Prickly Pear – truly edible weed

Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a Category 3 Declared Pest and it needs to be controlled as it is prolific, spiky, tough and propagates easily. All Opuntias have hairlike prickles called glochids so take care when gathering fruit and pads. This year we planted several and are monitoring the progress.

I have to admit I am quite impressed by the nopals (pads) that taste like a lemony capsicum. Lots of work needs to go into peeling them but it’s worth trying. The fruit (tuna) tastes a little bit like a rock melon and is OK. Opuntias have many medicinal uses, one of them being blood sugar level balancer for Type 2 diabetes.

Not all Prickly Pears were created equal so try a few varieties. I have a favorite bush with tiny glochids in Neerabup area. They can be a little bit tricky to peel but I just remove both prickles and skin with a sharp knife, starting at the base. Fruits get cut in half and the contend is spooned out of them.  Many sites recommend thick gloves but I prefer handling the pads with my bare hands.

I’ve added it to some to curries, stews and scrambled eggs. One can also eat them raw in salads though they are a bit mucilaginous.

In Central America Opuntias are used to feed cattle after the glochids were singed. They are also used in some very arid areas to improve soil structures.


About Barb Susac

Art - mainly mixed media, weaving and stained glass. Also adventures in permaculture and sustainability in the harsh reality of Western Australia. Seed saving, plant propagating, perennials, wildcraft and gardening.
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