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What Happens If You Eat a Cactus? (Explained)

If you haven’t figured out already, the green, thorny cactus that we only see in deserts is a vegetable.

With that mentioned, since cactus is one of the rare forms of it, you would need to know if it is safe to eat a cactus Afterall. We understand your love for a food adventure, but safety always comes first!

Can you eat cactus?

You can eat cactus. But you need to be careful which one you pick to eat to how you eat it. Check the below to know more about the edibility and how to eat cactus.

Eat cactus raw:

If it is edible cactus you are talking about, then it is safe of eating cactus in its raw state, although you should remove the spine.

Eating cactus or certain parts of it can cause stomach aches and upsets in some people.

Eat cactus fruit:

One of the safest cactus parts to eat is the cactus fruit. Unlike most other parts, the fruits of the cactus types are edible and do not cause side effects when eaten.

Among the cactus fruits that should not be eaten are Bolivian, and San Pedro cactus. These may become harmful to humans when eaten as these cacti contain toxins.

Eat cactus pear seeds:

Pear seeds of edible cactus are completely safe to eat. However, a lot of people do not like the tastes of cactus pear seeds and hence refrain from eating them.

Eat cactus flowers:

Generally, cactus flowers are edible but when the flowering part is cooked, only the unopened part is taken. This part is full of nutrition and does not cause any harm.

Eat cactus leaves:

Leaves of nopales are more like a vegetable and can be eaten raw or cooked. Nonetheless, you should note that when the cacti leaves may have sap that is irritating to human skin and throat.

Eat cactus pear skin:

It is usually recommended that the cactus pear skin be removed before eating. The skin usually contains more bacteria and dirt for which could cause minor health issues if eaten.

Is it dangerous to eat a cactus?

Eating edible cactus is not dangerous for humans as it does not contain poisons. However, some exceptions may be harmful to humans. More than that certain parts of certain can cause harm to you.

For instance, while the pads of prickly pear are safe for people to touch or eat, the sap that comes from stems can be quite irritating to the skin.

Likes of cacti like Peruvian torch and Peyote Cactus can be somewhat dangerous since these are toxic and can cause hallucinations in people. Hence, they are not edible.

The spines and thorns of cactus can always be dangerous if anybody wants to eat cactus with the skin.

What happens if you eat a cactus?

Most cacti are edible and are not poisonous or dangerous to humans. The most edible parts of the cactus that are safe are the fruits and pads. However, for some people eating raw cactus parts in larger amounts can cause stomach upset, bloating, nausea and vomiting.

Though cactus are safe to eat, but it still can cause uneasiness among people. That is why it is important to know how to eat it properly. Let’s get to know what happens when you eat cactus.

You get nutritional benefits:

Cactus, when eaten in the right quantity can supply adequate amounts of vitamins C, E, A, calcium, iron, and other antioxidants. It also boosts your immunity system.

Some cacti can be poisonous:

All not cactus that meets the eye is edible.

Some of them like Cholla cactus and

Barrel cactus have latex saps that might cause throat and skin irritation. If you have fruit from edible cactus, you might even enjoy the taste, or not!

You might have mild stomach upsets:

Most people have suffered when eating too much cactus is stomach upset. However, for some people, the irritation was a little more.

If you have too much or raw cactus, open flower, or pear skin, you might even experience vomiting, bloating, and nausea. Some people also experience headaches.

Intestinal Blockage:

In parts of Mexico and the USA, eating cactus is both a ritual and a common dish served.

Which means it is eaten in larger amounts. When cacti like prickly pear are eaten in heaps, it could lead to blocks in the intestine in the long run.

Might bite into a distasteful part:

Sometimes, despite being nontoxic to humans, the taste is not flavorsome to many.

For some, eating raw cactus has been like eating watermelon. For others, cooked cactus was too slimy and tasted terrible!

Can you eat a cactus with spikes?

You can eat a cactus that has spikes. However, you would need to get rid of the spikes before you eat them. You can use a peeler or knife to get rid of the spikes.

You may want to note that these spikes are not poisonous and not does contain any toxins.

Like any sharp objects that may harm your insides and create cuts, eating cactus with spikes would create deep cuts and wounds inside the mouth, throat, or even intestine if swallowed.

Hence it is always recommended that you get rid of spikes before eating a cactus.

Which cactuses are safe to eat?

The following cacti are safe to eat:

Prickly Pear:

If you have ever come across nopales in your local grocery store, it’s the prickly pear cactus. Since these cacti are sold in local groceries, you can assume how safe the pads and fruit of prickly pear are.

It is also vital that even pricky pears are eaten with caution. Significantly, the small spines on the skin of the cactus are removed before the plant is eaten.

Dragon Fruit Cactus:

Dragon Fruit cactus is an overall edible plant with flowers, stems as well as fruits that can be eaten without side effects. The taste of this cactus is mildly sweet.

Saguaro Cactus:

Suhaira cactus is known for its fruits which can be eaten in a variety of ways. The seeds of this cactus can also be eaten but when saguaro cactus juice is made, people filter out the seeds for its taste.

The seeds are used in some places to produce a special oil

Cholla Cactus:

The safest part of cholla cactus that you can eat is the flowers. While is it difficult to eat the fruits, the leaves are not recommended as they can cause diarrhea and vomiting due to sap presence.

How to eat cactus?

If you want to eat cactus, here is what you need to do:

Get the edible cactus:

The first step to eating cactus is to get the right kind that can be eaten. For starters, you need to check the tags to see if they are safe to eat.

For instance, if you are picking them or foraging them, you need to be careful. Other than that, it is best to go for bright green ones.

Wear safety measures while picking:

All through, wear gloves and pick out all the spines from the skin of the cactus. You can either use a peeler or a knife to get this job done.

Wash the pads:

Next you need to wash the pads of the cactus with cold or cool water. Wash the pad if you notice any discoloration

Slice the pods and boil:

If you want, you can slice the pods and boil them. You would need to boil them more than once if the sap does not get removed completely.

Eat boiled pads:

You can then eat the boiled pads by cooking them in sauces, spices, stir frying them like a vegetable or with simple pepper and salt.

Wash the fruit and eat:

If you wish to only eat the fruit of the cactus, then you would first need to wash the fruit. Next, you need to completely get rid of the skin of the cactus fruit.

Can you drink water from a cactus?

Drinking water from a cactus is not considered safe due to a few good reasons. First, it is a misconception that cacti are filled with barrels of water. Next, because the cactus water is filled with acids and alkaloids, they can be harmful to humans.

Although not toxic, if you drink this water on an empty stomach, you might start to feel sick in a short period of time.

This includes problems such as immediate vomiting and nausea. Other than that, diarrhea can be a possibility while leaving serious headaches for some.

If you still want to be adventurous and want to taste cactus water, the safest cactus water to have been from fishhook barrel cactus. However, it is important that you only have a few sips of the cactus water.

Final Thoughts

You can only eat edible cactus, meaning some types should not be eaten. While none of the edible cactus parts like fruits and pads are toxic and most can be eaten raw, there are side effects like stomach upset associated with eating too much of one cactus part.