Edible Cactus And Their Nutrients And Health Benefits
The Edible Cactus: A Surprisingly Nutritious Superfood with numerous Health Benefits
When you picture healthy produce, what comes to mind are usually apples, avocados, tomatoes, spinach, or other commonly consumed groceries. However, did you know that one of the most nutrient-packed plants are actually the cactus? The prickly pear, or, nopal cactus plant, are both a fruit and a vegetable. Cactus are popular in nursery’s and you can find many edible cactus in the wild as well. Is the prickly pear edible? Yes! It’s actually delicious and very nutritious. Not only is it full of fiber, it’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Let’s take a look at this nutritious and surprisingly delicious dessert plant and why you may want to consider adding it into your diet.
A Delicious and Versatile Staple in Hot Desert Climates
While this desert dwelling plant may look a bit intimidating at first, it’s actually not that hard to eat. In fact, in Mexico, the cactus is actually considered a common vegetable staple in most households.
The nopal cactus is completely edible and has both leaves and fruit. This cactus can be eaten in many different ways. The large flat prickly green part of the cactus is the leaf. These leaves are loaded with fiber and vitamins and can be either sauteed or eaten raw. They have a texture that resembles a green pepper and taste like green beans. The “fruit” of the cactus is actually its flower. These flowers, also known as prickly pears, appear as large reddish spheres on the end of the broad green leaves. After the spikes are removed, the prickly pear can be eaten in a variety of ways. It has a sweet and juicy flavor that resembles watermelon or bubblegum. Once all of the spikes and barbs have been removed and the skin has been peeled away, these sweet neon fruits can be eaten like any other fruit.
Hardy and Easy to Grow
The nopal cactus is also very durable, easy to grow, and easy to store. It can be planted in most dessert soils and requires less water than most other plants. Nopal cacti usually will begin to bloom/bear prickly pear fruits after around three years of cultivation. They can also be grown in most gardens provided they receive adequate sunlight.
A Prickly and Superfood Plant
The nopal cactus is absolutely jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s probably one of the healthiest plants that you could consume. If you cut up a nopal cactus leaf and get around 1 cup of raw produce, you’ll find that the vitamin A, C, and K content is pretty high. Here’s the nutritional information in a cup of cactus leaf:
20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin
8 milligrams (mg) of vitamin
141 mg of calcium
4.6 mcg of vitamin
1 gram (g) of protein
3 g of carbohydrate
2 g of fiber
1 g of sugar
Looking for something a bit sweeter? The prickly pear fruit is even more densely packed with vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fiber. This underrated little powerhouse is a healthy, delicious, and versatile option that can be grown almost anywhere. You can find more nutritional info of this fruit easily on the internet. But are any other cactus species edible? The answer once again is yes! Edible cactus species include the Saguaro, Florida Cactus, Orchid Cactus, and Barbados gooseberry.
Health Benefits of the Cactus
This plant has numerous health benefits. The cactus has been used to treat glaucoma, infected wounds, exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, liver conditions, ulcers and more. It can also be juiced. The juice of this cactus can be used to cleanse wounds, lower blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. In Mexico, cactus plants are frequently used as a treatment for diabetes. This is because the cactus plant has properties that assist in the stabilization of blood sugar and insulin levels.
So now you know! Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about putting nopal cactus, or any other edible cactus, on your next menu. Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!