The cactus fruit, also known as prickly pear fruit, is native to Central and South America. The cactus fruit is edible and has been used as a food source by humans for thousands of years.
Today, cactus fruit is most commonly used in canned goods and juices and is occasionally eaten fresh. The fruit has a sweet, chicken-like taste, and is a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.
The cactus fruit, if eaten in its natural state, contains a significant amount of dietary fiber. However, most people prefer to eat the cactus fruit as juice or in baked goods.
Cactus fruits are an intriguing entity of their own. There are so many different kinds of cactus fruits out there, and they are all very interesting.
Some of the most common cactus fruits include the prickly pear and the dragon fruit, both exotic fruits that people love using in smoothies and fruit salads.
Cactus fruits are both delicious to eat and also have medicinal benefits, which only adds to their charm. However, cactus fruits are not poisonous. They could be a little difficult to cut from their respective plant, but they will not kill you!
Keep reading if you want to know more about cactus fruits!
What Does Cactus Fruit Taste Like?
Most people have the same question on their minds, so we figured we should answer this question first: what could a cactus fruit possibly taste like?
Most other fruits come from regular plants and trees. However, cacti are different and undoubtedly very special. Therefore there is some special interest surrounding the taste of their fruit.
The most common cactus fruit that we all know of is the cactus pear or the prickly pear. This fruit tastes sweet, for the most part, but the sweetness is not concentrated throughout the flesh of the pear. It is slightly bland, in an almost melony way.
Like the prickly pear fruit, most cacti fruits are sweet and vary in sweetness. Some cacti fruits, such as the fruit of a barrel cactus, are tart.
Dragon fruit is also slightly tart and sweet. Most of these fruits are easily consumable and do taste quite delicious when ripe, though.
How To Harvest A Cactus Fruit?
It is quite tricky to cut and harvest cactus fruit from the plant. This is because many cacti have sharp spines that can injure you when you try to cut off the fruit from the plant, and some plants, like the prickly pear cactus, actually have glochids that can get stuck to your skin and annoy you.
Here are some tips that can help you harvest fruits from a cactus, so it is ready to eat:
- Always wear gloves when dealing with cacti. The sharp spines can prick your skin, and the glochids can be really annoying as well. Wearing thick gloves will protect you from these irritations.
- Keep a basket or a bowl for the fruit near you.
- Check to see if the fruit is ripe. You should look up what months the fruits you have to ripen to know when it is time to pick them.
- With a pair of tweezers, see if you can remove some of the spines and thorns around the fruit. You can pick out glochids from prickly pear, and some dragon fruits have thorns on them too.
- Use a pair of tongs to pluck the fruit. Never pick cactus fruits with your bare hands since you will expose yourself to glochids and spines.
- Collect the fruits in the basket or the bowl, and inspect them thoroughly for any more thorns or glochids. Remove any that you see. It is important to do this before you begin handling the fruits by hand.
- Wash the fruit, and it is then ready to be eaten by you and your loved ones.
How To Eat Cactus Fruit?
Since there are many different types of cactus fruits, there are different ways in which you can eat the fruits as well. Here are some of the most common ways in which you can enjoy the cactus fruit:
Eat Them Raw
Like most other fruits, cactus fruits can be eaten raw. Most cactus fruits are sweet, and some of them can be tart or citrusy as well.
Most of them are absolutely delicious on their own, and you can pair them up with delicious dips like Greek yogurt and whipped cream.
To eat any cactus fruit raw, you will simply have to peel it, cut the flesh out of the skin, and then eat it as you like.
Add Them To Smoothies
Dragon fruit is commonly added to smoothies and smoothie bowls. It is a delicious, exotic fruit that can help people have a nutritious breakfast in the morning.
Similar to dragon fruit, other cactus fruits like prickly pear and the fruit of a saguaro cactus can also be added to smoothies for a delicious and nutritious addition to your meal.
Make A Salad
Adding fruits to your salads gives the salad the extra nutritional boost they need. You can add all kinds of cactus fruits to your salad to make them extra delicious and healthy.
Eat The Seeds
Yes, some cactus fruits also have edible seeds. Dragon fruit, apple cactus, and similar fruits are already speckled with seeds that are easy to consume.
However, you are supposed to scoop the seeds out of a barrel cactus before you can eat the flesh.
When you scoop the seeds from a barrel cactus, you can lightly toast them over an open flame.
Once the seeds are nice and toasty, you can easily consume them on their own or as an addition to different recipes.
Cook The Fruit
You can cook all kinds of cactus fruits and make use of them. Most cactus fruits can be cooked easily and added to desserts such as pies.
You can even make mousse and ice cream from these fruits because of their interesting flavor profiles.
Similarly, the fruits of a cactus plant can also be used to make jams and syrups because of their sweet flavor.
