Prickly Pear Cactus Seed Flour

Prickly Pear Flour?

That's right--you can eat every part of this plant (Opuntia spp.), except the roots and the spines! In addition to the delicious nopales, a wonderful vegetable in the leaves, and delicious prickly pear fruits (also called Indian fig or Barbary fig, and known in Spanish as tuna, which are actually a very large berry), the prickly pear cactus is beneficial as food in another way -- you can grind up the seeds of this cactus to make a gluten-free flour with excellent nutritional properties. While it is unlikely that the average homeowner will produce enough seeds to consider home-grown prickly pear flour as a major resource, by conserving and drying those seeds of the cactus fruits, eventually you will have enough to make a cup or so of delicious flour, and because of the qualities inherent in prickly pear seeds, flour made from these cactus seeds works very well for both baking and cooking.

Prickly pear cactus
Prickly pear cactus

How to Make and Use Prickly Pear Flour

Reserve the seeds of the prickly pear fruit and allow them to dry thoroughly. Crack with a rolling pin, then put in a grinder (this is one of the very few seeds you can use a coffee mill to grind). Once you have seeds ground up, grind them fine, then for normal baking, because it has no gluten, in your recipes you can mix up to half prickly pear flour with regular flour for the total amount of flour you need. Use the prickly pear flour by itself for cooking where gluten development is not necessary, such as for battering food to fry, or for thickening soups, stews, sauces and gravies. You can also use it to make pasta, flatbread, and pancakes, or substitute for regular wheat flour in any recipes which do not need gluten.

Unless you live next to a field full of cactuses, you will probably not harvest enough to make a large quantity of flour. At the same time, there is no reason not to use the seeds, and harvesting a few cups of flour a year is not an unreasonable amount to expect if you are eating the prickly pear fruits.

Prickly Pear Cactus - Opuntia - Great Houseplant - Easy
Prickly Pear Cactus - Opuntia - Great Houseplant - Easy

Prickly Pear Cactus is very easy to grow and requires almost no watering or maintenance. Best of all, every part of the plant except the root and spines is edible! Perfect if you've got the dreaded "black thumb" when it comes to growing plants.

Prickly Pear Cactus 15 Seeds-Opuntia ficus
Prickly Pear Cactus 15 Seeds-Opuntia ficus

Easy to grow, this plant is hardy, and will live many (perhaps even hundreds) of years.


Why Prickly Pear Flour?

Prickly pear flour is very high in protein, and has good foaming and emulsifying points. What does that mean? Simply that this flour is not only good for you, and provides good nutrition, but that its characteristics make it ideal not only for baking, but for cooking and other uses. It has a high oil binding point (it glues stuff together well), making it ideal for meats, sausage, breads and cakes, while the proteins in prickly pear flour, with their high emulsifying and foaming capacity, are good for salad dressing, sausage, soups, confectionery, frozen desserts and cakes. Prickly pear flour is also an excellent source of fibre and many essential and nonessential amino acids.

By trying to use more of the prickly pear cactus plant, instead of merely throwing away the seeds, you will be gaining access to an unconventional source of protein, which is a problem for vegetarians and vegans, and reducing your carbon footprint, and become more in tune with nature. We should not waste food, and prickly pear flour is a good, nutritious food.

The Prickly Pear Cookbook
The Prickly Pear Cookbook

If you don't have a clue what to do with your prickly pear ingredients, this book may be able to help!


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Comments 5 comments

thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

great culinary write read thanks

Ricardo Torres 5 years ago

me encantan las tunas y ahora las amo!!!

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Very interesting--thanks!

Cathi Sutton profile image

Cathi Sutton 3 years ago

Sounds like a very useful natural flour! Prickly Pears grow wild, and in abundance in my neck of the woods, so I could maybe harvest from the roadside, etc, to make flour.

Thnaks for a great Hub!

lrdl3535 profile image

lrdl3535 8 months ago from California

Great post, I have never heard of using the seeds this way. I grow a lot of nopales myself so thanks for the information.

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