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Prickly Pear

Commonly used in landscaping, the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia) is the only cactus native to the eastern. Its flat, succulent, leaf-like structures are known as platyclades or Nopales.

Our plants are clones of a cactus grown by Farmer John of Starke, whose fruits are the best we’ve sampled, and are really fantastic—they are an incredible purple and full of flavor. They flower in the spring, and the deep purple fruits start to ripen in September. They stay good all winter until picked. The plant and fruit are impervious to frost.
Our potted cactuses grow faster and flower and fruit better when the soil is enriched.
Weeding can be difficult (because of the spines which will grab you even if you brush by the plant ever so gently) so plant in full sun in a place where weeds are scarce!
The cactus will grow into a large mound; some of the old ones are 20 feet wide and eight feet tall.

Plant parts must be harvested and prepared with care (Wear thick gloves!) in order to avoid touching or ingesting the plant’s protective spines.
Harvest the fruits using a twisting and bending motion. Rub the fruits gently with your gloves or a towel to remove thorns. Cut in half and scoop out the flesh. For more on preparation, visit: http://www.wikihow.com/How-to-Eat-Prickly-Pear-Cactus

These can be boiled or grilled, and have a flavor similar green beans, with an okra-like texture. Nopales sap can also be used as a hair conditioner. The fruit of the Prickly Pear, called cactus fig, Indian fig, or tuna, is a beautiful deep purple color. Its delicate flavor can be enjoyed in jellies, beverages (lemonades and lemon margaritas), and sorbets; the fruit can also be eaten fresh.
pricklypear2 pricklypear_plantpricklypear_fruit1pricklypear_fruit2

More photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/search?sort=relevance&text=prickly%20pear%20cactus

pdf – Prickly Pear Information Sheet (to print out)

7 comments to Prickly Pear

  • Judy

    Is there a difference in quality between the purple or yellow prickly pears? Mine are wild and produce yellow flowers.

  • EPP Michael

    I have a few corrections. Many cactuses are native to the Eastern U.S. We don’t know if this is one of them. We have two cactus species. The pictures here are all of the fruit producing type. Its leaves can be eaten, but why would you bother, when we have a thornless type you could grow also. The thornless one is O. cochenillifera. It is much easier to eat, but the fruits are undesirable.

  • Carl

    I've been collecting Opuntias (and also cloning them) for years. I grew up in Eastern NC, where O monacantha prevailed in the sandy soil. I'd be interested in buying a piece of your choice plant from Farmer John, if possible! I'm always willing to try another species of tunas. I think they are delicious.BTW, did you know that there about 200 different types of Opuntias? And all of them are native to North or South America. Do you know which species you have?


    i am doing research for my mastrat by pear cactus fruit in ethiopia and i want know any thing about this crop

  • Peter Hargrave

    Having been to Ethiopia a couple of times in the late 70s I would be interested in any croping information you can let me have remembering the poor conditions throughout.


    Peter Hargrave

  • Has anyone mastered a thornless purple variety? Like Santa Rita but without the thorns? This would be excellent for the ornamental/landscape world…Reuben Huffman, APLD, Fullmer's Landscaping, Inc, Dayton OH

  • Thanks for your comment Reuben – I did a quick search on google and there are some thornless/spineless varieties around – be great to grow some here!

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