Cactus is one of the most common plants that can be found in daily life. This plant thrives in a dry atmosphere. They do not require much water, as a matter of fact, when planting cactus as an indoor plant, it is better to underwater them (Caring for Cacti & Succulents - Indoor Plants - Westland Garden Health, 2022).
Since they mostly grow in dry and hot environments, cacti have a tendency of storing water to increase their survivability (How Does a Cactus Live Without Water?, 2022). At first glance, cacti may seem inedible but surprisingly, most cactus are edible.
Types Of Cactus
There are around 2000 different kinds of cactus in our planet (Cactus (Cactaceae) - The Basics, 2022). Nowadays, people keep cacti as houseplants. So, they have become a common site. Some of the most common cacti are - Cereus, Echinocactus, Espostoa, Ferocactus, Mammillaria, Notocactus, Opuntia, Parodia, Pilosocereus, and Rebutia (Cactus | Costa Farms, 2022).
There are many inedible and some are even harmful for humans and animals, such as - Prickly pear, Peyote, San Pedro cactus, Echinopsis Peruviana etc. (8 Poisonous Cacti to keep Away from Children and Pets, 2022).
There are some cacti that are edible and considered as culinary delights. Cholla Cactus, Dragon Fruit Cactus, Barrel Cactus, Saguaro Cactus etc. are some cacti that are edible (Can You Eat Cactus? 5 Varieties of Edible Cacti, 2022). Edible cacti are referred to as “nopal”.
Methods Of Eating Cactus
Depending on the type of the cacti, it can be eaten in various ways. The stems, the fruits, the leaves etc. can be eaten in various ways. In Mexico and Latin America, cactus leaves are used as herbs in their dishes (From Mexico with love: Nopal cactus seen as a healthy, functional food in Latin America, 2022).
A very common cactus fruit which is eaten by many is the Dragon Fruit. Many such fruits and berries from cacti are commonly eaten in some countries, such as Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa, Peru, Argentina and Chile (If cactus is the next food trend, we're all chasing Mexico and Italy, 2022).
When it comes to eating nopal, Mexico is a fine example. People in Mexico eat nopal in various ways such as raw, boiled, grilled, sautéed, in soups, salads, with eggs, in drinks, blended into tortillas etc. (Have You Ever Eaten Cactus? | Mexican Made Meatless™, 2022)
Texture and Taste
Depending on the method, cactus can taste differently and have different textures. When eaten raw, the cactus stems usually have a sour taste. The texture is quite sticky and crunchy like many other green vegetables (What does Cactus taste like? I really enjoyed it!, 2022).
The 2 most famous cactus fruits are Prickly Pear Fruit and Dragon Fruit. They have smooth soft flesh which tastes like, according to many, similar to kiwi or watermelon with a hint of bubblegum. Dragon Fruit tastes quite similar as well. It too has a texture similar to that of a ripe kiwi (What Does Dragon Fruit Taste Like?, 2022).
Even though cacti can be eaten in many ways, raw and boiled are the most common methods in which they are eaten. When eaten boiled, cactus stems have a texture similar to okra – sticky, soft and crunchy. Most nopal taste bitter, sour or acidic (What does Nopales Cactus Taste Like? | Kitchen Appliance HQ, 2022).
Nutritional Values of Cactus
Although cacti might not be included in most conventional cuisines, it is actually a very nutritional food. Some even consider cacti as a superfood. As they have an abundant amount of vitamins and nutrients, they are quite worthy of such a label.
Cacti contain a variety of vitamins – C, E, A. These vitamins may be the reason for its sour taste. Other than vitamins, it also contains minerals like iron and calcium (Health Benefits of Cactus, 2022). Some cacti are used for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers.
A myth spread by the famous adventurer, Bear Grylls states that. When stuck in dessert, any cactus can be a source of water. This is but a myth (6 Survival Myths That Can Actually Hurt You | Blog, 2022). Indeed, there are edible cacti filled with water but it is important to first identify which cacti is edible and which is harmful.
If the edible cacti or nopal is eaten, it would provide more than just water. It is a fine source of vitamins and minerals. So, it is quite important to know which cactus to eat and which to avoid. Then again, as it has a unique taste, it may not be to everyone’s liking.