People think that cactus plants are unique, have an extraterrestrial glance, and are just meant for aesthetic appeal or as a desktop pet. But it is surprising to know that most of the cactus are edible if they belong to the true cacti family.
True cactus plants and fruits are safe and healthy to eat. Few of them can be eaten raw and some have to be cooked. This doesn’t mean you can grab and have a bite on all cactus plants. Know the edible varieties, as some are toxic, cause digestive issues and trigger allergic reactions.
So, you can grow this low-maintenance plant in your indoor or outdoor garden, to treat your taste buds along with making your yard exotically beautiful! Here is some relatable information you must know about the typical cactus plants and fruits before putting them in your mouth-
- 1 How to Know If a Cactus is Edible?
- 2 Edible Cactus Varieties:
- 3 Edible Fruits of Cactus: Cactuses that are safe to eat in moderation
- 4 Benefits of Cactus Fruits:
How to Know If a Cactus is Edible?
- Most edible cactus belong to over 200 Opuntia species
- These species are also known as Nopales or Nopalitos or Cactus pear
- Edible cactus plants mostly have flat leaves
- Such plants also contain spines covered paddles
- They usually have egg or oval-shaped fruits
- And all cactus plants, which grow fruits, are normally safe to eat in moderation
- Also note not all edible cactus can be eaten raw, few have to go through the cooking process before it’s served on your plate.
Edible Cactus Varieties:
- Cereus Repandus:
This is one type of Peruvian Apple cactus. Cereus repandus is usually known as an ornamental plant. You can use the starchy inside texture of this cactus stem in your food but remove the thorny outer layer first before eating.
- Glasswort Cactus:
This cactus plant looks like asparagus green and uses several healthy dishes. You can add them in raw form in your salad or boil or sauté them to add the succulent stems as a side dish.
- Barbary Fig Cactus:
Barbary fig cactus, also known as Opuntia Ficus-Indica is an edible cactus variety that grows some tasty edible fruits as well. Besides fruits, you can use its succulents stems also to prepare a healthy and tangy dish.
- Barrel Cactus:
Barrel cactus is one of the largest specimens of its other kinds. The inside texture of this cactus is edible and useable in cooking dishes. This cactus species grows fruits as well, once the blooms wilt away, but they are not much edible due to the bitter and dry taste.
Edible Fruits of Cactus: Cactuses that are safe to eat in moderation
Dragon fruits or pitaya are some of the tangiest cactus fruits that come from the seleniferous genus. This fruit has an exotic appearance and a rare pulpy texture.
The small edible seeds inside the white pulp make the taste of this fruit even more enjoyable. You can get a mixed taste of a kiwi and a pear from its pulp.
Prickly pear is the fruit of the cactus plant barbary fig. These fruits grow in a catchy neon shade and provide a tangy succulent taste similar to fruity bubble gum.
The beneficial compounds found in prickly pear make this cactus fruit commercially important. Hydration agents, antibacterial, and antioxidant compounds are some supremely advantageous properties you can get from these fruits.
Saguaro cactus plants grow some eye-catching red fruits, once the flowers are pollinated. These bright red fruits are safe to eat and easy to digest as well due to their super healthy properties.
The red pulp contains a tangy juicy teste with a pulpy texture. The crunchy black seeds inside the starchy pulp make them a great combination for a bowl of fruit salad.
The buds and fruit of the chollas cactus plant are safe to eat for humans. You must cook them before eating, unlike other cactus fruits.
These fruits contain an amazing combination taste of green beans, asparagus, and artichoke all in one receptacle. You can use them in your salad bowl as well, without prepare an individual dish, but try to boil them first for a better sense of taste.
San Pedro Cactus:
San Pedro cactus also grows red-colored beautiful looking fruits after the flowers droop away. This fruit also contains a white pulpy texture along with crunchy black seeds like dragon fruits.
The taste of the inside pulp is sweet and rather crispy, unlike other cactus fruits. You must remember that not all San Pedro cactus fruits are edible. Some of their species are safe to eat, so, recognize variety first before using them in your dishes.
Benefits of Cactus Fruits:
Eating cactus not only gives you a chance to change your typical taste but also benefits your health due to the amazing advantageous properties found in edible cactus. Some common benefits we can steal from eating cactus are-
- They can reduce your body fat
- Help to lower blood pressure
- Control cholesterol level
- Diminish skin inflammation
- Protect against sun damage
- Help to fight skin aging process
- And fight dehydration too
Regular consumption of edible cactus also reduces the possibilities of several chronic diseases like peripheral vascular illness, coronary heart attack, stroke, etc.
Are Cactus Plants and Fruits Poisonous?
No, cactus plants are not poisonous, at least most of the cactus species are not poisonous, and they are edible too. Only a few species of cactus have poisonous spines, just try not to get the throne of those poisonous cactus deep into your skin tissues. Besides, if you eat inedible cactus, then, it can cause allergic reactions in your body including diarrhea and vomiting, but it never turns lethal to humans.
List of Toxic Cactus Plants:
Some of the cactus plants are toxic and not safe for humans and pets.
- Peyote cactus
- The stem of the San Pedro cactus
- Stem of Saguaro
- The Peruvian torch
- Spines of Cholla cactus
- Hylocereus undatus
- Thimble Cactus (not to animals), etc.
Does Cactus Have Venom?
No, the cactus genus doesn’t have poisonous spines or thorns which could kill a human. So, you can say that the cactus plants don’t have venom, but before knowing the variety don’t try to touch or eat a cactus. Some of them just have spines which may cause mere bleeding or sometimes petty infections.
Differences Between Cactus and Succulents:
- Succulents have more moisturized stems than cacti, as they store water in their leaves, stems, and roots
- Succulents live longer without water than cactus plants, as they have better water storage comparing cacti species
- Cactus grows flowers and hair on a tiny cushion-like structure named areoles, while succulents produce such things on their stems
- Cacti has comparatively thicker skin and seldom than succulent plants, and thus they look more noticeable comparing any succulent plant
- And all cactus are succulents as they both store water in their foliage, but not all succulents are cactus, if they don have thicker stems with thorny seldom
Most of the cactus and succulent plants are edible, depending on their taste value. Some have a vegetable-like taste and some contain fruits like flavor. So, if a cactus plant doesn’t have any harmful compound, they are edible.