A spring view of Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom in a NY garden.
Prickly Pear Cactus of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae) have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are modified branches or stems that provide photosynthesis, water storage and flower production.
The fruits of most prickly pears are edible and sold in stores under the name "tuna." Prickly Pear branches (the pads) are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They, too, are sold in stores under the name "Nopalito." Because of the glochids, great care is required when harvesting or preparing prickly pear cactus. Prickly Pear Nectar is made with the juice and pulp of the fruits.