At the west entrance to Happy Patch Market, large specimens of prickly pear cactus grow, and they often draw attention and questions from visitors. The cactus plants are currently in bloom with colorful yellow blossoms and red pear pods.
A quick Google search reveals that the red pods—also known as cactus figs or Indian figs -- are the fruit of the prickly pear, and they are edible. They are said to have a taste somewhere between bubble gum and watermelon! Adventuresome eaters may want to sample them, but it is important to follow a few rules.
When harvesting the pods, watch out for the plant spines that cover the fruit. Consider using tongs to remove the fruit.
Don’t pick up fruit that has already fallen to the ground.
Harvest during the summer – most fruit has ripened by mid-August.
For those raising prickly pears in their own yards, keep in mind that the stately plants only need to be watered once every two or three weeks during the fall and winter months.
Several market staff members have given favorable reports on the taste of this unusual fruit, but the spiny thorns will likely remain a barrier to most people’s enjoyment. Let us know if you want to try a sample, though!