Friday, February 17, 2017

Cactus fruit or prickly pear

The cactus fruit is a berry that is frequently juicy and eaten by humans including those of the prickly pear or tuna, cactus (Opuntia).

The prickly pear has been a notable food for desert dwellers since aboriginal times; no doubt it was important to the Aztecs; nomadic desert forebears, the Chichimecs.

Cactus fruits are readily eaten and dispersed by desert tortoises, birds, rodents, coyotes, peccaries and other animals.

About 70-80% of the fruits by dry weight is sugar, mostly fructose which is better tolerated by diabetics than glucose and sucrose.

Spanish conquerors of Mexico recognized the benefits of the prickly pear fruits, due to their vitamin C content, as a partial cure for the scurvy that plagued their sailors.

The driving force behind the prickly pear’s use and popularity is its ability to function as both food and medicine.

Historically, fruits were eaten fresh or sun-dried, pickled cooked as a vegetables in stews or cooked to derive syrups, jellies, or preserves. Fruit juice or pulp mostly from prickly pears, also used to flavor the alcoholic beverage pulque, or the juice simply was mixed with water to produce a sweet drink.
Cactus fruit or prickly pear
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