I have some cactus in the back field, where I intend to put some kind of foraging animals. But I worry they would hurt themselves on the cactus spines. Any way to make something good out of the situation? "Something is useless until someone finds a use for it."
We have some prickly pear in a pasture where for many, many years my family has kept horses and cows. My daddy has a large patch of yucca and MANY honey locusts in his main cow pasture. I've never known of any of our horses or cows getting hurt.
"Solve world hunger . . . tell no one." The, the, the, . . . THE GRINCH!
During tough times ranchers used to burn the spines off the cactus so the starving cattle could eat it. I think cactus would be an excellent addition to a compost heap, hugelkultur, or buried wood bed. Just make sure the pads are completely buried so they don't regrow. Chopping them up would probably be beneficial but not necessary. The important thing in removing cactus plants is to not leave any broken-off pads behind, each of which will grow into a new plant. I think a manual way of removing them could be to slice them off at ground level with a sharp long-handled tool like this http://www.gemplers.com/product/139340/Heavy-duty-Super-Scrapers-Straight-Handle?sku=139340&srccode=cii_10043468&cpncode=21-181648731-2&src=25SEZLA and pick up the pieces with large barbeque tongs or similar. People often try to get rid of cactus by using tractors and bulldozers etc but often this just distributes the pads around and causes a larger patch. After the plant is removed down to ground level, cut the root off below ground level with a spade. This should kill the plant completely.
Cacti are survivors. They have evolved to thrive under deplorable conditions. Neither heat not drought will harm them The one thing they do need to survive is sunlight. Depriving them of all sunlight will keep them from reappearing.
cactus is very generic name, but if they are prickly pears (Opuntia ficus indica) they give edible fruits, also young pads are edible (nopales) pads are an emergency survival source of water (peel strips of tender pads and squeeze with your hand fist pointing thumb to your mouth to drink) also is food for cattle after burning spines with a propane torch, and old parts dried are a source of fuel where wood isn't available, Here in the south of spain and Portugal some people use them as impenetrable living fences
Was just out gathering prickly pear pads and fruit. I am guessing that the yield of fruit might be 1/2 pound per square foot, maybe more - these vigorous buggers are growing in a traffic island I drive by on my way to work, they get zero care. Here are some images:
In previous years I've made a really delicious cobbler with Prickly Pear and Apple, with a little lemon juice to add tang to the fruit. Prickly Pear fruit can be a little bland, but the color is so beautiful one can forgive it. We've eaten the pads a few times, they are quite slimey like Okra and taste a little bit like a sour green bean. Best sauteed, I think. I wish the pads were easier to prepare, I think we'd eat them more often if they were, but I always end up getting stuck with the little prickles (glochids) which exist even on the "Spineless" kind.
Yes, I find prickly pear and dragon fruit delicious, but the flavor is thin and one dimensional. They are much better blended with another type of fruit. Carambola is another fruit that has a nice aroma/flavor, but it is not full bodied. I'm looking for a way to extract the juice and run it through a filter so that it doesn't take forever to deal with these fruits.
The prickly pear I got are a gorgeous, deep dark purple on the inside. The pigments in prickly pear/dragon fruit/beets are somewhat different than the typical red/purple/blue pigments found in other fruits (the anthocyanins in most berries), but they have some health benefits; a few include: