Opuntia 🌵️ Cactus Chips

Food Design

3 weeks
Partner Project

Project Overview


Over the course of 3 weeks I worked with Carmen Kelly to create a line of products that utilized a sustainable, unique, and versatile ingredient. We wanted to not only provide a tasty and memorable food experience for the user but also consider how the production of the prickly pear cactus itself could be useful in the face of desertification.


Process

Experimentation and Exploration

I harvested cladodes, the young green paddles of the cactus, and pears from the large prickly pear cactus that grows in my backyard in CA. 


When we experimented we focused on creating recipies where cactus was the primary ingredient and seasoning and flour only played a secondary role.


So What? 


This product has an opportunity to increase awareness about the culinary and environmental potentials of the prickly pear cactus, its viability as an agricultural product, and to create demand for the plant in markets elsewhere.




Opuntia introduces the prickly pear cactus as a low-commitment snack item. The cactus chips and the prickly pear drink are both familiar snack forms.

In this way a unique and environmentally friendly agricultural product can be introduced into the global market in a form that is both familiar and exciting to consumers.






It is time that the foods we eat and the agricultural practices we support are not only tasty but also protect the environment.


Reflection

If I were to continue the project I would work on creating larger batches of these products to begin developing a viable production method.

The prickly pear cactus is an immensely versatile plant that also has potential as a biofuel, efficient fodder, and even as a construction material. I would be interested in seeing if, through the production of food items, waste and trimmings could be used for other purposes.

In many ways this project has taught me to look at food as a vehicle for larger change. It has made me consider consumer culture, climate change, food systems, and our agricultural practices in a new light.