You may also use the fruits by incorporating them into salsa and chutneys, where you can enjoy them as a dip. Incorporating these fruits into your daily life can help you improve your nutrition.
How To Cook Prickly Pear
It is important to know how to cook fruits like prickly pear. Since these fruits are not very commonly used in everyday life, it is important to know how to prepare them in the best possible way to make the most out of them.
To cook the prickly pear, first, you need to determine what recipe you are trying out. Then, follow that recipe’s instructions to find out how you can make the most of the prickly pear.
First, you should peel the fruit. Slice both the ends of the prickly pear fruit and make a slit down the middle of the fruit.
Keep peeling until the pulpy part of the fruit is exposed. You can also cut the fruit in half and spoon out the pulp.
Many recipes require you to remove the seeds from the fruit. Press the fruit’s pulp through a fine-mesh sieve till the juice comes out, and the pulp remains.
The seeds of the prickly pear fruit are not edible since they are very hard. Even if you eat the fruit raw, you will probably want to remove the seeds beforehand or spit them out while you are eating.
The juice and the pulp of the fruit can be cooked to be added to jams and sauces. You can even incorporate the fruit into a dessert by making a syrup out of them.
Types Of Cactus Fruit
There are various types of cactus fruits out there that can be consumed. These fruits are delicious and nutritious, mostly with unique and interesting flavors and textures:
Prickly Pear Fruit
Prickly pear is also often referred to as the apple cactus. It is often reddish in color, but it also comes in various vibrant colors such as orange or green.
The inside of the prickly pear can also vary since it is usually bright pink but can be yellow or orange too.
Interestingly enough, the pads of the prickly pear fruit, where the pear grows, are also edible. It is used in recipes of many different cultures.
Prickly pear fruit can be covered with glochids which can irritate your skin, so you must wear gloves when plucking them from the plant.
You should also try to scrape away the glochids from the plant before harvesting the fruit.
Dragon fruit is one of the most popular cactus fruits and has gained a lot of traction in the past few years as well.
Dragon fruit usually has red skin on the outside with green vines remaining from the plant, and the pulp inside is either white or bright pink.
The pulp is laced with small black seeds that are edible. Sometimes, the skin of the dragon fruit is also yellow.
Dragon fruit is usually eaten raw since it is sweet and slightly tart. People add it to different fruit recipes, smoothies, and drinks as well.
Dragon fruit is usually grown commercially, but some people can also grow it in their gardens. The climate conditions and moisture the fruit receives need to be carefully monitored otherwise, the fruit will not grow.
Cholla Cactus Fruit
The cholla cactus fruit is a tricky one to retrieve. You should think of it as a prize once you have finally managed to get to the fruit.
This is because the cactus is covered in sharp, barbed spines that are painful to get across and give the illusion of the cactus jumping once they get caught on your skin or your shirt.
Naturally, unsuspecting people could be startled and end up hurting themselves if they are not careful. Therefore the retrieval of the fruit is not easy!
The fruit itself grows in clusters, just like the flower, and is not covered in any thorns or spines, making it easy to manage once you have plucked it from the plant.
The fruit itself is quite sweet, similar tasting to the prickly pear fruit, and you can eat it raw or add it to different recipes.
The cactus itself also has medicinal benefits since it is sometimes used to treat gastritis.
Saguaro Cactus Fruit
The saguaro cactus gives fruit in the summers. The fruit is green when unripe and turns red as it ripens. It is red on the inside with black seeds.
Since the saguaro cactus is tall (it can grow up to 40 feet) and also very spiky, retrieving the saguaro fruit is quite the challenge. However, the fruit is sweet and delicious, therefore is worth the effort!
The fruit can be eaten raw or can be used in different recipes and drinks as well. You can also use it to make jam because of its sweetness.
Organ-Pipe Cactus Fruit
The organ-pipe cactus can grow up to 24 feet tall and bears fruit in the summer. The fruit is covered in sharp spines, but most of these spines fall off once the fruit ripens.
You can easily use a tweezer to remove the rest or scrape them off before handling the fruit.
The organ-pipe fruit is either green or reddish on the outside, and the inside is a bright, red flesh with black seeds.
The fruit is also very sweet and delicious. It can be used to make drinks, smoothies, or various recipes. The fruit can also be eaten raw.
The organ-pipe fruit is usually grown commercially and is slightly challenging to grow and harvest.
Barrel Cactus Fruit
The barrel cactus is a medium-sized cactus that can grow up to 3 feet tall in most regions. The fruit of the barrel cactus resembles pineapples on the outside.
It is hard and yellow, with numerous black seeds on the inside with the pulp. The cactus itself has quite a few spines, so you have to be careful when retrieving the fruit from it. The fruit itself is smooth and easy to work with, though.
The barrel cactus fruit is usually tart with a slightly lemony flavor. You can eat it raw even though it is not sweet. However, the fruit makes a great addition to recipes that call for tartness, such as salsas and sauces.
Apple Cactus Fruit
The apple cactus fruit, also known as the Peruvian Apple Cactus, is a bright, magenta-red on the outside, and has white pulp with black seeds on the inside. It resembles a dragon fruit on the inside.
The Apple Cactus fruit is mostly sweet with slight hints of tartness, giving it a unique flavor. The texture of the fruit is often compared to that of shaved ice, which makes it interesting to eat as well. The Apple Cactus can be eaten raw, by itself, or added to smoothies and drinks.
What Are The Benefits Of Cactus Fruit?
Like most other fruits out there, cactus fruits also hold plenty of benefits. They also have some unique properties which can make their addition to your daily routine highly useful for you.
Some of the most well-known benefits of cactus fruits include the following:
- Cactus fruits can lower cholesterol levels. The fibrous content in the fruit can help in reducing your intake of unhealthy foods while also keeping your body clean. The antioxidants in the fruits can fight off the excess accumulation of cholesterol in the blood as well.
- Most cactus fruits, like dragon fruit, prickly pear, and the Peruvian apple cactus, are excellent sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts your immunity and helps make your skin and teeth healthy.
- Many cactus fruits are actually low in carbohydrates and sugar content. This means that consumption of these fruits will not have a bad effect on your diet and will also lower your chances of diabetes.
- Most cactus fruits have a high fibrous content. High-fiber fruits can help in improving bowel movements and cleansing the colon. These fruits also make you feel full and prevent you from overeating or binging Therefore, they are great for your digestive system and improve your diet.
- Many cactus plants and fruits have medicinal benefits, and one of them is relief from gastric ulcers. Consumption of these fruits, like the saguaro fruit and the apple cactus fruit, can relieve gastric ulcers in the long run.
- The rich vitamin and micronutrient content in many cactus fruits can help in boosting immunity and preventing illnesses.
- The high amounts of vitamin A in the Barrel cactus fruit and vitamin C in other cactus fruits can prove to be excellent for the skin. Eating the fruit will make your skin glow and be soft and supple. You can also add these fruits to your face masks and natural skincare routine to help your skin become radiant.
- You can use cactus fruits in your hair masks as well. They contain micronutrients that can help your hair grow long and strong.
- Dragon fruit and other cactus fruits also contain high levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants can help keep your body optimized while also helping to clear your skin and remove signs of aging. Antioxidants in the blood can lower cholesterol levels and improve liver function.
- Many cactus fruits also consist of prebiotics, which are good bacteria present in food that help to strengthen your immunity and keep you active.
- Beta carotene, a compound that is essential for improving eye function and making your skin look healthy, is found in high amounts in most cactus fruits. This compound is responsible for giving yellow and orange fruits the bright colors they boast of. After being processed in the body, Beta carotene turns into vitamin A.
- Some cactus fruits also have other medicinal benefits, such as an analgesic effect that is used to relieve pain. Therefore these fruits are used for their medicinal purposes too.
When Is A Cactus Fruit Ripe?
There are different ways to tell when a cactus fruit ripens. There are different types of cactus fruits, and they have different ways of showing that they are now perfect for consumption.
For example, many cactus fruits, like the dragon fruit, are covered in sharp, spiky thorns when they are unripe. Touching these fruits can easily prick and injure you.
However, as the fruit ripens, most of the sharp spines fall out. This is how you know the fruit is ripe. If there are any remaining spines on the ripe fruit, you can pluck them out with tweezers or scrape them away.
Prickly pears are often covered in coarse bristles known as glochids that can attach themselves to your skin and cause irritation and some pain.
When these fruits are ripe, you need to be careful about scraping away all the glochids before you can harvest the fruit from the plant.
Most cactus fruits come in bright, unique colors such as red and orange. They adopt this coloration when they are ripe; however, they are usually green before that.
Green fruits on cactus plants are unripe, and as the season progresses, they slowly become ripe. When the fruits are the color they are intended to be, you will know they are ripe.
You also need to look for some telltale signs that can affirm that a cactus fruit is perfectly ripe and safe for consumption.
The fruit should not have bruises or signs of decay. The skin on the fruit must be firm to the touch, not hard and not soft. The fruit should also not have any unexpected spotting or molding.
If left on the cactus for too long, the fruits can often get overripe. Overripe fruits either fall to the ground or split open. They are not as good as a ripe cactus fruit for consumption in either situation.
What Is The Nutritional Value of Cactus Fruits?
Cactus fruits, like most other fruits, are highly nutritious. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients, which can help in the healthy growth and development of the body. Most cactus fruits are rich sources of vitamin A and C, especially.
