Nopal cactus at times referred to in English as “Prickly Pear”, “Indian Fig”, “Barbary Fig”, “Tunas” in Spanish “Figue de barbarie” in French or “Ficodindia” in Italian, is scientifically categorized as Opuntia Spp, a generic name referring to over 200 species of the Opuntia cacti family.
Prickly Pear known in botany as Opuntia ficus indica, is the vegetable and fruit variety of the Opuntia Spp species with a 12.000 year historical record. O. ficus-indica was certainly known at the beginning of the 16th century and it is believed that this species accompanied Columbus in his first return to Lisbon in 1493 placing O. ficus-indica in the Caribbean by at least the late 1400s, although whether it is native there is unknown.
The plants are also recorded in cultivation in Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 1519. Opuntia ficus-indica fruits and shoots were also reportedly consumed by the Maya of southeastern Mexico. OFI has been offering mankind this staple food and nutritional plant for thousands of years and therefore, many thousands of years before the Aztecs migrated to this Mesoamerican region. As the historical archives suggest Nopal was used to soothe wounds as it was used to stiffen cloth, purify water and waterproof paint. It strengthened mortar and was used fence off valued animals and to protect habitats from wild ones. The Opuntia ficus-indica nopal is in abundance in Mexico and is found also in the Caribbean islands, in the arid Western United States, in Australia, in Northern Africa especially in Tunisia, and southern Europe, especially in the south-east of Spain and in Sicily. The plant The prickly pear tree is a succulent tree that reaches 3-5 feet of height. It consists of flattened oval shaped cladodes 30-40 cm long. 15-25 cm width and thickness 1.5 – 3.0 cm.
The root system is shallow and does not exceed 35 cm in depth, while it has a sufficient length. The fruit is fleshy with many seeds (even more than 300 per fruit) its weight can range from 150 to 400 g. The colour’s fruit can be yellow, orange, red, purple or white depending on the species. Areoles (spots with clusters of spines) are found on both the pads (joints, segments) and fruit. In addition to spines, areoles often have clusters of sharp bristles and tufts of fibre. In the largest italian island most of the areas under intensive cultivation are to be found in the two major production zones: the San Cono Hills and the Southwest Etna area, and in these areas there is an increase in specialized installations: this confirms the growing interest shown towards this cactacea.
The plant makes two blooms, the first in spring which originates the summer production (“agostani” fruits) and autumn production when the fruits are also called “bastardoni”, most highly prized because they are bigger and juicier. These products in 2013 have gained the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) the important UE acknowledgement that covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how. In Sicily there are more than 8.300 hectares of cultivation with about 920.000 quintals of crop. Here, in San Cono (Catania), on the sandy grounds at 600 mt above the level sea, Parodi Nutra selects from Certified Organic cultivations the best prickly pears. Opuntia Ficus Indica has yielded flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, narcissin, taxifolin and other phenolics); lactones known as alpha-pyrones (opuntiosides); terpenoids (lupenone, freideline, and others) and alkaloids (mescaline, hordenine, tyramine, and others) Betalain pigments (betanin, indicaxanthin) are at least found in the fruits and act as anti-oxidants. Is a plant really incredible because is possible use every parts, a multi-purpose crop with a huge number of applications. Prickly Pear seeds and defatted flour A gluten-free flour with excellent nutritional properties, The defatted seeds contained 4,5% protein, 4% lipids and 15.5% fiber.
The meal showed a high amount of iron (7.42 mg %). The contents of Mg, P, K, Zn and Cu (calcium, with 1200 milligrams per kilogram, potassium, with 533 milligrams per kilogram, magnesium with 117 milligrams per kilogram and phosphorus with 1,627 milligrams per kilogram) are nutritionally significant contributing approximately 10-20% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of these elements per 100 gr of dry weight: The seeds are rich in sulfur amino acids (methionine + cystine) This flour is used in the agro alimentary thanks to its high nutritive value, but it has also good foaming and emulsifying points. This flour is not only good for you, and provides good nutrition, but its characteristics make it ideal not only for baking, but for cooking and other uses. It has a high oil binding point (it glues stuff together well), making it ideal for meats, sausage, breads and cakes, while the proteins in prickly pear flour, with their high emulsifying and foaming capacity, are good for salad dressing, sausage, soups, confectionery, frozen desserts and cakes. Rich in essential fatty acids, sterols and vitamin E, organic flour seeds prickly is incorporated into cosmetics for exfoliation, anti-aging and anti-oxidant.
