If you are someone who has previously owned succulents, indoors or bigger ones outdoors, you might find it shocking to learn that they are used in meals. There are specific cactuses, however, that are edible, and thus used in different food dishes. Great news for vegan or vegetarian diet-based people though, something new to add to your meal plans.
With this relatively new revelation to many people comes the question, ‘what does cactus taste like?’. Because it is important if you are thinking about making it a part of your diet or even considering it for the time being. Luckily, it is not as bad as what even some vegetables taste like. They grow in hot climates, including starch and protein as the main nutrients within the plant.
It is as eating any other leafy plant/vegetable, only with more prickly thorns than usual, which usually is none. Some people prefer the new and refreshing texture and taste. It gives them more room and a new ingredient to cook and experiment creative dishes with. But it is not a good source of nutrients for vegans. You can incorporate it in any of your dishes as a side, or wherever you would include a mix of meat and vegetables.
Cactus – Succulents
Nopales or the cactus pear are the two commonly known names for the edible category of cactuses. There are more than 200 plus opuntia species of edible cactuses out there. They’re egg or oval-shaped plants, covered all over with thorns, just as many from the Cactaceae family. The low-maintenance plants come with very many surprises that you may not expect. Their edible nature is just one of them, they have multiple other uses, not to mention tastes of different versions, how they’re cooked and when they’re harvested.
Are they safe to eat?
If you have come so far, you might’ve noticed no warnings about it being dangerous were posted before, because mostly it is safe to consume. But if you are generally allergic to one or multiple things, better get your doctor’s opinion before making the cactus a part of your diet.
Additionally, apart from places where this is a common staple and people regularly, safely use it in their meals as a common vegetable/plant, it is used for several other purposes too. Supplements are one of those categories. Many people are unaware that the proteins and starch found in edible cactus plants are very beneficial for people who need concentrated doses of those such as people with diabetes that need it for lower blood sugar levels.
Other very specific needs are thought to be fulfilled by prickly pear cactus. Such as injuries or wounds, hangovers, lowering cholesterol levels in your body among other things. There needs to be further concrete research about how well the benefits translate from the plant to your body and if there are any side effects worth noting. So far it is used in many desert-based regions for multiple purposes in their capacity, but scientifically there haven’t been huge declarations regarding it.
What do cactuses taste like?
Leafy vegetables are some confusing tasting ingredients in food. For example, how would one describe what spinach or rocket leaves taste like? Some might say they’re a combination of sweet and juicy leaves. Others occasionally say they are tasteless. The taste also differs in the different forms that the cactus is cooked in. They have a mix of juicy and crunchy textures, combining the internal and external form if you are using it in juices or smoothies, etc.
People have recognized the taste of edible cactus is both citrusy and sour, similar to pickles but not entirely as fermented. The juicy interior part of a cactus is what has an okra-like sticky texture, but does not remain the same after it’s cooked. So you can say cooking style makes for the taste as it does for many vegetables. Raw vegetables taste very different from cooked ones. It is very similar to eggplant in its raw form. For us to recognize the question of ‘what does cactus taste like’ it is important to note all these differences and variations of the object at hand.
The grilled or baked version of the cactus for example is very different from if you cook it with a soup or stew. The usual sour taste of the cactus is often used to replace other sour ingredients in a dish. This includes both pickled vegetables and something that is used for a mild addition in taste such as a few drops of lemon. Apart from that, different harvesting times also affect a cactus’s taste. This is usually the case with vegetables or fruits that are lush and sappy in particular. Where there are many instances of different opinions on taste, we cannot pin down on one and declare it the sole right opinion, which is why it is more appropriate to make up your mind regarding it.
What are some of the edible Cactuses?
This is a commonly available cactus plant in the southwestern side of the US where there’s no scarcity of desert land. The name Saguaro is more commonly understood than its scientific name. It is also known for its edible fruit that it bears only after a good few years of being under the good sun and occasional watering. It is not easy to move or procure if you do not already live in the vicinity of one. Because moving them is illegal in various areas. You can apply for a permit to do so, but it depends upon the local governing authority whether they allow you to obtain/move it as you like, for your means. It is a good edible cactus plant.
This might also be known by some people because it is used in a few desserts, the fruit at least. This one is also called Dragon Fruit that bears fruit in yellow or bright red. The fruit opens up to a white/red center alternating in those colors depending upon the plant. It is highly nutritious too, if not as much flavorful. The cactus plant has long leaves/branches with thorns, and flowers that bloom at night. It is also known as Pitaya, which is a common name used for different species of cactuses. The fruit and plant themselves are used differently in meals and dishes, same for many fruit-bearing cactuses that are edible.
As the name came up many times in the article before this part, this is rather a more commonly known edible cacti plant. In fact, in central and southwestern America it is used in many dishes as a staple ingredient. They are very resilient plants, which is why they have been known to endure low and cold temperatures as severe as those in colder parts of Canada.
They are very flavorful as some people have noted, to others they may not have a remarkable taste as much as a familiar texture and taste as many sappy or leafy vegetables. It is also called the Indian Fig.
The plant that has a national monument in Arizona, the Organ Pipe Cactus is a cactus with lavender flowers growing on it in better atmospheres. The national monument showcases this plant in all its glory in its natural environment too, because Arizona has an abundance of them due to its soil and weather. It is quite similar to the Saguaro in fact, only with a slight difference in the shape of the arms/branches that reach out of the plant. It grows an edible fruit known as the Pitahaya Dulce that is like an orange in size.
Last on the list of edible cactus plants is the Orchid. It belongs to the Epiphyllum species of cacti. They bear small fruit as well, giving its plant different uses. In addition to the fruit, they also bloom flowers in good weather or if the plant is happy in its environment. These are very specific to their environments and the soil they require to sustain themselves.
This concludes our curated information regarding edible cactuses. Hopefully the answer to ‘what does cactus taste like?’ is somewhere in there. There are many instances of plants and fruits that are native to a land which is why they aren’t easily found everywhere. Mostly it is because they cannot survive in other weather. If you are thinking about any of the options from above or others outside of this, make sure you learn thoroughly about whether they can sustain in an environment where you will be keeping them.