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Paddle Cactus, Nopales.... my quest for lots of fruits to help control blood pressure

 
Deb Rebel
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Over the last few years I have had high blood pressure issues, and been looking into the various Opuntia varieties of 'paddle' cactus as the fruits are fairly good in smoothies (just deal with the SEEDS) and are supposed to be a good thing to keep your blood pressure down. Also you can burn off the nearly lethal stickers some kinds have, and they can be cattle feed, or strip cut and fry up, taste not unlike green beans.

Some kinds will also make good fencing, or a good perimeter for your fence to help keep trespassers out. (Or so I'm selling the project to my husband with). Though some ranchers will purposely plant them in areas where it's hard to fence and they want to keep the cattle out of there....

Joseph Lofthouse sent me some Opuntia pads, that were rooted, bare root shipped. It has taken about a month, and they are doing wonderfully. (seed is still snoozing, but they seem to be getting ready to do something in the starter tray)

There are also two people with established plants that have said I can have a pad in the spring, one is a yellow bloomer and smaller fruits and growing into his driveway, so cleaning them out of the driveway would be a favor to both. The second one has fuschia/magenta blooms and makes big red fruit that look lie the store ones. Again, he has some growing where they shouldn't... and there is a small wild variety that I can dig a few of that someone else wants out of near the edge of their garden.

The flat paddle is the FIRST one I've gotten to root, and I've tried several times with no luck including the plop them flat. So cheering here. I am in zone 6b at some altitude, and we have had lots of issues with drought. Our dirt could be adobe if not amended, so that is the climate and conditions... now I amend a LOT where I grow, with sand and compost. Soil tests have shown we are calcium deficient so I have to also add gypsum (old non sulfur'ed drywall well busted into powder again---recycling urbanite materials instead of them going to landfill!).

[I freely admit, some of this post is just to post bragging pictures of my new green babies! It's spring, isn't it? Yet? Please?)
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Opuntia Polycantha, end had rooties ...
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Opuntia Humifusa, no longer so shrivelly ...
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Store Bought Paddle Cactus Pads with baby Aloes
 
Bryant RedHawk
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great post.

We are getting ready to acquire around 20 pads from some really large stands. I'm going to slice them at the junction then let them heal for a month to scab over the cut wound.
I've been instructed, by a friend that grows them, to plant the scabbed over end 2" into our soil without any amendments and just let them be.
He also told me that when planting seeds it might take two years to see any plants come up, so I'm going with the pad method since I want some growing sooner than later.
It is going to be a nice little experiment and I hope they will root well since this plant has many medicinal uses as well as being a good food.

Thank you for your post.

Redhawk
 
Dan Boone
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Pretty!

I've got a wild opuntia here on the property but the fruit is no thicker than a carpenter's pencil and quite juiceless, just dry seeds.  I've harvested better (though not awesome) fruit off "decorative" patches found around the county for seeds, but none of them have been really delicious and so that hasn't been a top-priority project.  I also have a couple of two-year-old opuntia grown from seed that was sold to me as a fruit variety; the better of these is now about eight inches tall and needs a transplant from its pot into a permanent home, I'm thinking a tire planter with a lot of gravel and sand in the soil mix for good drainage. 

Got a question, how do you manage those beautiful metal tags?  Do you have one of those dial-type label makers that prints on metal tape, or ???  I do something similar but infinitely less attractive by hand-cutting aluminum rectangles from soda-pop cans and scribing them with a nail...
 
Deb Rebel
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@ Bryant RedHawk, thank you. I have tried flatback, edge in, cut (after callousing for 4-5 days) in, and finally got a flatback going, from the store bought food paddle variety. I went to a regular soiless pot mix and once well rooted can go to something a bit more sandy and draining. To hedge bets you might want to flop one flat, but pads like to curl if they are very large and thin so keeping it pressed to the soil can be an issue, and keeping the soil moist enough for it to encourage the pad to root.

@Dan Boone, I bought a metal embossing label maker. Mine was secondhand as a new one (with some plastic parts) is around $200 and I have an old all metal, which has some issues. I run aluminum-no adhesive 1/2" tape (that is what it is made for, 1/2") as that is much cheaper than stainless. It has a tool bit to  punch the hole, then I can use undipped aluminum electric fence wire (TSC sells a 1/4 mile reel for cheap) and make attachments with it. All my mother plants and such get a tag and I usually use the latin name, color if applicable, and variety name if it has one. Even a few PPAF or plant patented plants (which also get marked thus) in my landscape, everything has a tag. I originally invested in it to make water lily, bog, and marginal plant tags that wouldn't die from exposure. Everything else I tried died within a year. It has been worth it even if the tapes are expensive. For the picture I put the ID tag across the pot instead of stuck in at the edge.

If you see in the last picture, I put one pad flat (it cupped and I made a depression and kept mounding dirt under the edge as it cupped more) and one on edge and like about 20-30 others before it, the on edge one is dying. Joseph Lofthouse said the flat pad he sent he'd pried out of the floor in his greenhouse from where it'd fallen and taken up residence.

