A cactus is a succulent plant with thick, fleshy stems that are adapted to store water. They are found in arid and semi-arid habitats, where they are often the dominant plant life. Cacti come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from small, round plants to tall, tree-like forms. Sometimes you will see a cactus with fruits and this has made people ask, is cactus a fruit?
Cactus can have edible fruits, but it can also be classified as a vegetable because some species have edible parts of the plant. The Opuntia cactus also called prickly pear has edible fruits and the pads can be also eaten in a salad.
In this article we will take a deep dive in to the topic of cactus being a fruit to find out more about the uses of their fruits. the benefits of eating them and some frequently asked questions.
Why Is Cactus A Fruit And A Vegetable?
As mentioned earlier a cactus can be classified as both a fruit and a vegetable. Several species can have fruits and to be recognized as a fruit it needs to have seeds and be pollinated to be able to grow. Fruits are generally sweeter than a vegetable and are generally used in deserts.
Some cactus species also have edible parts of the plant that is not classified as fruits. A good example of this is the Opuntia where the pads can be eaten in salad. For something to be classified as a vegetable is needs to have edible leaves, stems, roots or blooms.
Vegetables don’t have seeds, they contain more fiber and don’t taste sweet. These are mostly used as salads when eating a meal, whereas the fruit as mentioned earlier is often eaten as a desert after a meal.
Types Of Cacti That Has Edible Fruits
There are many species that bear fruit, but all of them are edible. That is why I wanted to make a short list of edible, delicious cactus fruits that might interest you.
- Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia): One of the most popular cacti that produces edible fruits is Opuntia. It’s found in abundance in Mexico and it’s not only the fruits that are edible, but the pads as well, which can be used in a salad.
- Dragon Fruit Cactus (Hylocereus Undatus): This is a very popular cactus and it’s very popular because of its dragon fruit. This is a long-stemmed succulent, which can be found in a lot of tropical regions around the world such as Mexico, Australia, Peru and Asia.
- Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus and Ferocactus): A full grown barrel cactus can reach over 1 metre in high, which is massive. It can be found in Americas, but this fruit is not that popular to eat because it’s dry and bitter. It’s known to been eaten throughout history in times where food was scares and long period of drought.
- Saguaro Cactus (Carnegia Gigantea): This cactus can grow over 12 meters tall and can be found in Arizona, Mexico and some areas in California. I can live for over 150 years and thrive in deserts. It does has edible fruits, which have a sweet taste.
- Peruvian Apple Cactus (Cereus Repandus): This cactus can reach a high of over 10 meters with a lot of thorns, but the fruit is thornless with a white flesh. It can be found in South America.
- Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus Thurberi): Producing fruits at a size of a tennis ball, these fruits are said to taste better than a watermelon. Native to Mexico and United States it can live to be over 150 years old.
- Bilberry Cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans): Another cactus common in Mexico, where the fruits are purple with a size of about 1-2 cm in diameter.
How To Eat A Prickly Cactus Pear
I wanted to give you an example on how you can eat fruits from a cactus and I found a great video that you can watch to learn how to eat fruits from a Prickly Pear Cactus. I also made a small guide that is easy to follow below.
- These fruits are have many thorns so when picking these of the cactus it’s good to use a tong and a torch to burn of the thorns.
- Then you can use a knife and peel the fruit, leaving the fresh that can be eaten.
Is Cactus Fruit A Laxative?
Well it depends on what cacti species of fruit comes from. The prickly pear can have a side effect of causing diarrhea, but can also cause bloating. So eating plums, peaches, apricots ,prunes and raisins would make a much better natural laxative if you have a constipation.
Is Cactus A Vegetable?
Yes, some cacti are editable and can be classified as vegetables. One example is Prickly Pear Cactus, where the pads can be cooked or eating raw. What defines a vegetable is that it has to have edible leaves, stems, roots or blooms.
To sum up, cacti can be classified as both vegetables and fruits. There are so many species of cacti that has edible fruits and pads. The fruits are often packed with healthy vitamins and minerals. Cacti thrive in tropical climate and can often be found in abundance in Mexico, South America, Asia, Australia and more.
A cactus fruit that has become more popular is dragon fruit. It’s a very healthy fruit that grow on Undatus specifies. Depending on the specie, the flesh in the dragon fruit can have several colors such as white, purple and yellow. The fruit has a sweet taste and reminds a lot of kiwi.
I really enjoy the dragon fruit now and then, I really recommend you try it. It can be a fun experience for the entire family. If you live in a warm climate, then it can also be a fun project to grow a dragon fruit cactus, which is not that hard.
Thanks for reading, take care!