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Prickly pear: versatile and sustainable: how to consume it?



Il prickly pear (Opuntia fig-indica L.) is a vegetable that belongs to the family of Cactaceae, the same as cacti and other succulent plants. The prickly pear is therefore a succulent plant, which can exceed 3 meters in height and which produces very tasty edible fruits. Recent discoveries, then, have demonstrated how much it is its cultivation is sustainableand how much it is versatile in food consumptionbringing significant benefits to the health of the body.

Sustainable cultivation

The segments of the stem/stems are called cladodi (ellipsoidal and flattened in shape) and carry out all the vital processes such as chlorophyll photosynthesis usually entrusted to the leaves; the flowers and fruits of the prickly pear differ from them. In addition to presenting a variable number of thorns, based on specific needs, the cladodes can give rise to real roots capable of quickly taking root in the soil. It is no coincidence that the simplest method for growing a prickly pear is not sowing, but rather to plant directly a clade (with a shovel) in moist earth, which will root in a very short time.
Its cultivation, widely practiced in South America, especially in Peru, is sustainable: the prickly pear plant is capable of absorb little water which keeps it moist for a long time. Abundant watering, in fact, would end up making it rot. A crop that tolerates drought and extreme temperatures well. These are the characteristics that make it one of the 50 foods of the future, with a view to increasingly sustainable diets. Not only that, its cultivation is able to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Prickly pears: fruits with beneficial properties

The fruits of the prickly pear are berries containing numerous woody seeds (which should not be consumed in abundance especially if you suffer from constipation). They have a variable shape (round or elongated) and a weight that with difficulty can approach 400g. The peel, smooth and with colors ranging from red, orange, yellow and green, is covered with more or less evident thorns, including the glochidi, tiny thorns that are particularly insidious and difficult to remove even from the skin. For this reason it is practically mandatory clean the fruits wearing gloves and using a brush. Many attribute nutritious and beneficial properties to the prickly pear, including: laxative of the pulp, astringent of seeds ed antioxidant (vitamins and tannins). These fruits are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C, and minerals, including magnesium and potassium. They also contain many fibers which help health intestinal peristalsis combating the problem of constipation. In reality, the effect of the prickly pear on the intestine is of a modulatory type, thanks to the presence of viscous fibers such as pectin and mucilage in the pulp, and other mainly astringent active ingredients contained in the seeds.

The prickly pear fruit is particularly rich in water, and therefore a hydrating fruit. In 100 grams, 83 grams consist of water The calorieinstead they are 53 per 100gr and sugars 13%. Thanks to its high water content, the prickly pear boasts properties thirst quenchingdiuretic and purifying. For these reasons it is often recommended by specialists to expel kidney stones. Prickly pears contain two particular types of dietary fibre, pectin and xylosewhich make them suitable for inclusion in the diet of diabetics.

Prickly pear, versatile in the kitchen: how to use it

The prickly pear, in addition to being eaten fresh in its pulp, after having been carefully cleaned and peeled, is a very versatile fruit in the kitchen. Suffice it to say that in South America, but also in Europe and southern Italy where it is found in abundance, it is used in the preparation of ice creams, jams, organic juices, marinated peels, syrups and even pancakes. Not only that, the pulp of this fruit rich in beneficial properties can be used in the preparation of savory dishes such as fish cevicheaccompany cheeses, or in tasty salads.

Use of prickly pears in cosmetics

The nutritional properties of prickly pears are not only precious for the body but also for beauty. In fact, with their pulp and the oil extracted from the seeds they are formulated lotions, creams, oils and hair care products. According to research in the cosmetic field, prickly pears favor hair growth, acting directly on the hair bulb. Prickly pear oil and its emollient properties make it suitable for the treatment of stretch marks, especially during pregnancy. Moisturizing and elasticising, it is appreciated as an oil to use after a bath in case of dry skin.

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