On this last trip south, I became a little obsessed with the sour prickly pear called xoconostle. They’re mostly used for sauces but I had them candied and even in a syrup.


They look almost exactly like a prickly pear, or tuna, until you cut them open.


I was collecting seeds, thinking it might be a gas to grow them here in Napa. Unlike a tuna, the seeds are conveniently all in one handy spot.


This silly little strainer has traveled with all over the world with me. You never know when you’ll come across something worth saving. After scooping out the pits, I rinsed them and strained them and finally let them dry overnight. Then they’re simply scooped into kraft paper coin envelopes (that also travel with me on every trip) and the rest is history.


I used to germinate and start them myself but I’ve discovered I’m too inconsistent and now my plan is to take them to my friend Rose of Morningsun Herb Farm and let her do what she does best.

5 Comments on Xoconostle

  1. Yeah, cactus seeds are tricky to germinate. To be delicate about it, they are “designed” to pass through the digestive tract of an animal before germinating.

    Given the realities of desert life, they are also “designed” to have a very long dormant period and still be viable when they finally do get enough moisture to sprout.

    Some probably require cold treatment, as well.

    Best let the professionals take care of it!

  2. I joined a cactus group, just so I could learn about it. But they think I’m some sort of animal and wouldn’t dream of eating a cactus.

  3. You might want to read my report on Xoconostles and an incredible couple growing and marketing this product in the state of Hidalgo:

    halfway down this page. Enjoy.

  4. About five years ago I saw xoconostles at the San Jose Flea Market, sold as “tchokonostles,” clearly the same Oputnia fruit despite the different spelling. I’ve never seen them in any of the tiendas where I live, San Francisco, but they appear to have at least made their way as far north as the South Bay Area here in California. As already advised it’s hard to grow cacti from seed. If you have a contact who has the correct species (Opuntia matudae) on their property, starting a new “clone” plant from a paddle cut from the “mother” plant will do. Opuntias are quite easy to grow and do so more quickly than most cacti. Just beware the spines … they are evil!

  5. We’ve been getting them here in Napa all Spring! Go figure. Delicious and there’s not a good substitute.

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