Did you know that the prickly pear cactus in Morocco is not just harvested for it's precious seed oil but also for it's culinary uses? Every part of the Opuntia ficus indica cactus as it's also known, is harvested for its fruit, pads and flowers. Also, consumption can offer some amazing health benefits for both humans and animals due to its ability to serve as a food and medicine.
The Opuntia cactus pads are rich in vitamin A & C which have been found to be effective in inhibiting the oxidation of arterial cholesterol and turning around damage to arteries. In addition to this, the cactus pads also possess a broad range of amino acids that offer a good source of protein.
The fruit itself is loaded with important minerals; calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as a large amount of antioxidants. Calcium, an integral part of the diet is good for maintaining strong bones & teeth and potassium helps with the regular function of the cells, skin tissue and organs. Magnesium is needed for healthy heart, kidneys and muscle function.
The prickly pear fruit is added to main meals, desserts, sauces and dressings, and drinks such as wine and liqueurs. The flower petals of the prickly pear is also used as a garnish or added to salads to add colour and flavour.
For a few recipes that include the prickly pear fruit and cactus pads (also known as nopal) take a look at this website for some inspiration: www.healthline.com
During difficult times of drought, the prickly pear cactus pads (spikes removed) are used to feed sheep and cattle. This type of feed has proven to be a highly beneficial food source for livestock due to the water and nutrients present in the pads. Additionally, it is also a cheap and cost effective feed for farmers.
The prickly pear cactus really is a tough skinned super plant with it's ability to withstand the stifling heat of the Moroccan summer without shade. Most of all though, the prickly pear cactus due to it's high nutritional value and healing properties, really should be on the list of superfoods!