Nopalitos (Cactus Stems)
Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis
Maturity & Quality
Cactus stems or "nopalitos" (in Spanish) are the rapidly-growing succulent stems of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp). They are grown in California as a specialty vegetable or imported from Mexico, where they are a traditional vegetable. Cactus stems are harvested based on size, and can be harvested small (
Good quality nopalitos are fresh, turgid and a brilliant green color. Nopalitos should be harvested when young and tender and not early in the morning to avoid a high acid content (see special considerations).
Maturity & Quality Photos
Temperature & Controlled AtmosphereOptimum Temperature
Generally nopalitos should be cooled to about 5°C (41°F) to reduce loss of visual appearance due to water loss. The recommended conditions for storage of nopalitos are 5°C to 10°C (41°F to 50°F) at high relative humidity. The major factors limiting storage life of nopalitos are decay and dehydration. Nopalitos stored under higher temperatures rapidly loss their brilliant shiny appearance, become dull green and may also begin to yellow and curve inward due to water loss. Good quality can be maintained for
To calculate heat production multiply ml CO2/kg·hr by 440 to get Btu/ton/day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton/day.
Rates of Ethylene Production
Ethylene production rates are very low (0.05, 0.10 and 0.20 µl/kg·hr at 5°C (41°F), 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F), respectively).
Nopalitos are not very sensitive to ethylene exposure, but exposure at warmer temperatures will enhance yellowing.
No information is available on the potential benefits of modified/controlled atmosphere storage of cactus stems. For diced product, moderate CO2 (5-10%) atmospheres may be beneficial.
Physiological and Physical Disorders
Use of Materials
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How to Cite
Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)
Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality.