Posted by: Emily | November 14, 2009

A Cactus is Edible?!?

I was so excited when my brother came to visit me at Rutgers for my birthday.


Pierre The Cactus

And what did he bring me? A cactus!  Before talking to my brother about Pierre (yes, we named him) I had no idea that many types of cacti are edible and often eaten in cultures inside and outside of the United States.  Unlike the silly video i posted above, cacti are often prepared in dishes or at least de-bristled.  Although I am unsure if Pierre is an edible cactus, I do know that he is what is called a “Moon Cactus,” which is a term used to describe grafted cacti.  The red top of Pierre is a type of cactus that belongs to the genus Gymnocalycium and the green bottom is a Hylocereus.  Click here for more information about growing a cactus like mine.

Ok, so I know you’re still wondering about preparing and eating cacti.  In the Southwest United States and in Mexico, there are hundred of types of cacti that belong to the genus Opuntia. They are composed of fruit and pads, both of which are edible and easily foraged.  In Mexico, the the stem of the cacti is called nopales.  Nopales can generally be found in the United States in Mexican groceries.  These cacti can be boiled, battered and fried, added to soups, used as taco meat, or even grilled.  They taste either sweet or sour and are relatively low in calories while providing a good amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and even a little iron.

For some raw food recipes or more information about preparing a cactus, check out “How to Use the Nopal and Cactus Pear Fruit in Raw Food Recipes.”

For a yummy stew recipe that uses nopales, click here.

If you prefer chicken, this recipe got some good reviews.


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