Prickly pears are tall leafless succulents with modified pad-like stems covered in clusters of sharp spines. Flowers produce oval-shaped fruit filled with edible pulp and seeds. Often planted as hedges. Uses: Culinary, animal fodder
Harvesting is done by hand as the fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica are delicate. The small spines on the fruits are removed by rubbing them on an abrasive surface or sweeping them through grass. Before consumption, they are peeled and sliced. Harvest the fruit once they have changed colour.
Use mature leaves, leave the leaf-cutting on top of soil to dry wound out and it will soon form roots.
Sow in spring time, after pre-soaking the seeds. Germination time is 1-3 months.
The plants are drought tolerant once established.
Prickly pears have in the past been panted as hedges to keep wild animals out of planted fields.
Soil PH preference
The fruit is eaten fresh, but jams and jellies can be produced from the fruit, which resemble strawberries and figs in color and flavor. Mexicans have used Opuntia for thousands of years to make an alcoholic drink called colonche. Mexican and other southwestern residents eat the young cactus pads (nopales, plural, nopal, singular), usually picked before the spines harden. They are sliced into strips, skinned or unskinned, and fried with eggs and jalapeños, served as a breakfast treat. They have a texture and flavour similar to string beans.
They can be boiled, used raw blended with fruit juice, cooked on a frying pan, and often used as a side dish to go with chicken or added to tacos along with chopped onion and cilantro.
Mealybugs, spider mites and cochineal might attack it. It is also attacked by fruit flies and moths. Too much water or cold causes rotting. As soon as you detect the softening of tissues, remove the rotten part and treat the infected part with fungicide.
Pair with plants that require the same climatic conditions.