Fruit – Vegetable – Tropical Fruits
Opuntias come from Mexico; varieties with few or no prickles were presumably even bred by the Aztecs. In 1769 Franciscan monks brought them to California. However, extremely spiny varieties had already been exported by Spanish sailors and are now a plague, particularly in South Africa, India and Australia.
As cacti, the 3 to 4 m high opuntias grow in arid environments and have been an important food source for man and beast for thousands of years. The plants run on 20 cm wide and up to 40 cm long limbs of stems out of the “ears”, at their peak perches the potato berry — about 100 to 200 per cactus.
Opuntias grow wildly and are cultured everywhere in the tropics and subtropics. The largest cultivation area is in Mexico with about 3 million metric tons grown per year.
From July to October they primarily come from Tunisia, from July to December from Italy and Turkey, in November and December from Spain, from November to April from Peru. Israel supplies the the market in August. Brazil and Colombia deliver all year round.
They may be eaten raw as well as used in sweet and hearty salads or boiled down.
Fully ripe fruits last for about 2 days at room temperature; post-maturation: likewise at room temperature.
Prickly pears have a laxative effect!