Cacti, also known as "desert plants," are some of the oldest living organisms on earth. They have evolved in climates that are hot and dry for millions of years.
The cactus family includes hundreds of species; each one has its own unique look and flavor, but most share a common trait: they're all edible!
So if you're looking to add some variety of edible flowers to your diet or you just want something different from an apple or pear or even better than both, this blog post presents 8 different kinds of cacti you can add to your fruit tray that will satisfy the cravings of your taste buds.
Related post: Edible Gardens
Cacti Are Much More Than Their Spines
Sure, cacti don't have green leaves or stems. Instead, cactus plants have fleshy stems with an internal structure similar to a tree's bark (or "trunk").
This internal structure contains air pockets that help protect the plant from drying out and provide nutrients for growth.
Cacti can grow without leaves because they store water in their stems until it is needed by their roots during drought periods or after heavy rainfalls.
Interestingly, some species of cactus even grow upside down, hence, the high level of diversity amongst them.
Cacti and Succulents Are Different
Cacti are not succulents, but they can be categorized as a type of succulent called the family Pachycereus. They are mostly found in South America and Mexico, with smaller populations in other parts of Central America and the Caribbean Islands.
Succulents come in many different shapes and sizes—they have no roots at all!
Some common types include aloe vera, agave (also known as century plant), yucca pear (or monkey face) and prickly pear cactus pads that grow on trees or shrubs near water sources like lakes or riverside plants.
How Does Cacti Fruits Develops?
You may have heard of cacti growing in “flower buds” and “fruit.” The first thing to understand is that all plants, including cacti, develop from seeds. They have no root system and are simply attached to their support structure by a stem or other means.
When the cactus fruit develops from this rudimentary structure it is called an inflorescence (or flower). This can be thought of as a part of cactus plants which produces flowers but does not produce edible parts like leaves or fruits.
An example would be an avocado tree: its trunk has multiple trunks extending outwards; each one produces smaller branches which then produce leaves at different heights on those branches (top), followed by tiny green fruits hanging off those branches (bottom).
Cactus Fruits may Be The Next Health Food Trend
Cactus fruit is a new health food trend. It's an exotic snack that has been enjoyed by desert dwellers for centuries, and now it can be yours! Cactus fruits are small, green balls that have been known to have medicinal qualities—including being rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
Cactus fruit is delicious and sweet, with a juicy texture that's similar to apples or pears. The hard outer shell can be peeled away easily by hand—but don't worry about cutting off too much skin.
The prickly pads on cacti are edible too: they have flavors ranging from spicy (like jalapenos) to sour (like lemon). Cactus flowers also make great snacks; they're often eaten raw in Mexico and Central America.
But if you're looking for an even healthier snack option than eating these flower buds directly off their stems (a practice which we advise against), try roasting them instead.
The cactus plant is also known for its ability to help reduce inflammation in the body, which is why many people who suffer from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) swear by eating them regularly.
While some people may find eating cactus fruits difficult because they're so small and hard to chew on, others may prefer their texture over other options like gummy bears or apple slices.
Either way, if you want something healthy but still sweet enough to satisfy your craving at snack time then this might just be what you need.
Are All Cacti Edible?
Not all cacti species are safe to eat. Some cactus plants have toxic parts that can harm you if you eat them.
If you want to avoid the possibility of poisoning yourself by choosing an unedible cactus, it's important to know what types don't belong on your plate.
1. Cacti with spines
There are many different types of cacti, but some species have quite a few spines along their stems (sometimes up to 10 inches long). These may be poisonous—especially if eaten raw—and can cause irritation in your mouth or throat if eaten. While many people assume that cholla cactus is edible, it's not. !
2. Poisonous cacti
As we mentioned above, there are plenty of edible cacti out there; however, some species contain toxins that could harm you if they're ingested in large quantities.
The most common way this happens is through direct contact with the plant's sap as part of its process for photosynthesis; however, other methods include touching an area near where it grows (like when picking fruit) or eating too much at one time without washing thoroughly afterward.
Different Types of Edible Cactus Plants
Cacti are a fascinating plant family with many different species, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Some cactus species only grow in the desert, while others can be found on trees or buildings throughout the world.
1. Prickly pear cactus
Prickly pear cactus is a type of edible cactus that grows in the desert. It has long sharp spines and can grow up to 10 feet tall, with some varieties growing even taller than that!
Prickly pear fruit is also known as cactus pear, because they have a lot of tiny seeds inside them. The edible part of the prickly pear fruits has a soft texture but you should be careful when eating one because its spines can get stuck inside your mouth if you're not careful!
The most common types of prickly pears are the Indian figs and Mexican fat chaps (also called Texas fat chaps).
2. Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus is a member of the family Cactaceae, which includes all cactus species. Barrel cactus fruit is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The fruit is sweet, but only if it's ripe. When unripe, it tastes bitter and will make you pucker up!
If you don't have access to an experienced farmer who knows how to select ripe fruits before harvesting them, then It is recommend that you pick wild barrel cactus fruits when they are still green instead.
You'll probably get better results with this method because they're more likely to be fresh then than when they've been picked over by others who aren't as careful as you are about what goes into your body."
