Nopal - Prickly Pear
Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, spineless cactus, prickly pear.
What is Prickly Pear?
Prickly pear is a cactus which originated in mexico and is harvested as a fruit crop. Because it is a succulent, it is well adapted to dry conditions. It grows 3-5m in height with thick, succulent stems covered in a wax that is both water and sun-reflecting, and it is studded with needles for leaves. Flowers begin to bloom off these plants after they have grown to the maturity of 1-2 years, the flowers ranging in colour from white, to green, to red. It bears small edible fruit (tasting like watermelon) which is eaten when the skin is peeled off and once it has been chilled for a couple of hours.
Benefits of Prickly Pear
A list of the many health benefits of the prickly pear are as follows: boosts the immune system, assists in weight management, aids in preventing cancer, helps prevent dental decay, gives relief from gout, arthritis, and muscle and joint inflammation, helps reduce appearance of ageing, helps to keep bones healthy and to prevent osteoporosis, aids digestion and eases gastrointestinal issues, and can help improve eyesight. Most importantly perhaps, it has been noted to be an effective hangover cure!
How to consume Prickly Pear
The fruit of prickly pears are often rendered into jellies and jams, and are most frequently used in a number of different alcoholic beverages in Spanish speaking Countries. The skin of the young cactus can be eaten as well (fried or boiled, often accompanied with eggs for breakfast) and taste like string beans.