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Prickly Pear - May 2022
young priv=ckly pear

Botanic Name
Opuntia Humifusa
Sun Expoaure
Full Sun
Plant Type
Herbaceaus, Perennial, Cactus
Plant from
Seeds or Cuttings
soil type
Well Drained
to 18 ft
Soil pH


by Karin Westdyk

Prickly Pear has 3 edible sections: the pad or paddle of the cactus (called nopal), can be used as a vegetable; the flower petals can be used as a garnish or added to salads and; the pear, which can be eaten or used like any other fruit.

Growing prickly pear from seed is a very slow process and can take up to a few years for fruits and flowers to set. Propagation from cutting a pad is far simpler by twisting it off, letting dry for about a week and placing it upright in the soil about 1 inch deep. Within a week or two it will form a basis for its root. Then water about once a week.

Originating in Mexico where it is called Nopal, prickly pear has significant nutritional and medicinal properties.  It is rich in magnesium and taurine, substances important for brain and heart health and contains lots of vitamin C. The plant also contains flavonoids like quercetin, and isorhamnetin and kempferoli.

Other components are carbohydrates (glucose, fructose and starch), protein and fibers rich in pectin.  It is rich in antioxidants with anticancer properties and is considered a protector of the eyes and joints. It is also used to relieve pain.

Choose the young tenderest pads to eat raw or cooked and use in soups, stews, salads, breads, desserts, beverages, and marmalades. They can also be used as fodder for animals. The fruit, called in some cultures, the tuna, is also edible and the bright flowers are an important source of food for bees and other pollinators.


The prickly pear pads can be used in a variety of nutritious dishes such as salads, stews, omelets, casseroles and tortillas. They can also be pickled and used as a condiment.

Prickly Pear with eggs (Nopalitos con Huevos)

 2  pads (nopales)

 2 cloves garlic, peeled

 salt to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped

4 eggs, beaten

pepper to taste

cilantro, chopped

corn or flour tortillas


Using a small paring knife, clean the cactus pads by scraping thorns or spines from both sides. Trim off the edges and any blemished or discolored areas. Wash well with cold water. 

Cut the pad lengthwise into half-inch thick strips and then cut crosswise into 1 to 1 1/2-inch lengths.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine garlic, salt, and enough water to cover the pads. Bring to a boil. 

Add pads and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they have changed color and are tender yet crisp. 

Drain pads and rinse well under very cold water. Rinse again as needed to rid of mucilage.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and cook until softened.  

Add pads and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add eggs and cook, stirring regularly, until eggs are set but still slightly wet. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.

Prickly Pear Fruit Syrup


1 ½ cups prickly pear

3 cups water

½ cup sugar


1.Take your de-thorned prickly pears and cut them in half.

2. Scoop out the middle fruit and add to a pot with the water and sugar.

3. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.

4. Allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. When the mixture thickens, remove from the heat and allow to cool. 

5.Take a soup ladle and add one scoop of the mixture to a strainer. (Make sure the strainer is over a bowl.)

6. Use a spoon to press the prickly pear mixture into the strainer to get all of the liquid out. Empty the strainer of the seeds and thick pulp and repeat until you do this with all of the prickly pear mixture.

7.  Chill for one hour.

Prickly Pear Fries


1. 3-4 fresh cactus (Nopales) paddles

2. 3 tablespoons cornstarch

3. 2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

4. 1/3 cup bread crumbs

5. 1/2 tsp powdered chipotle

6. 1 teaspoon baking powder

7. 2 egg whites

8. 3⁄4 cup ice water

9. Vegetable or peanut oil for frying


  1. Rince and thoroughly remove thorns and “eyes” from cactus, and trim off the edges of pads.
  2. Blanch paddles for 2 minutes in a covered pan with enough boiling salted water to cover; drain and allow to cool until comfortable enough to handle.
  3. Cut cactus into thin strips similar to French fries, and set aside.
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff, then set aside
  5. Combine dry ingredients well.
  6. Fold beaten egg whites into the flour mixture, alternating with enough ice water to make batter the consistency of unbeaten egg white. Place in the refrigerator to chill at least 10 minutes.
  7. Dredge cactus strips in batter, and fry in deep hot oil until crisp and golden.
  8. Drain well, serve and enjoy!