prickly pear

Prickly Pear Cactus - Nopales

My absolute favorite plant in the desert is the Nopales cactus also known as the Prickly Pear. 

This plant has two major uses. The first being food and the second being medicinal. The pads produce a thick gel substance under the pads that works as a salve for burns, rashes and a healing aid for minor wounds and abrasions. 

Both parts of the cactus are covered in spines however they are fairly easy to remove. On the pads you can just scrape them off with a knife and on the fruit it’s easier to burn them off with a blowtorch. 

The red fruit or the Pear part of it is actually green when it first forms and then slowly turns red as it ripens. You want to make sure you get off all the spines though because they can bury themselves deep in your skin or if you are unlucky enough your tongue. The fruit has a pleasant flavor between strawberry kiwi and strawberry daiquiri with a little herbal taste. It takes well to sugar and I’ve made a ton of Jelly, Syrup and Candy over the years from it. 

The pads can be cleaned of spikes, peeled and grilled or sliced up eaten raw or used as a vegetable in many dishes. It tastes quite unlike the pear and more like a green veggie. 

The Nopales Cactus is by far my favorite plant and the one I have eaten the most from in three decades.