Eating Prickly Pear Cactus

Photo shows fruits in bowl, skinned pads (nopales) in plate. I was defeated by this plant a few years ago, just could not get stickers out, especially from skins of fruit. This time, with help from Nature’s Gardens — Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer, I got more serious. Used tongs to hold, scrubbed with stiff brush, used heavy duty potato peeler on pads. Still difficult, but was able to eat fruit without mouth punctured with stickers — nice mild sweet taste, lot of seeds —  and last night sauteed the pads along with garlic and onions, pretty good.

   Any one got tips on cleaning, eating? These are so abundant, at least  on the West Coast.

12 Responses to Eating Prickly Pear Cactus

  1. Dan says:

    Torch apparently will burn off the stickers. Haven't tried it myself but have heard

  2. stephen says:

    Yes, torching will do it. I've heard older relatives talk about burning the stickers off prickly pear in a drought so that the cattle could eat them. The big problem was that the cows learned to like it so much that they were willing to tackle unprepared cacti. Then their mouths would become infected from the thorns.

  3. I burn them off over the stove–really easy. Then I slice them in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon. And the young pads are great in the spring.

  4. Jack says:

    In Mexico they lay them on the coals and roast them and burn the spines off at the same time. Yum..I love nopales.

  5. Nopales are great chopped up and sauteed with scrambled eggs. I got this idea from Martha Rose Schulman's Mexican Cooking Light…I think she has several other nopales recipes as well. The book is probably available at your local library or through Link +.

  6. Anonymous says:

    if burning off works, then maybe stick them on a hotdog fork, over a fire…Easy to turn.

  7. The round ones like in the upper image are popular in Peru and are said to be good to eat if one has an upset stomach. Before picking, slap it with a rag and you can handle it. Then peal it as the street sellers do and eat raw. Yummy. Seemed to settle my stomach

  8. Hi Lloyd,
    Love your blog and your house books – keep up the good work.

    My wife and I have a acre of land in the hills of Sicily. We intend to build a self-sustainable timber framed house there, one day.
    We are surrounded by Cacti and the locals soak the pears in a bucket of cold water, overnight. You can then handle them without fear! I'm not a big fan of them, as there are too many seeds. I have witnessed my farmer neighbour just pull a pear of the cactus, peel it with his bear hands and eat it!

    BTW, I live in the UK at the moment.

    Regards and a Happy New Year.

  9. Lloyd Kahn says:

    Richard, Thanks, will try cold water tonight. I have learned that there are different varieties, some with way less spines.

  10. Richard says:

    Great Lloyd, let me know how you get on.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Try burning the thorns off on a stove top. Hold the cactus with tongs.

  12. Anonymous says:

    There is a spineless variety should you be starting from scratch. Terribly easy to grow. I picked on up that people left on curb for trash and dropped in front yard on way into house, intending to plant in back later that week. It had started to grow before that. Beautiful flowers, though short-lived.

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