One of the most diversely utilised plants in the cacti family; say hello to opuntia - more commonly known as the prickly pear cactus. Although the characteristically spikey succulent looks great in a pot, the power of the Prickly Pear is far beyond its aesthetic appeal.
Grown naturally across Latin America, the fruit of the prickly pear has rooted itself as a core component of the Mexican American cultured diet. The prickly pear, aka The Indian fig, Nopales or Opuntia, is eaten when it’s still young and has a bright neon colour with a delicious flavour similar to a cross between a strawberry and a watermelon.
Not only is the Prickly Pear beautiful, edible and endlessly versatile in its uses, growing the plant can also have positive environmental benefits as it often uses up to 80% less water then other crops.
Whether you chop it up and eat it raw, brew it in a concoction or smear it over your face, however you choose to include Prickly Pear into your day-to-day is up to you. Although the list may be endless, we’ve rounded up our favourite ways to find Prickly Pear out in the wild to help you get acquainted with the wonder plant.
Delicious, hydrating and healthy all in one, our favourite way to consume the prickly pear is in cactus water. Our BetterDays Cactus Water blend is made with a softly sparkling water, making the refreshing benefits of the prickly pear all the more enjoyable. Enjoy before or after physical activity, or in place of your favourite soft drink for a pick me up that’s actually good for you.
As previously mentioned, the fruit of a Prickly Pear cactus can be eaten either on its own or easily added into a recipe. Commonly eaten when it’s young and ripe, the older prickly pears aren’t great for consumption. The juice of the fruit is commonly used for jellies, candies and desserts – loved for its fruity sweet taste. Research suggests that the prickly pear cactus contains both fibre and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar, having the potential to decrease cholesterol levels and even possibly kill viruses in the body.
Whether you start with a simple Prickly Pear juice or our delicious sparkling Cactus Water, try out this sweet and versatile fruit in your next cocktail mix. Combine with Mexico’s native spirit – also made from cactus – tequila, with the special ingredient; prickly pear to create a delicious pink addition to your next Margarita, or Paloma. Cheers!
Beyond eating and drinking, the Prickly Pear is also utilised in a variety of traditional medicines across Latin America. Elements of the cactus are used to treat type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol hangover, colitis, diarrhoea, and the list goes on. Containing high levels of antioxidants that have been shown to contain antibacterial properties, the prickly pear is even used to fight viral infections.
Due to the fact that cacti naturally grow in dry and harsh deserts where there is little rainfall, the Prickly Pear is great at storing hydration. Because of this, the plant and fruit is rich in essential fatty acids include betalains, which are natural antioxidants. Both of these super ingredients when found in skin care products – from mists to cleansers and creams - help to maintain the skin’s lipid barrier, lock in moisture and protect from the sun and free- radical exposure. If these benefits weren’t already great enough, the high levels of vitamins E and K found in cactus help to brighten and hydrate the skin. Essentially everything you need in a superfood skincare product. Some of our favourites to add into your beauty routine include Youth To The People’s Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Oil and Kiehls Cactus Flower Mist – for you to try out and reap the epidermal benefits of prickly pear.
Beyond the kitchen and the bathroom, there are even more practical uses for Prickly Pear around the household. Namely, the juice from a Prickly Pear is commonly used as a rich, eco-friendly and natural dye. The betalain pigment found in the plant, also found also in red beetroots, contain pigments that are yellow, orange, pink, red and purple in color and can be used for dying fabrics such as wool. In addition to its dying properties, the Prickly Pear is also said to be utilised in some paints, glues, soaps and even as a raw material to prep plywood. There’s truly nothing this super plant can’t do!