Opuntia ficus-indica
San Miguel de Allende (Mexico, November 2018) - 106 (50998375682).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
Species:
O. ficus-indica
Binomial name
Opuntia ficus-indica
Synonyms[2]
  • Cactus decumanus Willd.
  • Nopal Willd.
  • Cactus ficus-indica L.
  • Opuntia amyclaea Ten.
  • Opuntia cordobensis Speg.
  • Opuntia decumana (Willd.) Haw.
  • Opuntia ficus-barbarica A.Berger
  • Opuntia gymnocarpa F.A.C.Weber
  • Opuntia hispanica Griffiths
  • Opuntia maxima Mill.
  • Opuntia megacantha Salm-Dyck
  • Opuntia paraguayensis K.Schum.

Opuntia ficus-indica, the Indian fig opuntia, fig opuntia, or prickly pear, is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant grown in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world.[3] O. ficus-indica is the most widespread and most commercially important cactus.[2][3] It is grown primarily as a fruit crop, and also for the vegetable nopales and other uses. Cacti are good crops for dry areas because they convert water into biomass efficiently. O. ficus-indica, as the most widespread of the long-domesticated cactuses, is as economically important as maize and blue agave in Mexico. Because Opuntia species hybridize easily, the wild origin of O. ficus-indica is likely to have been in Mexico because its close genetic relatives are found in central Mexico.[4]

Names

Most culinary references to the "prickly pear" are referring to this species. The Spanish name tuna is also used for the fruit of this cactus, and for Opuntia in general; according to Alexander von Humboldt, it was a word of Taino origin taken into the Spanish language around 1500.[5]

Common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, prickly pear, and spineless cactus, among many.[3] In Mexican Spanish, the plant is called nopal, while the fruit is called tuna, names that may be used in American English as culinary terms. In Eritrea, the name for the O. ficus-indica fruit is beles.

Description

Flowering
Flowering
Flower
Flower
Fruit
Fruit

O. ficus-indica is polyploid, hermaphroditic, and autogamous.[6] As Opuntia species grow in semiarid environments, the main limiting factor in their environment is water. They have developed a number of adaptations to dry conditions, notably succulence.[7]

A perennial shrub, O. ficus-indica can grow up to 5 m in height, with thick, succulent, and oblong to spatulate stems called cladodes. It has a water-repellent and sun-reflecting waxy epidermis. Cladodes that are 1–2 years old produce flowers, with the fruit's colours ranging from pale green to deep red.[6]

The plants flower in three distinct colours: white, yellow, and red. The flowers first appear in early May through the early summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the fruits ripen from August through October.[citation needed] The fruits are typically eaten, minus the thick outer skin, after chilling in a refrigerator for a few hours. They have a taste similar to sweet watermelon. The bright red/purple or white/yellowish flesh contains many tiny hard seeds that are usually swallowed, but should be avoided by those who have problems digesting seeds.

Uses

Human consumption

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Sliced nopales
Sliced nopales

O. ficus-indica is consumed widely as food.[3] The fruits are commercialized in many parts of the world, eaten raw, and have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C of any fruit.[3] The "leaves" (or cladodes – technically stems) are cooked and eaten as a vegetable known as nopalitos.[3] They are sliced into strips, skinned or unskinned, and fried with eggs and jalapeños, served as a breakfast treat. They have a texture and flavor like green beans. The fruits or leaves can be boiled, used raw, or blended with fruit juice, cooked on a frying pan, and used as a side dish with chicken, or added to tacos. Jams and jellies are produced from the fruit, which resemble strawberries and figs in color and flavor.[3] Mexicans may use Opuntia fruit to make an alcoholic drink called colonche.[8]

In Sicily, a prickly pear-flavored liqueur called ficodi is produced, flavored somewhat like a medicinal aperitif. In Malta, a liqueur called bajtra (the Maltese name for prickly pear) is made from this fruit, which can be found growing wild in almost every field. On the island of Saint Helena, the prickly pear also gives its name to locally distilled liqueur, Tungi Spirit.

