Can You Eat Cactus

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“Can you eat cactus” is one of the most common questions people have about cacti. And if you can consume cactus, is it a fruit or a vegetable? This post tries to answer these two questions.

Cactus is a group of plants of the plant family Cactaceae. The family has more than 1500 plant species. Some of these cacti you can eat, but remember not all cactus plants are edible.

Can You Eat Cactus?

You can definitely eat cactus. Varieties such as dragon fruit cactus, prickly pear, cholla,

etc are very much edible. After removing the spines you can treat them as vegetables. 

But not all cactus varieties are edible, cacti such as peyote, Bolivian, and San Pedro cactus are toxic and you should always avoid these.

The cactus plant is a very popular food in many Latin American cultures. Usually, the main edible parts of a cactus plant are the cactus fruit (prickly pear) and the flat cactus pad (nopales).

You can either eat the fruits and the pads raw, or cook them into dishes. You can also make juice out of cactus.

Is Cactus A Fruit or Vegetable?

In botanical terms, a fruit is the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant. It encloses the seeds. A vegetable on the other hand is any part of the plant that you can eat.  

A vegetable can be shoots, leaves, stems, branches, flowers, or the roots of a plant.

So by these definitions, a cactus is both a fruit as well a vegetable. Because you can eat both cactus fruit as well as stems and leaves. 

Although most of the time prickly pear and nopal cactus refer to the same plant, there is one technical difference between the two. 

Prickly pear is actually the fruit of the Nopal Cactus. But Nopal Cactus can also mean the green pads of the plant.

Can You Eat A Raw Cactus? 

Cacti generally have spikes and thorns. So it is rather uncomfortable to eat them. Also, they don’t taste that good either. 

You can eat the prickly pears raw after washing them thoroughly. The green pads of the Nopal Cactus taste best when you cook or boil them.

Nopales taste similar to okra and have a moist crunchy texture. It has a tart flavor and a slightly citrusy taste.

Benefits of Cactus Juice:

Cactus juice has a long list of potential health benefits, incredible nutrient density, and various powerful antioxidants. 

It is a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, amino acids, and other phytonutrients. Cactus juice is also extremely low in calories.

Some of the major benefits of cactus juice are it can reduce stress levels and overcome hangovers. 

It can also help in lowering blood pressure and act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Cactus juice also helps improve digestion and lose weight.

Edible Cactus Variety:

Here are some of the popular edible cactus varieties

  • Prickly Pear Cactus 
  • Cholla Cactus 
  • Dragon Fruit Cactus 
  • Barrel Cactus 
  • Saguaro Cactus 
  • The sword pear 
  • Erdisia 
  • Saguaro 
  • Orchid cactus 
  • Barbados gooseberry

Some Poisonous Cactus:

Not all cacti are edible. As a matter of fact, consuming any of these cacti can cause real problems for you. Following are some of the poisonous cacti

  • Peyote Cactus 
  • The Barrel Cactus 
  • San Pedro Cactus 
  • Bolivian Torch Cactus
can you eat cactus

Disclaimer: This post is only for educational and gardening purposes. Before consuming any plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a professional for advice.

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