ChapterPDF Available

Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) Fruit

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The genus Opuntia, commonly known as prickly pear cactus, includes species that produce nutritious fruits and young, edible cladodes (stem pads, also called joints), which are used as a vegetable. The prickly pear fruit is known as tuna, Indian fig, Christian fig, and tuna de Castilla. Mexico is considered one of the major areas of genetic diversity of Opuntia, and Opuntia ficus-indica is one of the most agro-economically important cactus crop species and is cultivated in arid and semiarid regions of the world for its fruits. The spineless forms correspond to horticultural varieties. The prickly pear fruit is divided into three components that may be exploited commercially: seeds, peel, and pulp. This fruit contains approximately 85% water, 15% sugar, 0.3% ash, and less than 1% protein. The flesh is a good source of minerals and several types of amino acids (alanine, arginine, and asparagine). Important vitamins include vitamin C (ascorbic acid), E, K, and beta-carotenes. Flavonoids, effective antioxidants, are another important constituent. The betalain pigments are responsible for the colors of the fruit and also have antioxidant properties. The general distribution of nutrients and antioxidants in the fruit is an indication that the ingestion of the whole fruit is more beneficial from a health perspective because more potentially nutraceutical active ingredients are absorbed and used by our bodies. Considering the chemical components of the prickly pear cactus, its nutritional capacity is relatively modest and should be used as a dietary complement. In view of the popular and increasing trend in the demand for nutraceuticals and increased desire for natural ingredients and food products promoting health, the multiple functional properties of cactus pear in conjunction with its antioxidant properties fit well with this trend. Furthermore, the prickly pear fruit can be considered as "the bridge of life" because it is the only food and water resource for animals during the long dry seasons in the deserts.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Provided for non-commercial research and educational use only.
Not for reproduction, distribution or commercial use.
This chapter was originally published in the book Nutritional Composition of Fruit
Cultivars. The copy attached is provided by Elsevier for the author's benefit and for
the benefit of the author's institution, for non-commercial research, and educational
use. This includes without limitation use in instruction at your institution,
distribution to specific colleagues, and providing a copy to your institution's
administrator.
All other uses, reproduction and distribution, including
without limitation commercial reprints, selling or
licensing copies or access, or posting on open
internet sites, your personal or institution’s website or
repository, are prohibited. For exceptions, permission
may be sought for such use through Elsevier’s
permissions site at:
http://www.elsevier.com/locate/permissionusematerial
From Cota-Sánchez, J.Hugo, 2016. Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear
(Opuntia ficus-indica) Fruit. In: Simmonds, M.S.J., Preedy, V.R. (Eds.),
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars. Academic Press, 691–712.
ISBN: 9780124081178
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Academic Press
Author's personal copy
691
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-408117-8.00028-3
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc.
All rights reserved.
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
CHAPTER 28
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly
Pear (Opuntia cus-indica) Fruit
J. Hugo Cota-Sánchez
Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Contents
Introduction 691
Botanical and Anatomical Features of the Prickly Pear Fruit 694
Nutritional Aspects of the Prickly Pear Fruit 698
Uses and Health Benets of Fruit and Other Plant Parts of the Prickly Pear 704
Future Prospects 705
Concluding Remarks 706
Summary Points 708
Acknowledgments 709
References 709
INTRODUCTION
Several members of the cactus family have strong cultural and economic significance
throughout the Americas as crops in arid environments and for their alimentary, phar-
maceutical, natural health, and forage products. Among these, the genus Opuntia Mill.,
commonly know as prickly pear cactus, includes a number of species that produce
nutritious fruits and young, edible cladodes (stem pads, also called joints), which are used
as a vegetable. They produce strong, vigorous plants in arid and semiarid climates in
which few other crops can survive, protect against soil erosion, inhibit desert advance-
ment, and protect wildlife, while functioning as commercial crops. Opuntia (subfamily
Opuntioideae) and Hylocereus (A. Berger) Britton & Rose (subfamily Cactoideae) are
among the most commonly domesticated and propagated cacti used as crops (Mizrahi
et al., 1997). In addition, several columnar cacti, such as Stenocereus pruinosus (Otto ex.
Pfeiff.) Buxb. (Bravo-Hollis, 1978), Stenocereus queretaroensis (F.A.C. Weber) Buxb.
(Pimienta-Barrios and Nobel, 1994), and Stenocereus stellatus (Pfeiff.) Riccob. (Casas
et al., 1997) are other species under controlled cultivation (Casas and Barbera, 2002).