Fodder

The cattle industry of the Southwest United States has begun to cultivate O. ficus-indica,[3][9] both as a feed source for cattle and a boundary fence. Cattle are fed the spineless variety of the cactus.[9] The cactus pads are low in dry matter and crude protein, but useful as a supplement in drought conditions. In addition to the food value, the moisture content adequately eliminates watering the cattle during drought.[9] Numerous wildlife species use the prickly pear for food.[9] In severe drought years, the spines are sometimes burned off of wild prickly pear for use as emergency feed.

Soil erosion prevention

O. ficus-indica is planted in hedges to provide a cheap but effective erosion control in the Mediterranean basin. Under those hedges and adjacent areas, soil physical properties, nitrogen, and organic matter are considerably improved. Structural stability of the soil is enhanced, runoff and erosion are reduced, while water storage capacity and permeability is enhanced.[10] Prickly pear plantations also have a positive impact on plant growth of other species by improving severe environmental conditions which facilitate colonization and development of herbaceous species.[11]

O. ficus-indica is being advantageously used in Tunisia and Algeria to slow and direct sand movement and enhance the restoration of vegetative cover, thus minimizing deterioration of built terraces with its deep and strong rooting system.[12]

Other

The plant may be used as an ingredient in adobe to bind and waterproof roofs.[4] O. ficus-indica (as well as other species in Opuntia and Nopalea) is cultivated in nopalries to serve as a host plant for cochineal insects, which produce desirable red and purple dyes,[3] a practice dating to the pre-Columbian era.[13]

Mucilage from prickly pear may work as a natural, nontoxic dispersant for oil spills.[14]

Mexico has a semicommercial pilot plant for biofuel production from Opuntia biomass, in operation since 2016.[15]

Cultivation

Distribution

In Secunderabad, India

A commercial use for O. ficus-indica is for the large, sweet fruits, called tunas. An area with a significant tuna-growing cultivation is Mexico.[16] The cactus grows wild and cultivated to heights of 12–16 feet (3.7–4.9 m). In Namibia, O. ficus-indica is a common drought-resistant fodder plant.[17] O. ficus-indica grows in many frost-free areas of the world, including the Southern United States.[18]

Prickly pears are a massive weed problem for some parts of Australia, especially southeast Queensland, some inland parts of New South Wales, Victoria, and south-eastern and eastern South Australia.[19][20][21][22]

Growth

The plant is considered an invasive species in northern Africa.[3][23] Factors that limit the growth of prickly pear are rainfall, soil, atmospheric humidity, and temperature.[24] Its minimum rainfall requirement is 200 mm per year as long as the soils are sandy and deep. The ideal growth conditions regarding rainfall are 200–400 mm (7.9–15.7 in) per year.[10]

O. ficus-indica is sensitive to lack of oxygen in the root zone, requiring well-drained soils.[10] It is similar to crassulacean acid metabolism species, which are not salt-tolerant in their root zone and growth may cease under high salt concentration.[10] O. ficus-indica grows usually in regions where relative humidity is above 60% and saturation deficit[further explanation needed] occurs.[10] It is absent in regions where less than 40% humidity occurs for more than a month.[24] Mean daily temperature required to develop is at least 1.5–2.0 °C. At −10 to −12 °C, prickly pear growth is inhibited even if it is exposed to these temperatures only for a few minutes. The maximum temperature limit of prickly pear is above 50 °C.[10]

Harvest and preparation

As the fruits of O. ficus-indica are delicate, they need to be carefully harvested by hand. The small spines on the fruits are removed by rubbing them on an abrasive surface or sweeping them through grass. Before consumption, they are peeled.[25]

The pads of the plant (mainly used as fodder) also must be harvested by hand. The pads are cut with a knife, detaching the pad from the plant in the joint. If O. ficus-indica is cultivated for forage production, spineless cultivars are preferred, but wild types of the plants also are used as fodder. In these cases, the spines need to be removed from the pads to avoid damage to the animals. Mostly, this is achieved by burning the spines off the pads.[7]

Nutrients and phytochemicals

The coat of arms of Mexico depicts a Mexican golden eagle, perched upon an Opuntia cactus, holding a rattlesnake.
The coat of arms of Mexico depicts a Mexican golden eagle, perched upon an Opuntia cactus, holding a rattlesnake.