Prickly Pear seeds oil The prickly pear seed contains 62% of linoleic acid and 20% of oleic acid.Besides, prickly pear seed oil is also rich in tocopherols (845 mg/liter). Tocopherol is the generic term for at least eight chemically similar structured compounds, we can consider primarily Vitamin E; tocopherols are responsible for the impressive effectiveness of prickly pear seed oil as natural antioxidant. This oil is obtained by the first cold pressure of prickly pear seeds. It’s very difficult to have a good % of oil without damaged the seeds; at Parodi Nutra we have developed a pression unit in order to remove 1% of oil by cold pression; we obtain a green oil and a very stable seed powder 2-3% of oil inside. 84.5 Carbohydrates 1,5% Satured Fatty Acids 15,5% Fibers 7,42 mg/kg Fibers 1,70 g/100g Fructose 2,00 g/100g Glucose 0,70 g/100g Saccharose < 0,1 Sodium a very good amount of Calcium 1198 mg/kg Energy Value 1618 kJ/100g Energy value 381 kcal/100g It is exceptionally rich in Vitamin E and Sterol. These substances protect the skin against free radicals; the analyses show that this oil is also rich in essential fatty acid. These substances are precious because they help to fight against the skin dryness and help to ameliorate the hydration, to slow down the skin oldness and to prevent from the rides formation. With these characteristics the Prickly Pear oil restores elasticity and suppleness to dry skin which they provides comfort and hydration. It also has many healing and anti-aging properties. It is used as a day cream, after-sun, anti-wrinkle, anti-stretch marks. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as active known for their antioxidant properties and is therefore an excellent soothing moisturizing, nourishing and refreshing skin.) and exerts a powerful regenerating and restructuring, thereby acting against premature skin aging. The powers of this oil would exceed those of argan oil.
The oil of prickly pear has, among others, 65% polyunsaturated fatty acids (nourishing) – against 33%. This oil is a true ant-aging serum and a natural exceptional ally in the fight against skin aging. The presence of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, lipids and vitamins makes possible also the introduction of prickly pear seed oil as food or as a functional food. It is a product that, therefore, interested in the nutraceutical field because is consumption appears to contribute to the maintenance of health status but also in the nutricosmetics, because his oral ingestion increases the benefits already highlighted with the topical action. Prickly Pear cladodes powder The pads (cladodes or stems) are first cut then washed, sliced and dehydrated with low temperature, it permits the evaporation of the quasi- totality of the water continued in the pads. The cladodes yield a nutrient-rich flour that can be substituted for wheat flour suitable for human consumption and ideal for people with food allergies.
The mucilage extracted from the leaf is also suitable as a nutritive thickener to replace gelatine in vegetarian food preparation, and can even be used as an emulsifier in mayonnaise. It is a good source of dietary fiber and contains high molecular weight polysaccharides. Many investigational studies have led researchers to determine that Nopal as a whole food has compounded health benefits. is a good source of pectins, its unique mucilage is beneficial to the digestive system. Its unique phytochemical, vitamin and mineral profile make it highly nutritious and extremely beneficial for maintaining the body’s systems in optimal condition. Cactus Powder contains important minerals and vitamins that may help detoxify your entire body including the liver and pancreas Nopal is a natural hypoglycemic contributing to lower blood sugar in the blood and to reduce cholesterol. It has very favorable effects on digestion. Its high fiber (+ 50%) promotes intestinal transit and reduces the presence of toxins in the colon. Nopal helps against obesity through fat and sugar absorption. It’s is often used as a slimming supplement because of its high fibre content it absorbs water when eaten giving a gentle feeling of satiety. Nopal acts as an ‘appetite suppressant’ to an almost immediate way helping to limit snacking.
