Using and Eating Prickly Pear

Eating prickly pear can have many beneficial effects on your health, and the plant can be utilized in other helpful ways.

  • Prickly pear pad.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Review Press
  • Christopher carefully collects prickly pear cactus fruits.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Review Press
  • Preparing prickly pear pads for cooking.
    Photo by Timothy Snider
  • Preparing prickly pear pads for cooking.
    Photo by Timothy Snider
  • Cochineal on a prickly pear cactus.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Review Press
  • "Guide to Wild Foods, Second Edition" comes from Christopher Nyerges, a leading voice for the promotion of the health and lifestyle benefits of wild edibles.
    Cover courtesy Chicago Review Press

More than a listing of plant types and general facts, Guild to Wild Foods and Useful Plants, Second Edition (Chicago Review Press, 2014) is full of fascinating folklore, personal anecdotes, and tasty recipes perfect for anyone who is interested in living closer to the earth. Christopher Nyerges — co-director of the School of Self-Reliance — offers hikers, campers and foragers an array of tips for harvesting and consuming wild edibles. This excerpt espouses the benefits of eating prickly pear, as well as the medicinal uses of the plant.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants, Second Edition.

Prickly Pear Opuntia spp.
Cactus Family:

Most Prominent Characteristics of Prickly Pear

Overall Shape and Size: Prickly pear grows in clusters with flat, broad, oval fleshy pads, which are its stems, and is covered with numerous spines, which are its leaves.

Flowers: The many-petaled flowers are purple, yellow, orange, or red. The petals are somewhat fleshy. The corolla (petals united) is circular in outline or wheel-shaped from above. The sepals are thick and green or partly colored.

Fruit: Throughout the summer and early fall, the mature purple, red, or yellow fruits grow from the tips of the pads. The fruits, which are full of seeds, are covered with small hairlike spines called glochids.



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