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A How to Plant Prickly Pear Cactus

A How to Plant Prickly Pear Cactus

How to Plant Prickly Pear Cactus

via GIPHY

When it comes to starting new plants from seed, many of us just go for the tried-and-true. And this is of course where you find the familiar varieties like cacti, roses and begonias. But here are a few recently introduced species you might want to consider for the garden, meek as they may seem.The opuntia genus of the cactus family, more commonly known as prickly pear cacti, are native to the Americas and are found in the largest populations in Mexico and dry, arid regions of the western and southern United States. The pads (also known as paddles or leaves) and the fruits of these cacti are culinary staples for communities indigenous to these areas and are used in traditional medicine as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. The pads, flowers, fruit and stems of the prickly pear cactus are edible. The sweet fruits, which are generally called prickly pears or tunas, are eaten raw or used in making candies, jellies and jams. You can also make or buy prickly pear juice that can be enjoyed alone or used as a mixer for cocktails or mocktails. The pads (aka leaves) are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, tacos, jams, or egg dishes.

FRUITS

via GIPHY

The pads, flowers, fruit and stems of the prickly pear cactus are edible. The sweet fruits, which are generally called prickly pears or tunas, are eaten raw or used in making candies, jellies and jams. You can also make or buy prickly pear juice that can be enjoyed alone or used as a mixer for cocktails or mocktails. The pads (aka leaves) are eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, tacos, jams, or egg dishes. To harvest prickly pear fruits, also known as tunas, you will need thick gloves or tongs to remove them from the cactus. While the fruits do not have spines, they do have glochids, which are nearly invisible, hair-thin splinters that are easy to get in your skin and difficult to get out. Therefore, while wearing your thick gloves for protection, twist each tuna off of the cactus to harvest them. Greener fruits are younger and will not be as sweet as riper fruits, which will be shades of oranges, red or purple.

Alternatively, you can peel the skin off by using two forks to avoid touching the fruit with your hands. To begin, stick the fruit with one of the forks. Cut off both ends of the fruit, and then slice the skin lengthwise from end to end. Hold the fruit with one fork while using a second fork to peel the skin off of the fruit. If you do not burn off the glochids before peeling the fruit, remember that these can easily fall off onto your cutting board or counter top, so be sure to properly clean all surfaces and tools. Prickly pear cacti (Optunia spp.) are easily identified by their upside-down pear-shaped pads or segments. Their gray-green fleshy pads produce large showy flowers in the spring that turn into red, spiny fruits later in the season. There are more than 150 varieties of prickly pear cacti, all of which are hardy in Sunset's Climate Zones 12 through 24. These drought-tolerant plants make very low-maintenance houseplants that add a bit of Southwestern flair to a room's decor. Prickly pear cacti are easily propagated through cuttings. (Source: homeguides.sfgate.com)

 

 

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