Considerable research shows that Nopal is effective in stabilizing and regulating blood sugar levels unlike any other fiber supplement. With regulated blood sugar levels, you’ll have more energy, less fatigue and in general, an elevated mood.The Nopal powder is used in bakery, for beverages, and for Fiber-rich Foods: Nopal cactus powder, when added to food, can lower the typical rise in blood sugar caused by carbohydrates. Traditionally prepared bread is a not low GI food. Add nopal to bread recipe and not only get an increase in the nutritional fiber content. Cactus powder can be added to almost any baked good, flan-like desserts (flan is a gelled dessert similar to crème caramel) and cookies, smoothie, soup or salad dressing, giving dieters and diabetics alike the ability to eat things that would normally be off limits. Nopal flour has been tested for enhancing the fibre content of products such as vegetable soups. Prickly Pear flowers Cactus flower extracts may benefit people at risk of inflammation, diabetes and some other diseases.
The flowers in many countries are used in folk medicine as an antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory agent. Alcohol extracts of the cactus flowers revealed a potent anti-inflammatory effect and a pronounced analgesic action. In a separate study Opuntia ficus indica flower extracts showed antioxidant and antiulcerogenic activities in vitro test and in an animal study. Researchers who conducted the study believe the antiulcerogenic activity of the cactus flower extract might be due to a possible synergistic antioxidant and antihistamic-like effects. Other studies indicated that some components are useful in combating benign prostatic hyperplasia because extracts of dried flowers gave beneficial effects. Prickly Pear juice The juice of the prickly pear is “naturally” rich in amino acids (and between these Taurine and Proline are predominant) in addition to having high presence of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, and vitamin C. Recent research conducted by the University of Stuttgart and the University of Palermo, found that the Sicilian prickly pear has a natural content of Taurine on 8/12 mg per 100g of fruit. Since the Prickly Pear is the fruit richest natural Taurine currently known in nature, future applications in the field of energy drinks and other functional drinks (smoothes, yoghurts, tropical cocktails, fruitful drinks) but also ice cream, could really be a lot, to replace synthetic or animal-derived ingredients and obtain healthier and natural products. Taurine has been evaluated by nutritionists having demonstrated its beneficial effects on the heart, retina, central nervous system and interacts with the human hormonal system. It’s also a strong antioxidant, and acts vigorously in case of lack of Vitamin B6. Cochineal On Prickly Pear lives a unusual insect, the cochineal, Dactylopius coccus; from the female of this insect derived the crimson-coloured natural dye carmine.
The insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, typically 17–24% of dried insects’ weight, can be extracted from the body and eggs, then mixed with aluminium or calcium salts to make carmine dye, also known as cochineal. The carmine dye was used in Central America in the 15th century for colouring fabrics; after synthetic pigments and dyes such as alizarin were invented in the late 19th century, natural-dye production gradually diminished. Health fears over artificial food additives, however, have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes, and the increased demand has made cultivation of the insect profitable again. Cochineal is one of the few water-soluble colourants to resist degradation with time. It is one of the most light- and heat-stable and oxidation-resistant of all the natural organic colourants. The water-soluble form is used in alcoholic drinks with calcium carmine; the insoluble form is used in a wide variety of products (with ammonium carmine): including some meats, sausages, surimi, marinades, bakery products and topping, cookies, desserts, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelating desserts and juice beverages. Carmine is considered safe enough for use in eye cosmetics, but also for hair- and skin-care products, lipsticks, face powders, rouges, and blushes. The pharmaceutical industry uses cochineal to colour pills and ointments Curiosity The name of the ancient Aztec imperial capital Tenochtitlan (the present-day Mexico City) comes from nocthli, the Aztec name of the fruit of the prickly pear, prickly pear and literally means “prickly pear on a rock”.
The cladodes and the fruits of the prickly pear are immortalized in the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Rome as well as in paintings by Bruegel the Elder, Frida Kahlo, Man Ray, Roy Lichtenstein and Tina Modotti. Nopal is the symbol of Mexico: the flag and coat of arms both feature an eagle, with a serpent in his beack, perched upon a nopal cactus. Prickly pear is the main component of a new brewed produced in the Czech Republic, whose advantage is that of having fewer calories and high doses of fibers. In the Mezquital Valley, Mexico, have created a substance based on cladodes of nopal dehydrated able to purify the water. Ispired by an