The two I am going to be collecting this spring, I know what their fruits look like and one is definitely the big huge red ones like the store sells for food. I have some seeds from a store bought fruit I'm trying to start also. As a kid way back in the dark ages, I started cacti from seed, and grew them into fair sized plants in several years. (assortment of seed, mostly one variety). I know it can take awhile to get them to sprout.... 

By getting several varieties I can also try different fruits for yield, taste, production quirks, and how well the juice/pulp of the fruits seem to work. Because pads are edible, they also fit into my food garden/forest as something a lot of people wouldn't consider food and overlook if times got rough. Having several varieties growing also masks them as food, they look like an ornamental collection.

Not to mention neighbor kids that like to climb my fence, a nice cactus border ought to keep them on their side.
 
Anne Miller
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Deb, have you experimented with cactus to know how long it will take to control/lower blood pressure or how much you will have to eat?

Thanks everyone for the great info.
 
Deb Rebel
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Anne Miller wrote:Deb, have you experimented with cactus to know how long it will take to control/lower blood pressure or how much you will have to eat?

Thanks everyone for the great info.


I know I can stand to eat the fruits. They are very seedy and best to peel or cut open and mash into a strainer to get the juice out. I freeze that in ice cube trays then can add to a smoothie. I was trying 1/8 of a cup (two tablespoons) as a 'dose' but I didn't have enough to make a good run/test this past fall. Hence I need to cultivate them. A V8 Splash type smoothie works best, not too sweet and add a few veggie notes in there, to blend into.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Deb, do the fruits need to be eaten fresh to control BP, or can they be cooked?  I bury a lot of less palatable things in curries, so I can imagine adding cactus fruits to curry as well.

 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Deb, do the fruits need to be eaten fresh to control BP, or can they be cooked?  I bury a lot of less palatable things in curries, so I can imagine adding cactus fruits to curry as well.



I haven't had the chance to have enough to really try that yet. My sources led me to using the juice 'fresh' (or frozen). I do eat the pads at times, they can be 'flash burnt' to get rid of the fine spines, then cut up and they taste somewhat like green beans in stirfry. Do make sure if you're using tofu to flavor out your tofu with something else or you won't like eating nopales flavored tofu. I cook the noplales separately, then set aside and add near the end to reheat them, this controls the goo issue and accidentally flavoring your tofu the way you don't want.

https://patijinich.com/recipe/cleaning_cactus_paddles_or_nopales/ is a nice quick tutorial on how to prepare the pads. I like to flash them with a crème brulee torch, but you can do the preparation her way just as easily. Those spines are no joke. Respect them seriously. (at the store they tie a set of tongs there for you to handle and bag your nopales)
 
Anne Miller
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From the link you posted:

"To clean them, if it’s your first time, you may want to use plastic gloves. Rinse tunder cold water being careful with the thorns. Nopales are persnickety, their thorns are almost invisible, but a good clue is that wherever there is a bump there may be a thorn. Then, using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, pretty much as if they were asparagus, peel away the bumps and thorns, you may want to lean the nopales against a chopping board, and then rinse again. No need to peel off all of the outer dark green skin, in fact, try to keep as much as you can."

This actually sound like the hard way to get rid of the spines, I would want to put them over my gas stove burner then use her method to get any thorns remaining.  I plan to try them this spring if I find any plants with new pads and in August if the deer leave any tunas for me to experiment with.

This post is for the Tunas, but I wonder if it would work for the pads:

"If you cook them in any recipe, like for your liqueur, you could cook them down to get the juice, there is no need to remove spines. The spines dissolve in hot water.
We make syrup in a similar way, cut and boil the fruit until you have juice, add sugar and a little lime. Boil for a few minutes, then strain."

https://permies.com/t/49834/Prickly-Pear-perfect-permaculture-plant

 
Deb Rebel
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I did find the peeler bit to be a little tedious because I prefer to play with fire to get rid of them. I will have to try the boil/dissolve the spines bit. Grocery store got nopale pads in again, so if I haven't grown enough yet I can still try it...
 
Deb Rebel
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I got some more nopales pads at grocery store and going to plant them today. The flatback is looking dubious now so I'm going to prepare it a new pot and replant it today. It says they need a lot more light than I've been giving them so I rigged a shelf in the only south window I have (bathroom) to put them on for the most light.

Joseph has magic at his place, the two (Humifusa and Polyacantha) are doing swimmingly and going to get repotted today also. I found that technically both varieties are supposed to be growing wild here so I started to hunt through natural prairie locations to try to find some. I have a safari planned for this afternoon. I have seen small padded cacti at a friend's place by his truck farm garden and he has no problems with me helping self to anything stickery on his place. I also waded a friend's pasture yesterday and got a sample of a Cholla (Opuntia Imbricata) so as to continue my plans to collect native samples and make a specimen display to hide the cacti as food in my food forest.