3. Saguaro cactus
Saguaro cactus is the most common edible cactus. The edible fruit of saguaro, which can be eaten raw or cooked, has a creamy texture, with a sweet flavor and an aftertaste similar to an apple. It is high in fiber, vitamin A as well as vitamin C.
The fruit of the saguaro plant is sometimes called "coco de merde," which means "shit coconuts." However, this moniker doesn't reflect much about how these cactus fruits taste; rather than being smelly or foul-smelling like other coconuts (like those found in Asia), they're actually quite lovely!
4. Dragon fruit cactus
If you didn't know this already, dragon fruit is part of the cactus family. This spiky fruit has a memorable crunchiness and tastes like a cross between a kiwi and a pear.
They're a great addition to smoothies or can be eaten on their own. Dragon fruit thrives in dry, warm environments.
Dragon fruit cactus is a hybrid of pitaya and red strawberry. It's native to tropical regions of Central and South America, and it can grow up to 6 feet tall with long, narrow blades that are filled with succulents.
The flowers are white or pink in color, while the dragon fruits have bright orange flesh inside with a sweet, tangy flavor that's similar to watermelon or pineapple.
Dragon fruit cactus grows in hot climates where other plants don't thrive because they need lots of water; however, this plant doesn’t require any extra maintenance at all because it thrives on just sunlight once established in your garden!
5. Organ pipe cactus
Organ Pipe Cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida) is one of the most commonly grown edible cactus species and is known to have a sweet taste like pineapple.
It can be found all over North America, but it’s most common in Arizona and New Mexico where they grow wild or as an ornamental plant outside homes or businesses.
The cactus fruit are small, roundish pods that contain up to 3 seeds per pod when ripe; they look similar to watermelon rinds when cut open but turn brown when exposed to air so don't worry about eating them raw.
When consumed properly these little guys pack a punch: they contain more vitamin C than an orange but less sugar than table sugar--and no calories!
6. Strawberry pear
Strawberry pear is a cactus fruit that ripens and becomes edible when the fruit is ripe. The strawberry pear can be eaten raw, but it's more commonly used in recipes.
Strawberries are grown on other plants like oak trees and ash trees, but they don't grow on cacti because they don't have enough nutrients to support their growth.
The red-orange flesh inside is sweet and juicy with hints of strawberry flavor throughout its texture—you might even mistake it for an actual strawberry!
The outer skin has a very slight bitterness to it (that's why we call this one by its scientific name “Strawberry Pear”).
7. Cholla cactus
Cholla cacti are actually a species of succulent plant native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
It grows in desert areas where it can spread quickly by means of its underground roots, which resemble those of a tree trunk in shape.
The plant has spines on its branches and leaves, which can cause a painful sting if touched by someone who isn't familiar with them. Cholla cactus is a crazy cactus. The "jumping cholla" moniker comes from the ease with which tiny pieces of the plant detach and stick into the skin or clothing at the slightest touch. This is why cholla isn't commonly found on menus: it's not widely used for cooking.
8. Peruvian apple cactus
The Peruvian apple cactus is a native of the Peruvian Amazon. It's small, red berry that tastes like a sweet apple when it's ripe.
You can eat it raw or cooked, but you should know that this plant has a tendency to grow up and out so you may have to keep it in check with stakes or other supports if you want it to stay in place while you're harvesting the fruit (which will take several hours).
The best way to tell if your Peruvian apple cactus is ripe is by touching one with your hand—if there are no bumps on the fruit and its skin feels smooth like an apple, then congratulations: Your sweet treat awaits!
Constituents of Cactus Fruits
A cactus flower's petals will wilt and fall off after being pollinated, leaving only the stalk and areole. A fruit will develop from the expanding stem.
An edible cactus plant produces fruit a short time (a few weeks) after they bloom. Below are some of the constituents of a cactus plant you should observe when next you eat cactus fruits.
Cactus fruits have thick, meaty peels that can be eaten. Others have sharp spikes or scaly skin. The skin can account for as much as half of the fruit's total mass, depending on the variety.
Dragon fruits, like those of the saguaro cactus, have thick, sturdy walls and skin. Their lack of spines makes them particularly useful. Jellies can be easily made from these fruits due to their mild flavor and sticky peels.
Pulp is the most dense and juicy part of the fruit. Different species have distinctive colors and flavors. The pulp of a ripe fruit can be any shade of red, yellow, or white, and it will have a mildly sweet or sour flavor.
Juices, salsa, and salads can all benefit from the pulp. Dragon fruit cake, prickly pear ice cream, and Peruvian apple candies are common in regions where cactus fruits are produced.
The pulp contains tiny, glossy, hard-coated black or brown seeds. Cactus fruits contain small seeds that can be planted and grown into new plants.
Conclusion - What Cacti Are Edible
Fruits from most species of cactus are safe to eat. There are many types of edible cactus plants including the prickly pear fruit, barrel cactus fruits, and dragon fruit cacti, as well as the saguaro, barrel, Peruvian apple, and organ pipe cacti. The fruits of these trees are juicy and can be either sweet or sour.
The thick peel, the pulp that is both fleshy and succulent, and the hundreds of tiny seeds that are contained within a cactus fruit are the three primary elements that make up a cactus fruit. A ripe edible cacti fruit has a consistent, solid color, a firm shape, spines that have fallen off, and the top is starting to fade.
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