The prickly pear, Opuntia ficus-indica, is a member of the Cactaceae cactus family. Nopal, tuna, sabra, and paddle cactus are other names for it.
The wide, flat, green pads (or paddles) of the prickly pear cactus are known as nopales. Nopales are edible and are commonly found in Mexican egg dishes, salads, tacos, and soups.
They are fairly crunchy, but depending on how they are prepared, they can have a slimy texture. Nopales have been described as having a vegetal, slightly tart, and citrus-like flavour.
The prickly pear, also known as tuna, is a small, oval fruit that grows on top of nopales. It can be green, pink, red, purple, or yellow-orange in colour.
Prickly pear flesh is juicy, contains seeds, and has a sweet taste similar to watermelon. Prickly pear flesh can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s frequently made into juice and mixed into cocktails, or it’s cooked down into jams. Prickly pear flowers can also be eaten.
Prickly pear fruit and pads have prickles on the outside, as the name implies. Glochids are painful parasites that can stick to your hands. Before eating prickly pear, glochids must be removed.
Prickly pear is very common in Mexico and the American Southwest because it grows primarily in desert environments. In fact, the prickly pear cactus is Texas’ official state plant. It is also grown in Italy and other Mediterranean countries.
Prickly pear fruits (and nopales) are available in markets and grocery stores in these areas. They may also be imported to other grocery stores, particularly Mexican food markets and grocery chains carrying unusual fruits or ingredients.
Prickly pear was used in Mexican folk medicine to treat ulcers, liver conditions, and other issues due to the many beneficial plant compounds and nutrients it contains. The medicinal properties of this cactus fruit are still being researched.
The oval fruit with prickly skin and juicy flesh that grows on top of cactus paddles is known as a prickly pear. It’s a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine and was once used to treat ailments.