The Edible Cactus Fruits

When we say "cactus" we typically think of the prickly ornamental or desert plants which would be the last thing we will put on our dinner table. But in many parts of the world, cactus fruits are eaten, and even one species leaves are also edible.

Prickly Pears

photo Randy Robertson/Flickr

photo

Ken Bosma/Flickr

photo Dannis Jarvis/Flickr

File:Prickly pears.jpg

Tomás Castelazo/Wikipedia

Prickly pears are fruits of a genus of the fruit-producing cactus known as opuntia or paddle cactus. Like all cactus species, the plants are native to the Western hemisphere but have been brought to different parts of the world. Today, they abound in Mexico, the Western United States, the Mediterranean region, Southern Europe and parts of Asia. In the late 1800’s, prickly pears were introduced in Australia where it caused major environmental damage such as soil erosion.

The prickly pear fruits are also called cactus fruit, cactus fig and tuna. The Indian Fig Opuntia is the most commonly used in culinary preparations. They are made into candies, juices, jams, jellies, soufflés, and muffins. The taste of the prickly pear juice is said to be sweet and delicious, described as a cross between bubblegum and watermelon.

The young pads or leaves called nopales of most species are also edible and is a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine and is said to taste like green beans.

Dragon Fruit

File:Than Long Green Gragon.JPG

Nhã Lê Hoàn/Flickr

photo

Miryam Zarzar/Flickr

File:Pitaya cross section ed2.jpg

SMasters/Flickr

photo

suspectio@/Flickr

File:Yellow pitaya.jpg

Fibonacci/Wikipedia

Also called Strawberry pear, pitaya or pitahaya, the dragon fruit is the fruit of the cactus species Hylocereus more commonly known as sweet pitaya. This cactus plant is native to Mexico and Central and South America but is now cultivated in Australia and several Asian countries including Vietnam and the Philippines.

There are three kinds of dragon fruit, the most commonly seen are the pink skinned with white flesh (red pitaya), the pink skinned with red flesh (Costa rica pitaya), and the golden yellow skinned with white flesh (yellow pitaya). All three can be up to six inches long, with leathery, slightly leafy skins.

Most people who have tried the dragon fruit were disappointed of its taste considering its interesting, exotic appearance. The flavor is described as bland to mildly sweet with a texture reminiscent to the kiwifruit. Some have also found that it has a palate cleansing effect.

Organ Pipe Cactus Fruit and Peruvian Apple Cactus Fruit

http://s3.amazonaws.com/readers/2010/11/19/pitayainisrael_1.jpg

Etan Tal/Wikipedia

The fruit of the organ pipe cactus which is also edible and looks similar to the dragon fruit is known as sour pitaya. They are common in the dry regions of the Americas.  They are juicier, more sour and have stronger taste compared to the dragon fruit.

The Peruvian apple cactus fruit (pictured above) is another cactus fruit referred to as pitahaya dulce or sweet pitahaya in its native countries. Its flavor is said to be a bit like watermelon.

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50 Responses to “The Edible Cactus Fruits”
  1. Anuradha Ramkumar Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Excellent share. Haven’t heard of these cactus fruits.


  2. Brewed Coffee Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Amazing! Didn’t know there can be something edible from this desert plant. And they have vibrant colors as well. Thanks for new found knowledge. Excellent, well -researched post!


  3. jennifer eiffel01 Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Great article. When my aunt when to visit her friend in Arizona she bought back some kind of cactus for the family to try. That was so long ago that I don’t remember what part of the cactus she brought back. I refused to taste it.


  4. awesome11 Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 11:18 am

    great share! thanks!


  5. Likha Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I’ve only tried dragon fruit so the rest must also be delicious. Great info JK.


  6. PSingh1990 Says...

    On November 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Nice One.

    Thanks for share.

    :-)


  7. Roe2115 Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Thanks for the info.


  8. Wiggles18 Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I wish I could get my hands on some of these other ones. I’ve only been able to try the regular dragon fruit; I thought it had a very interesting flavor, not really bland to me.


  9. Anastasia Zoldak Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Great pictures choices! They went well with the article!


  10. Uma Shankari Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Awesome! I loved the article as well as the pictures.


  11. twiniton Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Awesome! wery nice


  12. One Love Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I’ve heard of the prickly pear and the dragon fruit, but I had no idea that they came from cactus. All the pictures actually look very appetizing (after the prickles have been removed of course.) Now I’m curious and want to try these different fruits. Thank you for sharing this and introducing me to a new food :)


  13. overwings Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Just the prickly pear grows around here and can be found also in some shops. You can prepare juice and creams and even ice cream with it. It was a nice discovery.