O. ficus-indica for human and animal consumption is valuable for its water content in an arid environment, containing about 85% water as a water source for wildlife.[7] The seeds contain 3–10% protein and 6–13% of fatty acids, mainly linoleic acid.[6][26] However, the seeds contained in the fruits can be unpleasant to chew because of their hardness and can lead to constipation.[27][28][29] For this reason, some agronomic studies in Italy and Mexico have focused on decreasing the seed content of Opuntia ficus-indica fruits.[30][31]

As the fruit contains vitamin C (containing 25–30 mg per 100 g),[6][32] it was once used to mitigate scurvy.[33] Opuntia contains selenium.[34]

The red color of the fruit and juice is due to betalains, (betanin and indicaxanthin).[35] The plant also contains flavonoids, such as quercetin, isorhamnetin,[36] and kaempferol.[37]

Biogeography

DNA analysis indicated O. ficus-indica was domesticated from Opuntia species native to central Mexico.[4] The Codex Mendoza, and other early sources, show Opuntia cladodes, as well as cochineal dye (which must be cultivated on Opuntia), in Aztec tribute rolls.[citation needed] The plant spread to many parts of the Americas in pre-Columbian times, and since Columbus, has spread to many parts of the world, especially the Mediterranean, where it has become naturalized.

References

  1. ^ Arreola, H., Ishiki, M. & Terrazas, T. 2017. Opuntia ficus-indica (amended version of 2013 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T151706A121563254. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T151706A121563254.en. Accessed on 10 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Opuntia ficus-indica". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear)". CABI. 27 September 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Griffith, M. P. (2004). "The Origins of an Important Cactus Crop, Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae): New Molecular Evidence". American Journal of Botany. 91 (11): 1915–1921. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.11.1915. PMID 21652337. S2CID 10454390.
  5. ^ Baron F. H. A. von Humboldt's personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of America tr. 1852 by Ross, Thomasina: "The following are Haytian words, in their real form, which have passed into the Castilian language since the end of the 15th century... Tuna". Quoted in OED 2nd ed.
  6. ^ a b c d Miller, =L. "Opuntia ficus-indica". Ecocrop, FAO. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Mondragón-Jacobo and Pérez-González, C. and S. "Cactus (Opuntia spp.) as Forage". FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper 169. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Are prickly pear leaves edible?". 27 February 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Darrell N. Ueckert. "Pricklypear ecology". Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M University. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Le Houérou H. N. (1996). "The role of cacti (Opuntiaspp.) in erosion control, land reclamation, rehabilitation and agricultural development in the Mediterranean Basin". Journal of Arid Environments. 33 (2): 135–159. Bibcode:1996JArEn..33..135L. doi:10.1006/jare.1996.0053.
  11. ^ Neffar S, Chenchouni H, Beddiar A, Redjel N (2013). "Rehabilitation of Degraded Rangeland in Drylands by Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L.) Plantations: Effect on Soil and Spontaneous Vegetation". Ecologia Balkanica. 5 (2).
  12. ^ Nefzaoui, A., Ben Salem, H., & Inglese, P. (2001). "Opuntia-A strategic fodder and efficient tool to combat desertification in the Wana region." Cactus, 73–89.
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  16. ^ "Beles". Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. 2003.
  17. ^ Rothauge, Axel (25 February 2014). "Staying afloat during a drought". The Namibian. Archived from the original on 2 March 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
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  20. ^ "NSW WeedWise".
  21. ^ "Atlas of Living Australia".
  22. ^ "prickly pear – Weed Identification – Brisbane City Council".
