Prickly Pear Cactus

"Be careful with the spines or the wine could have a bite!"

The Texas prickly pear cactus is the Opuntia lindheimeri. The broad leaves, called pads or nopalitos, produce pretty yellow to red flowers in spring, which in turn produce red to purple fruit in fall. Both the pads and fruit are edible, but both have tufts of spines protecting them. The spines can be long and large on the pads, but those on the fruit are usually extremely small but just as painful. The peeled fruit has an aroma similar to watermelon. The fruit is the part of the cactus from which wine can be made.

One word of caution. There is a substance in the pigmented fruit of the prickly pear cactus that nearly 1% of the population has an allergy to. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition lists the Opuntia species of the Cactaceae genus on their "Vascular Plants List" of the "Poisonous Plants Database." This listing simply means that toxic effects have been associated with the plants listed by one or more researchers and should not be cited as a definitive conclusion of safety or toxicity. I have drank large quantities of this wine and suffered no ill effects, but you may be among the 1% that would suffer. Thus, you have been advised....


Put prickly pear cactus fruit in large crock or pail. Pour one gallon boiling water over fruit. Wait two minutes (to loosen skin) and drain off water. Allow fruit to cool and carefully peel skin off, being especially watchful not to touch spines. Cut fruit into pieces not larger than one inch, put in pot, add 1/2 gallon water, bring to boil. Reduce heat to maintain gentle boil for 15 minutes. Cover pot and allow to cool to luke warm. Pour fruit and juice into large nylon grain-bag (fine mesh) or sieve and squeeze juice into primary fermentation vessel. Discard pulp. To juice, add sugar, acid blend, yeast and nutrient and stir to dissolve sugar. Cover well and set in warm place for seven days, stirring daily. Siphon off lees into secondary fermentation vessel, top up with water, fit airlock, and let stand three weeks. Rack and top up, then rack again in two months. Allow to clear, rack again if necessary, and bottle. May taste after one year, but improves with age. [Author's own recipe.]

Last update was November 2nd, 2000.

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