The Prescott College 2012 Agroecology of the Arid Southwest course visited the Arizona Cactus Ranch near Green Valley, AZ earlier this summer and instructor Rebekah Doyle graciously invited me to tag along.
Prickly pear, Oputina engelmanii, is an amazing cactus plant. It is not listed in National Geographic’s “Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants“, but I assure you both the fruits (Spanish: tunas) and pads (Spanish: nopales) edible! I just bought Carolyn Niethammer’s “Prickly Pear Cookbook” and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes. There has been some interesting research on the health benefits of multiple prickly pear species extracts related to cancer, cell damage, and diabetes.