URBAN FORAGING – Prickly pear

Often found rising over suburban backyard fences, along train lines or growing wild on marginal land, this invasive, contentious and tasty cactus is not only known for its brightly coloured fruits, but also its edible pads and flowers.

Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), also known as barbary fig, cactus pear and nopal cactus, is often spotted growing wild. It’s a hardy cactus whose large pad-like stems – called cladodes or nopals – can be peeled and eaten, as can its various-coloured flowers which, in Australia, are most often shades of yellow. The fruits, called tunas, are also edible and mature over summer.

First introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s, prickly pear cactus has been a Central American staple for thousands of years and is still enjoyed around the world. But they’re highly invasive, they invade habitat and make land impenetrable if allowed to spread, so there’s every chance this invasive weed may be prohibited in your area.