5 comments on “Flowers Of The Week: Opuntia cochenillifera

  1. I think this is what we call a Prickly Pear. The fruits are also edible, have vitamin C and other nutrients, make a good sweetened jelly with a lovely red color …. and the pickles DO prickle. Prickly Pear can grow to huge sizes. The meat of the cactus is also edible, used in soups , fried, etc. They are one of the few cacti that t can tolerate shade and damp, though it won’t bloom without sunshine. I have some that I transplanted (wild, from another woodsy area) into a spot I did not want to have used as a pathway by people or animals. I also have Yucca and century (agave’) plants in the same area. Donkeys and goats can eat it without worrying about peeling the prickles. Those soft hair like immature stickers, DO stick in, too, and are hard to get out, so they tend to make a rash until one’s body expels them.

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    • Prickly pear is relatives to Opuntia cochenillifera. Prickly pear cactus has been a staple of the Mexican and Central American diet for thousands of years. In parts of the U.S. it has been gaining popularity as an exotic, gourmet and healthy addition to one’s diet. The prickly pear plant has three different edible sections: the pad of the cactus (nopal), which can be treated like a vegetable, the petals of the flowers, which can be added to salads, and the pear (tuna), which can be treated like a fruit. They grow wild throughout the American southwest, down to South America and up to Canada. The ones you may find at a local store or farmers market will surely originate from a commercial nopal farm.
      (How to eat Prickly pear cactus http://www.wikihow.com/Eat-Prickly-Pear-Cactus)

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      • I have seen canned from Mexico and US south west, but not fresh, and not in a local store..

        They also grow wild all through the US South East, and are also domesticated as an ornamental. They seem to be ageless. They clone easily from pieces of the pad/nopal, I have seen commercial seeds for sale in catalogues (all the spring seed catalogues are arriving now), but I’ve never tried to either save seed, or start from seed. Bees, even hummingbirds, like the flowers. We people do, too, but it is better to wait for the fruit, which is tasty. Wildlife, including ‘possums, raccoons, armadillos, bears, deer, all like the flowers and fruit. The goat ate the pad, too. Prickles and all!! We people have to “peel” them. They ARE a vegetable.

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