By Barry Tickes, UA area agriculture agent

Many plants now regarded as weeds were brought here or introduced for landscape or food many years ago and now grow wild. However, some are natives found here for thousands of years.

One of the native plants currently in season and available in grocery stores and farmers markets is the prickly pear cactus. It grows wild and in abundance here and throughout arid regions of the western hemisphere.

Prickly Pear is one of more than 200 species of the Opuntia genus and Cactaceae or cactus family.

The most common edible species is the India fig opuntia(O. ficus indica). It has been a staple of the Mexican and Central American diet for thousands of years. It has three edible parts - the pad or nopal which is peeled and treated like a vegetable; the pedals used in salads; and the ‘pear’ used as a fruit.

Nopales are thought to be good for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, and hangovers.

The following video is a demonstration on how to peel the pads. Please click hereto watch video.

Click the link to listen to Barry.

Contact Tickes: (928) 580-9902 orbtickes@ag.arizona.edu.

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