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Polyacantha being 'rude' as of 2/28
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Humifusa going for it as of 2/28
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The Cholla (Opuntia Imbricata) that gave a sample
 
Deb Rebel
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That cholla cutting bit me pretty badly today. Moving it with tongs and it slipped and I couldn't stop the reflex to grab it fast enough. The spines are curved and once they go in they have to be pulled out the way they came (with the curve) with needlenose pliers.

The only part that really hurt, trust me, was trying to find which way the curve went. Once I got that it came out. I have hurt myself worse when zapping myself to test blood sugar. It was still cringeworthy to have to cut the spines off with a small pair of nippers, then take the pliers and remove each one individually.

The flat Opuntia Ficus-Indica started a center bit of rot but it put a root at the end so I planted it upright and hope it comes around. I have bought a couple more pads from the store and planted them vertically. If I can just get ONE going I can deal with making more then.

The Opuntia Humifusa got replanted today into a bigger pot and hopefully will be happy and continue to make with pads and be a happy plant. It was so shriveled up when it arrived that it fit the pot, once it got re-hydrated it was too big...

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Truely imbedded, four spines total
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See the end is slightly curved?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Deb Rebel wrote:That cholla cutting bit me pretty badly today.


Ouch! Been there, done that.
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Cholla
 
Deb Rebel
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Deadly gorgeous Cholla there. What color does it bloom? The one I collected is a yellow bloom and survives fine in a pasture with cattle and horses. I am going to try to get an ID on exactly what type tonight (that last spine-ing was the worst and it is bothering me tonight. Enough to remind me not to grab if one of those falls ever again...)
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I don't remember the flowers on the cholla. There have only been a few....

Here's another nasty spined one: Opuntia fragilaris.

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Opuntia fragilaris
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Opuntia basilaris

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Opuntia basilaris
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Opuntia basilaris flowering
 
Deb Rebel
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The picture with the mystery cactus, does not have enough definition to identify the small pad of the unknown.  Sorry Joseph.

I was successful today in a collecting run, of the large red fruited cactus near me, and the yellowish fruited (yellow bloom) one as well. I think I can dig up blooming pictures and get those ID'd today.

There is one more very thin paddle and some feral digging by friend's place to do yet.

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The big red fruited one in it's planter, today 2 March
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Red fruited pad. At base of thumb is 1 inch-SPINES
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With the yellowish fruited one, three pads-Spines
 
John Elliott
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Chollas generally have yellow flowers (where I grew up).

Why don't you try something a little less dangerous for blood pressure?  Like Hibiscus sabdariffa?  Although if you punch enough holes with cholla  spines, that would let down the pressure. 
 
Deb Rebel
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John Elliott wrote:Chollas generally have yellow flowers (where I grew up).

Why don't you try something a little less dangerous for blood pressure?  Like Hibiscus sabdariffa?  Although if you punch enough holes with cholla  spines, that would let down the pressure. 


The Cholla around here generally are yellow, though I've heard rumors of pinkish magenta.

I figure that I'd rather give blood for cactus instead of roses. Roses may smell nice but I can't keep them alive. Cactus, moreso.

Besides nothing says 'go away' like inch and a half long bristly spined spiny alien-like plants crouched along your fence... and keep people out of your hidden food forest.

Here the population is about 1/4th Hispanic so the store actually carries nopales and tuna in season... and hibiscus can be a hit or miss here. The variety you mention is a zone 9 or warmer, and I am in 6b barely. I have enough plants to lug in and out of the house every season, sigh. A 20f winter is not in our cards, we are more like -10 for a few days. Better than where I grew up where we were just short of permafrost. The cactus will survive here, at least several varieties of Opuntia will.
 
Deb Rebel
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I got permission to visit a pocket of town where the natural high plains groundcover (native grasses and more) are still intact, at a friend's place. I went foraging for Opuntia and I wasn't skunked. Only three small spines to collect these three. Possibly Humifusa... need to compare with my little samples that are growing like gangbusters.

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Double clump in ground
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Anti-Friendly
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Installed in Temporary home in raised bed away from people
 
Deb Rebel
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I found this site: https://www.opuntiads.com/ ; they are serious experts about the various Opuntia varieties and have some excellent pictures. Somewhere else I found a listing for a club that had a list of all the native cactus species to be found in the state and where they are. By their list there are seven, including a cholla and two other 'round spiny' types, and four paddles (Opuntia). I am attempting to match my winter appearance feral cactus specimens.

Joseph Lofthouse, you might be able to identify your unknown cactus from their picture collection.

[edit] by winter color, shape, spine pattern, and wrinkle pattern, I have a wild collected trio of Opuntia Humifusa. Yah! 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Here's a closeup of my mystery opuntia. Fruits were large, sweet, and red. It may not be native, since the seed came to me as unidentified mixed species. I think that the flower was cyan.

Also, I pruned the cactus bed, and harvested seeds of Opuntia humifusa and O. polyacantha. The seeds of the mystery cactus are smaller like O. humifusa, and not huge like O. polyacantha.

I don't mind the huge spines. I just yank them out. It's the tiny ones that irritate me!



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Mystery Opuntia
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Harvesting cactus seeds, and pruning bed.
 
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