Nopales are easy to plant and grow in most parts of California, according to UC Cooperative Extension agricultural advisor Richard Molinar. When harvested, they give ᴍᴀɴy meals a flavor similar to green beans, and they can add interest to any landscape. Molinar has grown a sample of both types of cactus plants in the speciality crops demonstration field at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. He said the best time to plan for planting nopales is late winter when the earth warms and the ʀɪsᴋ of a freeze has passed.
Although nopales can be produced from seeds, the growth is gradual. Pads allow for easier and quicker propagation. Cut a pad that is at least six months old from a growing cactus, which can be discovered in the yards of friends or neighbors or purchased at nurseries, and sit it upright while a callous develops. This process takes a week or two in warm weather; it takes longer in humid weather.
When planting the pad in a mixture of soil and sand or coarse pumice, place it upright and about an inch deep. The pad will promote decomposition if it is buried too deeply. Secure the pad with pebbles to keep it standing. Place the pad with the narrow side facing north and sound and the broad side facing east and west if you live somewhere with harsh summer sun to prevent sunburn. Do not irrigate. When the pad is sufficiently moist, roots can grow; however, excessive moisture might cause rot. Water the area to promote root growth once the soil has completely dried between irrigations. Allow a few months to pass before beginning to harvest.
In Molinar’s files, nopal pads fell to the ground, took root, and started growing totally on their own, demonstrating how simple nopal propagation is. Well-maintained plants may produce 20 to 40 half-pound pads per harvest in warm areas. To remove the pads, carefully tear them apart from the supporting pads. the ideal time of day for each harvest to harvest the pads. By carefully cutting the pads’ supporting pads, you can remove the pads. When the acid level is at its lowest, mid-morning to mid-afternoon is the optimal time of day to harvest the pads.
The cochineal scale is a significant pest of nopales. According to Molinar, a number of kinds of spineless cacti failed at Kearney due to cochineal. It seems that the nopales with spines were more pest-resistant. The cause of resistance is genetic rather than a fault with the spines. It was fairly obvious. We even had a couple spineless varieties, but they were unharmed. In Central America, the cochineal scale has long been valued as a source of scarlet color. During the colonial era, cochineal scale was Mᴇxɪᴄᴏ’s second-highest valued export behind silver, but as synthetic colors became more popular, deᴍᴀɴd decreased.
Let’s see the ᴀᴡᴇsome nopal cactus harvesting – nopal cactus cultivation – cactus farming and harvest in the ᴀᴡᴇsome video below.
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Video resource: Noal Farm