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Prickly pears, also known as nopales for the pads and tunas for the fruit, are truly one of the world’s most amazing plants. They have what seems like a hundred beneficial uses and require next to no additional water or care. In some countries, they go a long way towards feeding the populace with a minimum of cost.

Of the Opuntia genus, they belong to the Cactaceae (or cactus) family. Although native to the Americas, they also flourish in Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. There are dozens of varieties, and between them all they can survive in a wide range of soils and climates (although they are typically associated with hot, dry areas with poor, well drained soil). They are very drought tolerant and some varieties can even withstand severe freezes.

Both the pads and fruit are delicious and highly nutritious. They can be eaten raw, cooked fresh, pickled, dehydrated, or made into jelly, candy, juice and wine. They also have many other uses, including a wide range of medicinal functions, a low-cost animal feed, a water-proofing agent for paints and plasters, predator-proof fencing, shampoo, pigmentation, and even fibers to use in woven objects like baskets. Now do you see why we love them so much?

Throughout this article, we’ll be addressing issues such as proper handling and propagation, the various uses of this miracle plant, as well as ways in which to cook and preserve the fruit and pads so that you can enjoy them year-round.

For more information, view How To: Prickly Pears

If you're interested in seeing more of our how-to guides, please visit VelaCreations.com. You can also follow our projects through the blog or our books.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

  • Prickly pear pads and fruit
  • Tongs
  • Machete or long knife
  • Gloves (if desired)
  • 1 or ½ pint jars
  • Large pot
  • Potato masher
  • Colander
  • Nylon or cheese cloth
  • Canner
  • 3 gallon container
  • 2 ½ gallon container
  • Wine bottles, with corks (and wax to seal, if you have it)
  • Airlock
  • Hydrometer
  • Refractometer
  • Funnel
Excellent job velacreations! There is a cactus-type plant in NC we call prickly pear. Much smaller but I'm gonna try your method with it.
<p>there are lots of species of prickly pear, but most produce fruit, some are better than others, but all of them can be used! </p>
<p>Maybe a description of what prickly pears are?</p>
<p>What they look like and how to find them.</p>
<p>absolutely fantastic! I learned a lot and am totally sold! Definitely trying ALL these myself!</p>
<p>Great description!! You did a very thorough work!</p>
<p>Tons of great information, so many options. Thank you</p>
<p>thanks for useful information, my mom used to cook some recipes many years ago. to remove glochids she were directly hold fruits over fire which burn all glochids. </p>
We usually don't worry about removing them, because when they cook, they dissolve and become soft.
<p>Now when you pick a pawpaw<br>Or a prickly pear<br>And you prick a raw paw<br>Next time beware<br>Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw<br>When you pick a pear<br>Try to use the claw<br>But you don't need to use the claw<br>When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw<br>Have I given you a clue ?</p>
<p>Wow, such a lot of information. Thank you for sharing. Never heard of this before.</p>
<p>Kudos.</p>
wow! lots of handy info! thanks!!! I was so baffled by the mystery of nopales &amp; how they grew! what a very detailed instructable!
<p>This is amazingly comprehensive! I had no idea you could use this for so much. :)</p>

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