The cactus are in full bloom right now on the Eastern Plains, and what a good year for cactus flowers it is! The prickly pears are especially having a good flower year, as they have larger and more prolific flowers than normal. If you haven’t seen these beauties yet, don’t wait – cactus flowers don’t last long!
In a few short months, the flowers will have turned into wonderfully delicious fruits. One of the best tasting wild foods in Elbert County, prickly pear fruits are normally ripe in October or November, depending on the weather. They are very sweet! Also called tunas, these fruits are usually used for making jelly, but can be used in many other recipes (try substituting them for berries in almost any recipe) or just eaten raw.
If you can’t wait to try the fruit, or just want a seasonal treat for dinner, the cactus pads and flowers are both edible. Watch out for spines (they are best removed carefully with a potato peeler). There are many recipes for cactus pads, also called nopales, and are best to eat when they are young. Cactus flower recipes are harder to find, and they are usually just used as an edible decoration by sprinkling the petals on salads or desserts.