Other than that, cactus fruits also contain natural sugars and carbohydrates, which make them an excellent, natural source of energy that can keep you going for the whole day.
Most cactus fruits are not high in proteins or fat, though, so they cannot substitute your regular meals for the day.
However, cactus fruits contain high levels of fiber, which can help in digestion and also make bowel movements smoother.
The fiber also helps fill you up and prevent overeating and binge eating while keeping your digestive system healthy.
It is not just the fruits of cactus plants that contain all the benefits, though. Many cacti fruits also have seeds that can be consumed for nutritional benefits.
The seeds of the barrel cactus fruits, especially, are delicious when lightly toasted and added to soups, salads, and other recipes.
Most cactus fruits have different nutritional values, though. Most cactus fruits are similar in texture and taste, and they can offer similar benefits, while others are entirely different and can improve your health in other ways.
How To Clean Cactus Fruits?
Make sure you wear gloves when handling cactus fruits so that you don’t get pricked by the sharp bits. Hold the fruit with a pair of tongs or a fork, and place them under running water.
The pressure of the water will cause some of the spiky bits to fall off as well.
The one thing that everyone needs to be wary of when dealing with cactus fruits is the spines or the glochids on the plant and the fruit.
Therefore, when you have first picked the fruit, you need to get rid of the spines or glochids remaining on the fruit.
To do this, you can either scrub the fruit’s outer skin with a brush or pick away at the sharp bits with a tweezer.
Alternatively, you can even boil some of the fruits, which will soften the spines and make them easy to remove from the surface of the fruit.
After this, your fruit will be ready to be peeled and eaten any way you want to.
How To Peel Cactus Fruit?
There are quite a few ways to peel cactus fruits before they are ready to be eaten or added to recipes. Here is how you can peel the different types of cactus fruits:
- Dragon Fruit: If you have picked your dragon fruit fresh from a cactus plant, you should first take a pair of tweezers and remove any thorns you see on the fruit. To peel a dragon fruit, you should first cut off both ends with a sharp knife. Score the fruit vertically with your knife, careful only to get the skin and not the flesh. Using your thumbs to reach inside the scored area, pull the skin away from the fruit slowly and gently, and you will be left with fresh, delicious dragon fruit.
Alternatively, you can also slice the dragon fruit into wedges and then peel away the thick skin from the pulp.
- Prickly Pear: Before you start peeling a prickly pear, scrape away at its surface to eliminate any remaining glochids that can irritate your skin. When peeling a prickly pear, start by slicing off both the ends to reveal the flesh inside. Score the skin vertically and use your hands to peel the skin away from the fruit gently. Just like the dragon fruit, you can also slice the prickly pear into wedges and then peel the skin away more easily.
- Apple Cactus Fruit: To peel the skin of the Peruvian apple cactus fruit, you should either cut off the outer skin and be left with the juicy interior, or you can cut the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh inside and eat it with a spoon.
- Barrel Cactus Fruit: Barrel cactus fruit is very mucilaginous and requires a fair bit of patience before you can consume it. Take the fruit and slice it in half, lengthwise. Lightly disturb the seeds to see how much moisture they have. It is likely that they are very moist, and if you attempt to remove the seeds in this state, it will be very difficult. Therefore, you need to let the halved fruits dry up for a few minutes, and then you can scoop the black seeds out with a spoon and eat the fruit.
You can use the seeds of a barrel cactus fruit in quite a few recipes since they are very nutritious as well.
- Cholla Cactus Fruit: The Cholla cactus fruit is very similar in preparation to the prickly pear. You will have to scrape away at the skin of the cholla fruit to get rid of the glochids on its surface first. Then, you will need to score the fruit lengthwise and peel the skin away with your fingers.
- Organ Pipe Cactus Fruit: The organ pipe cactus fruit is also similar in preparation to the dragon fruit. You need to either score the fruit vertically and then peel away at the skin, or you will have to slice the fruit into wedges and then peel the skin away to eat it.
- Saguaro Cactus Fruit: The saguaro fruit has a hard husk which you will have to pull open with your hands to get to the edible flesh. Other than that, you can also cut the fruit in half and then scoop the insides out with a knife or a spoon.
The fruits of cactus plants are some of the most interesting fruits out there. While some of these fruits have gained popularity over the years, such as the prickly pear and the dragon fruit, some are quite rare and exotic and, therefore, difficult to find, such as the jumping cholla and the barrel cactus fruit.
Not only do these fruits have interesting and unique tastes, but they also hold high nutritional values that can greatly benefit your health if you add them to your daily routine.
The cactus tree produces a fruit that is used to make wine. The fruit of the cactus tree is fleshy with a hard shell. The fruit of the cactus tree is usually red and round. The cactus fruit is harvested when it is ripe.