The healing prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) is one of my favourite wild edibles, partly because of its healing properties but mostly because of my personal affinity with the fruit. When I eat a prickly pear I make an association with a fond experience of a canoe expedition in which I travelled down the Murray River for 60 days and nights.
The fruit of this cactus is described to taste somewhat like kiwifruit mixed with persimmon and it contains edible seeds which I liken to the avils of a pomegranate. I have only ever harvested the fruit, however, with a bit of knowhow, you can harvest the young pads of the cactus and cook them in various ways. A technique I am yet to explore as it takes a lot more research and effort than simply harvesting the fruit. Always practice care when harvesting wild edibles, see my notes of caution at the bottom of this post.
Prickly pear fruits are a great source of antioxidants and the cooked pads are also considered a healing food as they have been used traditionally in Mexico to reduce blood sugar. It is suggested that eating them before drinking alcohol can reduce the severity of a hangover but then again, so does simply drinking less.
My personal experience with prickly pear is harvesting the fruit only – during my canoe expedition where I found them on the banks of the Murray River. I found the fruit to be quite sweet and enjoyable simply eaten with a spoon (be careful of the prickles of course).