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Eating Cactus is An Actual Thing: Here’s How It’s Done

Cactuses are sharp and dry, fleshy and fruity. They are unassuming. They are edible! Cactuses are oddball plants.

Credit: Adam Ragusea's

Cactuses are strangely elusive plants. It is simple enough to envision where they propagate: deserts and dusty, dry areas with a myriad of tumbleweed. Perhaps the backyard of a California home. But there is not too much we often ponder about beyond that. Cactuses really are an example of dichotomy–they hold fleshy fruits though the cactuses themselves are dry plants. They have sharp needles, but they also hold pretty flowers sometimes.

They are also edible.

Adam Ragusea, a YouTuber based in Georgia with over a million subscribers, explores the palatable side of the sharp plants in a video he uploaded around the start of the year. The title of the video was “How to eat cactus without impaling yourself.” The title itself emphasizes a part of who Ragusea is–intriguing but witty and sharp about it in an informed, attuned-to-learning kind of way. In fact, his YouTube channel–based around foods–dives into food and culinary aspects without discounting the vibrant history behind them or even the science of certain ones.

In the video, he states that nearly every part of the cactus plant is edible. One example is the prickly pear, its scientific name connecting to the City of Opus due to how any chunk of the plant could be buried into the ground to grow. There is the tuna–or the fruit– and the nopales–or the cactus that bears the fruit– that can be consumed.

Ragusea then addresses the main concern of interest–the prickly parts of the cactus fruit. He states that the glochids are “hairy demons” as they are barbed, miniscule needles and embed themselves into skin once attached–leading to inflamed fingers or even dermatitis.

According to the well-versed foodie, a way to go about this is to fillet the skin off of the fruit to access the fruit inside. The fruit’s outside can also be rolled around in sand as the more traditional method entails or one can use more extreme measures–like fire.

Upon tasting the fruit, he states that it tastes “purple.” He goes on to say that there is a vegetal taste, though most of the fruit is pulpy, hard seeds. Without missing a step, he addresses the seeds, which can be strained out after juicing the filleted fruit.

Nopales,on the other hand, have conspicuous thorns and glochids. Inside, they have mucilage, which contributes to the slimy texture. Opposite to the fruit, he states that it is a fruity tasting vegetable.

Ragusea explores foods and he is not selective, either. The cactus fruit he obtained for the video was from his neighbor’s backyard. In the YouTube video, he doesn’t seem to hold back in other ways, too. His sharp wit and articulate humor gets his points across in an educational, interesting way without being overly conspicuous.

In ways, he’s widened others’ palates and in other ways, he highlighted the cultural significance these fruits have for particular groups. And finally, he’s colored the cactus as something substantial, too. Cactuses are undoubtedly edible.

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