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Old 09-07-2018, 12:46 AM
tigsteele tigsteele is offline
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Default Prickly Pear / Opuntia

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Opuntia/Prickly Pear

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The prickly pear cactus or Opuntia is an abundant food source, especially in the American Southwest and Mexico. Though it's tolerance for cold means you can find it all the way up to the western parts of Canada. It also can be found in various forms throughout the rest of America (though not as abundant), and the Mediterranean.
Prickly pear is named for the fruit that grows on the cactus, though normally the fruit is called 'tunas' and the pads of the cactus are called 'nopales' both are edible though take some processing to get rid of the thorns and sharp furs.

The prickly pear cactus actually has fairly poor nutritional value, so it won't be your main staple food source, but it is full of fiber, some carbs, potassium, magnesium and even a bit of vitamins A and C. The fruits that you'll find in late summer to early winter are loaded with sugar, which can be hard to find from other sources.
Fire is the suggested manner of getting rid of the thorns and glochids, both will burn off in a matter of seconds allowing you to handle the food for further preparation. Nopales are cooked until the pad is malleable and the inside is a bit firmer. I has a fairly bland taste that reminds you of a vegetable your mother made you eat as a kid, but it's not bad. Nopales are usually used with or as a replacement for peppers in various recipes and are actually frequently sold in grocery stores in a lot of regions. The skin is edible, but if you're cooking over a campfire it will probably be a bit burnt and you'll want to remove it.
The fruit/tuna of the prickly pear is edible raw (once the glochids are removed) and can be used to make jellies, jams and wines. The seeds can be parched and ground into flour for later use. The juice will stain your teeth and fingers and was actually used as a dye in the past. Even the unripe green fruit can be cooked and has a texture and taste not unlike okra.
As Nopales and tunas are frequently sold in super markets and are frequently used, you can find tons of recipes for both online. If you have prickly pear in your area, try them out. Find some good recipes, I think you'll be surprised by them.
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Old 09-07-2018, 12:58 AM
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They are prickly!!! Best to handle them with metal tongs and use a torch / fire.

I attempted to pick some off my land with heavy leather gloves. Still got pricked.

If you fertilize the plants with Miracle Grow, they will really take off. We have some in our woods and some we transplanted next to the house. They grow real well.

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Old 09-07-2018, 02:16 PM
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I live in the Atlantic northeast and have discovered a couple of local species that do well outside in flower pots. Here's a photo:
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Old 09-07-2018, 04:14 PM
BabyBlue BabyBlue is offline
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Grab those spikey puppies with clothes pins or tongs. The spines just go right through gloves. Singe off the spines, dice small and cook and serve them just like green beans or put them in any old dish. Many people will get stomach cramps and even diarrhoea trying to eat it raw. Even a little cooking will kill the enzyme that causes that.

If they grow for free near where you live give them a little drink of water once a week to get them to grow bigger pads.
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foraging, nopales, opuntia, prickly pear, tunas, wild edible

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