Source for Ountia ficus-indica cultivars?

fabaceae_nativeOctober 22, 2012

The cultivated prickly pear is one of those fruits that is greatly under-appreciated in this country, perhaps as a result of the scarcity of information and availability of it's varieties. I'm guilty of this ignorance too, as it took me years to get up the courage to buy one of the greenish yellow varieties (I thought they would not be ripe). Turned out it was excellent, but I can't find any place that sells anything other than "Burbank Spineless" which seems not a specific cultivar at all, but a group of spineless prickly pears, which pretty much all of them are nowadays.

Any help would be great...

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)


You will find more than you ever dreamed of here. I plan to go to the nursery soon myself.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cold Hardy Cactus from the American West and Beyond!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 4:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks milehighgirl, for that fantastic link!

They sure have an amazing variety of prickly pears (Opuntia) but unfortunately no ficus-indica, probably because it is not cold hardy. But there sure are some interesting species and hybrids with amazing flower colors.

Incidentally, I just ate the last few prickly pears from my Opuntia engelmannii, which is a wild form growing near Albuquerque. They were very ripe and tasted fantastic. Unfortunately most were eaten long ago by the packrats and never ripened fully. These, along with my Opuntia macrocentra, are among the best flavored hardy species I have tried, but they still lack the edibility factor of those cultivated green Opuntia ficus-indica. Those taste just like good honeydew and have a nice texture.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 3:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I am out of my depth completely with "tuna". I plan to visit the nursery and acquire the most tasty for zone 5. But where to put it, that's the question!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will be interested to know what they suggest for the tastiest in your zone. I've found several of the hedgehog cacti (Echinocereus) to have exquisite fruit when ripe, which are spineless and have small edible poppy-like seeds, but they set very few fruits and these are quickly eaten by every sort of creature. The flowers of this genus are also incredibly beautiful.

Thus I've focused more on finding really good Opuntia. The plants are much more vigorous, easy to propagate (just rip off a pad from a plant you want and stick it in the ground), and way more prolific than the above, but the fruits have spines and/or glochids, and can range from sweet watermelon-like in flavor to sour, gooey, and even 'gamey'. Best I've found are O. engelmannii and O. macrocentra, both should be hardy in your area in a good microclimate. O. phaeacantha, even hardier, has smaller but quite tasty tunas. Several others, such as O. rodantha, O. polyacantha, and O. basilaris, have dry fruits at maturity, but are still worth growing for visual appeal.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 2:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

From what little info I can find it seems that most of the selections for flavor are not from O. ficus-indica. Indian Fig does seem to have the best flavor and be the most popular in the tropics but it doesn't seem like anyone is working with them as far as breeding goes. Rumor has it that various colors and flavors exist in Mexico (both the fruit and the pads!). I have stumbled upon people mentioning certain forms that have made it to California but I don't know if those fruits taste better than Indian Fig. When I did grow Indian Fig in a pot it didn't make many fruits.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There must be hundreds of cultivars of Indian Fig, mostly they seem to be grown in places like Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, and the Middle East, so the info on the web in English regarding this species is very minimal. I only ever see two types in the grocery stores here (and these are Mexican or Asian type markets), a red one and a green one. Many varieties of this plant are grown for the pads, and never seem to fruit, but the one I started from a single pad in a pot last winter produced five new pads and one fruit (unripe still).

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All the fruit I've tasted in the Caribbean were just local varieties (and the flavor varied from island to island). No one was actively breeding or isolating better performing plants. I think it is because it is so easy to grow there that no one ever considered breeding for better performance. I've seen the same situation in Mexico and South America. People may gush about a certain region having wonderful tasting tunas but no one is trying to breed for it. The bigger breeding programs that I have heard about are with other Opuntia and not ficus-indica. There are supposed to be nopales and tuna with distinctive flavors (citrus being a favorite) but they seem highly regional and no one seems to be importing them.

Last year I found a website selling pads and products from a farm in California that was working on various Opuntia species and hybrids. It was mostly focused on the medicinal value and not about fruit flavor. I'll dig around and see if I can find it again.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I finally got to Timberline Gardens today. Kelly Grummons was there and I was able to ask him which cacti he suggests for fruit. I ended up buying two:

OP035: Opuntia phaeacantha 'Mesa Sky'
Abundant gold flowers with red stripes in the petals in June. This vigorous grower has stunning, cinnamon spines, blue pads and TONS of gorgeous red pears. It may well be the best native strain for fruit production. 12" high by 48" wide. Zone 5. Introduced by Denver Botanic Gardens. Destined to be a favorite landscape variety due to its year around beauty.

OP034: Opuntia phaeacantha (Prickly Pear Cactus)
Lemon yellow flowers in June, vigorous grower, large, red, tasty fruit. 8" high by 36" wide. Zone 3. Collected in central Colorado.

Each one has three developing fruits!

This post was edited by milehighgirl on Sun, Jul 14, 13 at 1:12

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 12:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks milehigh,

'Mesa Sky' sounds very interesting. In no time you should have TONS of fruit as well. Looks like I'll be able to fill a few gallon containers from just three or four 3 year-old plants this year. Mine are wild O. engelmannii, which are larger than O. phaeacantha, but slightly less hardy (zone 5 would be pushing it unless with a really good microclimate).

By the way, I was looking at your post on the pawpaws and persimmons. I hope you still give them a try and that you are successful (I've pretty much given up on Pawpaw where I live, but our humidity is quite a bit lower).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 11:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

My Rosseyanka persimmon is the only tree from England's that has made it. While I was at Timberline I picked up some WiltPruf. I hope it helps.

I have decided to plant the pawpaw on the NE side of my house where they will get only morning sun. The soil there is ususally much cooler and moist. I think I can manage to make a microclimate there and even put misters above them attached to the side of the house.

I would like to try your Opuntia engelmannii. Maybe we can set up a trade.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good luck with positioning your pawpaw, sounds like a good idea.

In terms of a trade, if your new cacti have enough new pads next year, maybe by the end of the summer we could mail each other some.

Here's a picture of the cactus in flower from last month...

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

...and another pic of some of the fruits a month later (just now).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 3:35PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
stark bros apricot with pits that taste like almonds
Does anyone have experience with this apricot variety? It...
Bushwhacker Blood
Lime Sulphur spray--I feel like I was just robbed by Hi-yield
I have no idea why Hi-yield (or maybe it's the sellers)...
What is happening to my Apple Tree? Fixes?
We purchased this tree and planted it a year ago. ...
Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b
Hello F&O people, I wonder if you could help me...
conflicting pawpaw spacing info
Last week I planted several dozen paw paw. I had read...
Bushwhacker Blood
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™