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Prickly Pear Cactus

Updated on May 1, 2016
Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

The prickly pear cactus also called Nopales and Opuntia is known for it's green pads that are covered in small thorns. It has many uses for both food and medicine and has been used by many for centuries. It flowers in late spring to early summer and has an aray of colors of pink, red or yellow depending on the variety. The cactus is known as beaver tail cactus, bunny ears or prickly pear.

How To Eat A Prickly Cactus Pear


The fruit of the prickly pear is called tunas or cactus pears. The flavors of these fruit has a taste similar to watermelon and can range from a sweet to an acidic flavor depending on the variety of cactus that they come from. The sweet fruits can be eaten at room temerature or chilled to make a cool summer treat. The purple pulp can be cooked and made into preserves or jams. The juices from the cooked fruits can also be made into jellies or reduced down to make a syrup that can be used on pancakes or for making cactus candy.

How To Peel And Cook Fresh Nopales/cactus

The pads

The pads can range in size from 2 to 6 inches in width and 6 to 9 inches in length. They can be found chopped or diced in local grocery stores in the vegetable section. These can be fried and added to omeletets or soups and stews. They also can be fried with garlic tomatoe and onions to make a nice side dish. The have a flavor and texture that is said to be someting like green beans.

Spineless cactus

Luther Burbank developed several different varieties of spineless cactus. These different types have been used as animal food for several types of animals such as cattle, sheep and horses. These cactus not only provide food for the animals but also provide water during times of drought from the moisture in the pads.

Cactus-Aloe Smoothie

Medicinal uses

The liquid from the pads can be rubbed on cuts and burns to reduce pain and aid in healing . It is also good for reducing blood sugar and to help lower cholesterol.


The cactus is easy to grow and can be start from seed or from stem cuttings or pads. The quickest and simpelest way to grow prickly pear is with the pads. A pad can be broken from the adult plant and planted directly in the ground to make a new plant. Place the pad in the ground with about 2 inches of the pad below ground level. This allows for plenty of room for the new roots to form on the base of the pads.

Cactus propagation


The plants like direct sunlight and do well in hot desert climates with little water. The cactus survives off of water stored in their pads from rain storm to rain storm. Watering these is a matter of soaking the ground thoroughly and then allowing the ground to dry out before watering again. The cactus grows in a variety of soil conditions but does not do well in soggy soil.


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    • profile image

      kims3003 5 years ago

      Great job on Prickly Pear cactus!! Great article - well written. Looking forward to seeing more from you.

    • lady rain profile image

      lady rain 6 years ago from Australia

      I have lots of these prickly pear cactus in the backyard for many years but have not seen a single flower or fruit yet. We call them teddy's ears.