon Fruit here.
Nopales have edible stalks. They are thick, green and moist under the tough exterior. Its flavor resembles the okra and peas taste. They are widely used as part of the traditional food in some parts of Mexico. The leaves are harvested in their stage of development, when they become tender and tasty. The nopales are eaten raw, cooked as a side dish or as an ingredient for soups.
- Opuntia Cactus
The Opuntia cactus produces a type of fruit called “prickly pears” or “Indian figs”. This fruit is several inches long. It has a tough skin and a round shape. When mature, the outside becomes bright red and the inside turns orange (some of them are yellow on the outside and green inside). It can be harvested and eaten fresh. The seeds are edible as well. Prickly pear cactus has been part of the Mexican and Central American diet for thousands of years.
In addition, this type of fruit is used to make canned foods, jams and even liquors. These types of fruits can be harvested throughout the year, but they are better between spring and late fall.