Arizona: Prickly Pear Cactus

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    One thing that there seems to be a LOT of around here, are Prickly Pear cacti. Easy foraging, but DEFINITELY be carful of the spines and glochids (the clusters of fine, tiny barbed spines that are VERY difficult to see and remove if they get into your skin).

    Both the “pears” (the fruit of the cactus) AND the pads are edible. The pears are frequently made into jelly (or used in salsas) and can even be eaten fresh (they are actually pretty good) once you get all the “prickles” off…they can actually be rubbed off fairly easily, if you have some coarse fabric to rub them with. The pads, once they’ve had the spines and glochids removed, are often sliced and cooked. Ever had (or heard of) Nopalitos? Yep, that’s prickly pear pads.

    Research has found that Prickly pear pads and fruit are high in slowly absorbed soluble fiber that helps to keep blood sugar stable–GREAT for diabetics, as it may actually reduce their need for insulin! In addition, the pectin in the pulp of the prickly pear may lower “bad” cholesterol, while leaving the “good” cholesterol levels unchanged.

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