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Delicious, once you get past the spikes

Delicious, once you get past the spikes

If you were hiking in Grand Canyon National Park and hungry, you might reach for a granola bar in your backpack. But if you were out of food entirely, there’s actually an unexpected source of nourishment that dwells on desert plains. Believe it or not, it’s the prickly pear cactus.

Those native to the Grand Canyon region including the O’odham and Piipaash people have been in on this quietly tasty plant for centuries. Not only can you eat theimposing prickly pear, it’s also good for you. Your mother will be happy to know that these cacti are high in antioxidants and fiber, and a solid source of vitamin C, potassium and magnesium.

You can snack on the purple fruit of the prickly pear as well as the pads of the cactus —that’s the main green part with the spiky stickers. While the prickly pear is also known as the devil's-tongue, it can be just heavenly to cook with. Some say that it tastes a bit like watermelon.

At this website, you can pick up an array of prickly pear products including coffee grounds, lemonade, margarita mix, syrup, salsa and marmalade. We also feature apparel, locally made jewelry and artwork and much more.

You might be sitting there thinking, “Maybe it’s good for me, but I still don’t know about eating a cactus.” In that case, consider that prairie dogs, jackrabbits, bats, iguanas and coyotes also dine on this desert staple (this may or may not sway your decision). Regardless, there are 18 species of prickly pear within the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Further, the prickly pear is as tough as it looks. It can withstand temperatures of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which you might expect from a cactus. But this plant can take the cold, too, tolerating temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the prickly pear is hardy, you might consider planting it in your garden. Just keep in mind that this cactus reproduces and spreads quickly.

Finally, if you’re looking to impress at trivia night, the prickly pear is the official cactus of Texas and it’s featured on the Mexican coat of arms.

Now, you’re on your way to becoming an amateur eremologist (a scientist who studies desert features and phenomenon). The best in prickly pear tastes and authentic Grand Canyon keepsakes can be found right here.

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