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Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia species

Description

This cactus has flat, pad like stems that are green. Many round, furry dots that contain sharp-pointed hairs cover these stems.

Habitat and Distribution

This cactus is found in arid and semiarid regions and in dry, sandy areas of wetter regions throughout most of the United States and Central and South America. Some species are planted in arid and semiarid regions of other parts of the world.

Edible Parts

All parts of the plant are edible. Peel the fruits and eat them fresh or crush them to prepare a refreshing drink. Avoid the tiny, pointed hairs. Roast the seeds and grind them to a flour.

CAUTION

Avoid any prickly pear cactus like plant with milky sap.

Other Uses

The pad is a good source of water. Peel it carefully to remove all sharp hairs before putting it in your mouth. You can also use the pads to promote healing. Split them and apply the pulp to wounds.

Steve's notes:

The quality of the fruit varies quite a bit from one species to another in my experience.

Some varieties have very fine spines that are very difficult to remove, so use gloves when collecting. If you do get the hair-like spines stuck in your hands or elsewhere, any adhesive tape can remove most of them.



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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Prickly Pear Cactus