  23. ^ Ana Novoa, Johannes J. Le Roux, Mark P. Robertson, John R.U. Wilson, David M. Richardson (2015-02-05). "Introduced and invasive cactus species: a global review". academic.oup.com. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plu078/197782. Retrieved 2022-02-18.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  25. ^ Russel, Felkner; C.E., P. (1987). "The Prickly-pears (Opuntia spp., Cactaceae): A Source of Human and Animal Food in Semiarid Regions". Economic Botany. 41 (3): 443–445. doi:10.1007/bf02859062. S2CID 37653492.
  26. ^ El Kossori Radia Lamghari; Villaume Christian; El Boustani Essadiq; Sauvaire Yves; Méjean Luc (1998). "Composition of pulp, skin and seeds of prickly pears fruit (Opuntia ficus indica sp.)". Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 52 (3): 263–270. doi:10.1023/A:1008000232406. PMID 9950087. S2CID 44270292.
  27. ^ Eitan, Arie; Katz, Israel M.; Sweed, Yechiel; Bickel, Amitai (2007-06-01). "Fecal impaction in children: report of 53 cases of rectal seed bezoars". Journal of Pediatric Surgery. 42 (6): 1114–1117. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2007.01.048. ISSN 0022-3468. PMID 17560231.
  28. ^ Eitan, Arie; Bickel, Amitai; Katz, Israel M. (November 2006). "Fecal Impaction in Adults: Report of 30 Cases of Seed Bezoars in the Rectum". Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 49 (11): 1768–1771. doi:10.1007/s10350-006-0713-0. ISSN 0012-3706. PMID 17036204. S2CID 34756475.
  29. ^ Bartha, Gregory W. (1976-11-22). "Fecal Impaction Containing Cactus Seeds". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 236 (21): 2390–2391. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270220012003. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 989844.
  30. ^ Marini, Lorenzo; Grassi, Chiara; Fino, Pietro; Calamai, Alessandro; Masoni, Alberto; Brilli, Lorenzo; Palchetti, Enrico (2020-08-17). "The Effects of Gibberellic Acid and Emasculation Treatments on Seed and Fruit Production in the Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.) cv. "Gialla"". Horticulturae. 6 (3): 46. doi:10.3390/horticulturae6030046. ISSN 2311-7524.
  31. ^ Mejía, Alfredo; Cantwell, Marita (2003). "Prickly Pear Fruit Development and Quality in Relation to Gibberellic Acid Applications to Intact and Emasculated Flower Buds" (PDF). Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Development. 5: 72–85.
  32. ^ Tesoriere L, Butera D, Pintaudi AM, Allegra M, Livrea MA (2004). "Supplementation with cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit decreases oxidative stress in healthy humans: a comparative study with vitamin C". Am J Clin Nutr. 80 (2): 391–5. doi:10.1093/ajcn/80.2.391. PMID 15277160.
  33. ^ Carl Zimmer (December 10, 2013). "Vitamins' Old, Old Edge". The New York Times.
  34. ^ Bañuelos GS, Fakra SC, Walse SS, Marcus MA, Yang SI, Pickering IJ, Pilon-Smits EA, Freeman JL (January 2011). "Selenium Accumulation, Distribution, and Speciation in Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus: a Drought- and Salt-Tolerant, Selenium-Enriched Nutraceutical Fruit Crop for Biofortified Foods". Plant Physiology. 155 (1): 315–327. doi:10.1104/pp.110.162867. PMC 3075757. PMID 21059825.
  35. ^ Butera D, Tesoriere L, Di Gaudio F, et al. (November 2002). "Antioxidant activities of sicilian prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) fruit extracts and reducing properties of its betalains: betanin and indicaxanthin". J. Agric. Food Chem. 50 (23): 6895–901. doi:10.1021/jf025696p. hdl:10447/107910. PMID 12405794.
  36. ^ Dok-Go Hyang; Heun Lee Kwang; Ja Kim Hyoung; Ha Lee Eun; Lee Jiyong; Seon Song Yun; Lee Yong-Ha; Jin Changbae; Sup Lee Yong; Cho Jungsook (2003). "Neuroprotective effects of antioxidative flavonoids, quercetin, (+)-dihydroquercetin, and quercetin 3-methyl ether, isolated from Opuntia ficus-indica var. saboten". Brain Research. 965 (1–2): 130–136. doi:10.1016/S0006-8993(02)04150-1. PMID 12591129. S2CID 8345824.
  37. ^ Kuti Joseph O. (2004). "Antioxidant compounds from four Opuntia cactus pear fruit varieties". Food Chemistry. 85 (4): 527–533. doi:10.1016/S0308-8146(03)00184-5.