  14. Robert Heston Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    I survived for one day on prickly pear cactus. We were working in the Arizona desert and our water jug was drained first thing due to an accident. Thank God for the cactus, it really wasn’t bad.


  15. Ed Torrez Says...

    On November 20, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I have a friend we call prickly pete


  16. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 2:15 am

    I didn’t know that these can be eaten.


  17. papaleng Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Dragon fruit lang ang nakain ko riyan.. excellent share JK.


  18. Lucas DiƩ Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I tried the prickly pears in Sicily (and didn’t like them); and I tried the dragon fruit here (and they were bland, but maybe that’s because they are not native and have to be imported); remains one to go, whenever I’ll stumble upon them …


  19. BluSphere Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I knew about most of these already. They look really exotic and those pictures were just great. Thanks for sharing this very interesting article, friend.

    Best regards,
    BluSphere


  20. bobie Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

    kabayan! congrats .grabe . .galing mo naman!


  21. dloriginal Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Awesome, I really liked that. Thanks


  22. Will Gray Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I just learned something new! Thanks!


  23. Rhodora Bande Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Wow kabayan, you made it!!! This is a well-researched article. Ang alam ko lang na cactus yung mga nakikita dito sa atin – the all-green cactuses. Great collection of pictures. I learned something new today. Thanks to you.


  24. Terri Lane Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    A new concept to me, eating these fruits, but I shall look out for them. Lovely photos. Thank you


  25. Brewed Coffee Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Kabayan, congrats for landing in the hot content list! Wooohooo!!!!!! Proud of you!


  26. Angela Ohm Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Great article ! Great writing. I love the pictures you included. I’ve never tried these, but I’d like to try them. Thank you !

    Angela


  27. Adelnica Amor R. Izon Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    they somehow look tasty…we have a couple of cactus here at home but they never bore fruits…


  28. margaridab Says...

    On November 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I just know the first ones and I love them. I would like to taste the other ones also!


  29. CheeselogThePhilosopher Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 12:51 am


  30. AJ Garcia Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 2:11 am

    JK, Hi there! Wow. I did’t know that the red dragon fruit actually came from a cactus plant.Now I know. I’ve eaten the fruit and its kind of soft and sweet. You have excellent images of the colorful fruits. Very nice. I like them.


  31. Ukrainian Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 5:59 am

    Thank you for well-presented article. I tried cactus fruit on Malta. It’s a sweet fruit with soft texture.


  32. AshleyApathy Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    thanks for the share :)


  33. K Kristie Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks everyone!


  34. OhSugar Says...

    On November 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Excellent presentation. I have a cactus in my yard, but have never eaten the fruit; now maybe I will try it.


  35. alvinwriter Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 12:06 am

    I’ve always wanted to buy the dragonfruit that’s red in the inside. That would be rich in antioxidants! I always end up with the one with the white pulp even when the sales people say it’s red.


  36. LadyLovelace Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Oh, they’re so pretty! Thank you for sharing.


  37. LadyLovelace Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Oh, they\’re so pretty! Thank you for sharing.


  38. Melody SJAL Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Wonderful info.


  39. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I have wondered how to prepare cactus. I see it in the food markets but had no idea how to prepare it to eat.


  40. Charles Andrew Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm


  41. Meg Smith Says...

    On November 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I tried a prickly pear cactus fruit this year. It was delicious.


  42. The Quail 1957 Says...

    On November 24, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Awesome share!


  43. Purnomosidhi Says...

    On November 24, 2010 at 1:57 am

    I like dragon fruit but i am curious with other cactus fruits.


  44. Geraldine Carlson Says...

    On November 24, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Excellent! I love Fear Factor food!


  45. lxdollarsxl Says...

    On November 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Ive seen dragon fruits on sale but have never tried them, but now i k.now a little more about them it might be fun experimenting with some. Thank you for the insight


  46. Anna Storer Says...

    On November 24, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Very well put together. I enjoyed reading this article and pictures did it justice. One point though, it is illegal in Australia to grow prickly pear in the home garden.

    Good work.


  47. Aiden OSullivan Says...

    On November 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Very useful. I ate a wild cactus fruit once. It was shaped like chile de arbol and tasted like kiwis and strawberries. I had no idea there were so many species. Thank you. =]


  48. Sourav Says...

    On November 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Great info… great article.


  49. S A JOHNSON Says...

    On December 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Wow. I knew that cactus was edible but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t know that there were so many kind.


  50. crisdiwata Says...

    On January 14, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Never tried them, I guess they taste good. Well-researched article once again.


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