Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s , Westerns were television staples… Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rawhide, The Lone Ranger, Rin Tin Tin, and many more that I have forgotten. There were too many western movies for me to begin to count… Broken Arrow, The Gunfighter, High Noon, etc. Invariably, the cowboy hero gets lost or left in the desert by the bad guys and winds up crawling to a cactus to wring out its water and fend off death.
The hero survived and we all learned that cactuses stored water, but we didn’t know they had edible fruit, too.
From Flowers to Fruit
There are two cactuses in my yard (another story for another time), one in the farthest northwest corner and one along the south fence. Not long ago they bloomed with beautiful white flowers, and after flowering, the small green oval fruit set.
The fruit from this particular type of cactus is ready when it is a dark salmon color, about three inches long, egg-shaped, with its girth about as big around as a golf ball. They are firm but will give if squeezed.
Comparatively Unique Inside
The fruit is easy to cut and separate from the peel. It has a mild, almost watermelon taste… not unpleasant, but not spectacular. It is moist, but really pretty bland. The small black seeds add a nice crunch to the fruit.
I tasted both the fruit and the peel and liked the taste of the soft, sour peel. In fact, eating a little of the peel along with the white flesh would add a spark to the bland-tasting white flesh.
The only way I can describe the consistency of the fruit is to say it feels like tiny bubbles if they were dry enough to be slightly crunchy, hold their shape and still be moist enough to eat and feel fruity. The white part of the fruit is delicate and will crumble when you touch it. It reminds me of cheap Styrofoam that disintegrates if you rub the broken edge.
Eating cactus fruit was an adventure. I probably won’t go to the trouble again, unless someone asks about it. There just wasn’t enough fruit on the cactus or white flesh inside to make the effort worth it. Of course, if I’m ever left in the desert by the bad guys, I know where to find a snack to go with the water I’m squeezing from the pulp.