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All About the Prickly Pear
That's right—you can eat every part of this plant (Opuntia spp.) except the roots and the spines! In addition to the delicious nopales, a wonderful vegetable in the leaves, and delicious prickly pear fruits (also called Indian fig or Barbary fig, and known in Spanish as tuna, which are actually a very large berry), the prickly pear cactus is beneficial as food in another way—you can grind up the seeds of this cactus to make a gluten-free flour with excellent nutritional properties.
While it is unlikely that the average homeowner will produce enough seeds to consider home-grown prickly pear flour as a major resource, by conserving and drying those seeds of the cactus fruits, eventually, you will have enough to make a cup or so of delicious flour, and because of the qualities inherent in prickly pear seeds, flour made from these cactus seeds work very well for both baking and cooking.
How to Make and Use Prickly Pear Flour
Reserve the seeds of the prickly pear fruit and allow them to dry thoroughly. Crack with a rolling pin, then put in a grinder (this is one of the very few seeds you can use a coffee mill to grind). Grind the seeds very finely.
Because this prickly pear flour doesn't contain gluten, you can mix up to half of it with regular flour for the total amount of flour you need in your normal baking recipes. Use the prickly pear flour by itself for cooking where gluten development is not necessary, such as for battering food to fry or for thickening soups, stews, sauces, and gravies. You can also use it to make pasta, flatbread, and pancakes or substitute for regular wheat flour in any recipes which do not need gluten.
Unless you live next to a field full of cactuses, you will probably not harvest enough to make a large quantity of flour. At the same time, there is no reason not to use the seeds, and harvesting a few cups of flour a year is not an unreasonable amount to expect if you are eating prickly pear fruits.
Nutritional Info for Prickly Pear Seeds
Mannan, g / Kg
β- glucan, g / Kg
Sucrose, g / Kg
Why Turn This Into Flour?
Prickly pear flour is very high in protein and has good foaming and emulsifying points. What does that mean? Simply that this flour is not only good for you, but its characteristics make it ideal for baking, cooking, and much more. It has a high oil binding point (it glues stuff together well), making it ideal for meats, sausage, breads, and cakes. The proteins in prickly pear flour, with their high emulsifying and foaming capacity, are good for salad dressing, sausage, soups, confectionery, frozen desserts, and cakes. It's also an excellent source of fibre and many essential and nonessential amino acids.
Prickly Pear Cactus Is a Source of Protein
By trying to use more of the prickly pear cactus plant, instead of merely throwing away the seeds, you will gain access to an unconventional source of protein, which is a problem for vegetarians and vegans, reduce your carbon footprint, and become more in tune with nature. We should not waste food, and prickly pear flour is a good, nutritious food.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How do you separate the seeds from the prickly pear pulp efficiently?
Answer: The way I do it is to sieve the seeds from the fruit. I don't think it's that efficient, but it's a way to use the seeds instead of just spitting them out. You can also eat the fruit and spit out the seeds, of course.
Question: Is this a low-carb flour?
Answer: This depends on your definition of low-carb, but it contains significant amounts of protein and fiber. There is a nutritional chart in the article that shows the amounts.
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