Mexico is considered one of the major areas of genetic diversity of Opuntia, whose
species prevail throughout the Amer icas, having adapted to many diverse habitats (Pimienta-
Barrios and Nobel, 1995; Griffith, 2004). Conservatively, the genus Opuntia sensu stricto
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
692
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
(nopales, prickly pears) includes about 150 species (Stuppy, 2002). Although some species
are distributed in areas with harsh winter conditions, both in the northern and southern
hemispheres, the principal limitations to the cultivation of cactus for fruit are low tempera-
tures in temperate regions or frost in other geographic areas because the ecotypes lack
hardiness in freezing climates (Cota-Sánchez, 2002) . Parish and Felker (1997) studied the
performance of Mexican and Chilean Opuntia varieties in cold regions of Chile and found
that Chilean varieties were most promising for the production of fruits with high sugar
content and low seed weight, whereas Mexican varieties with high yields had low sugar
content. In fact, several sources, for example, Inglese et al. (1995a) and Pimienta-Barrios
and Muñoz-Urias (1995) suggest the need for better knowledge of the environmental
influence on reproductive biology and fruit quality in cultivated cacti.
Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. (Figure 1) is quite likely the most agro-economically
important cactus crop species (Bravo-Hollis, 1978; Kiesling, 1998; Griffith, 2004;
Feugang et al., 2006). The fruits and joints are a popular food in Central and North
America. In Mexican culture, for instance, the “nopaleras, which are small to large cul-
tivated areas or plantations of prickly pear cactus (Figure 2), have existed for thousands
of years. In addition to fruit production, this cactus is farmed for the production of
cochineal, a scale parasitic insect feeding on several species of Opuntia, from which the
Figure 1 A spineless plant of Opuntia cus-indica, a domesticated cactus cultivated mainly as culinary
source for its eshy fruits. Note at/paddle stems (cladodes) and the pear-like oval fruits. Photo: Patrick
Grith.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 693
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
natural dye red carmine used to dye fabrics is extracted (Bravo-Hollis and Scheinvar,
2002).
Prickly pear was a popular fruit during the pre-Hispanic times (Kiesling, 1998; Inglese
et al., 2002). The delicious fruits and the cladodes of this species are highly appreciated
by humans, and the cladodes are also used as forage for livestock. The species has under-
gone human domestication since pre-Hispanic cultures. Both fruits and vegetative plant
parts were introduced to Spain during the early voyages of Christopher Columbus
(Bravo-Hollis, 1978; Kiesling, 1998). Cacti, in particular prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.,
also known as nopal), have had a long-term relationship with human culture. The cactus
prickly pear fruit has long been cultivated in Latin America. There is evidence for the use
of Opuntia in human diet at least 9000 years ago (Kiesling, 1998) or even as early as
12,000 years ago (Callen, 1967; reviewed in Griffith, 2004). It is also thought that nopaleras
provided areas for centers of early human settlements in central Mexico, especially during
the fructification period (Bravo-Hollis, 1978). In addition, drawings of prickly pear fruit
(a)
(b)
Figure 2 Nopaleras of Opuntia cus-indica. (a) A nopalera in the state of Oaxaca (tended by a local
community at Rancho La Nopalera in San Bartolo Coyotepec). The nopal is also called Tlapanocheztli,
a compound Nahuatl term that refers to dye (tlapa) and nocheztli, for cochineal, the natural, pre-
Columbian red dye that had a signicant importance in the Spanish colonial economy. (Photo: Stepha-
nie Wood.) (b) Modern cultivar of O. cus-indica in northern Mexico. (Photo: VERALMEX®.)
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
694
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
(see below in common names) have been depicted in the Codex Mendocino (Códice de
Mendoza) in ca. 1540 and the Codex Florentine (Códice Florentino) in ca. 1575 (Bravo-
Hollis, 1978) . Opuntia is also quite significant in modern Mexican culture and represents a
national symbol depicted in the country’s coat of arms (Aguilar-Enríquez et al., 2004).
According to Bravo-Hollis and Sánchez-Mejorada (1991) and Kiesling (1998), the differ-
ent common names used for the prickly pear fruit are descriptive and make reference to its
origin and distribution. The following accounts for vernacular names follow these two
authors. First, the common name “tuna,” used mostly in Mexico and Central America, has a
Caribbean origin and is thought to have originated with the Spaniards shortly after their
arrival to the New World. According to Kiesling (1998), tuna is a word from the Taíno lan-
guage used to refer mainly to the fruits, even though it is also used to denote the vegetative
parts of Opuntia spp. Supposedly, the word “tuna” was used prior to any other names given
to the prickly pear fruit. The word “nochtli” is the name in the Nahuatl language (also
known as Azteca) for the prickly pear fruit and is currently used in the state of Oaxaca
(Stephanie Wood, Oregon University, pers. com.). In turn, the term “nopal” is derived from
“Nopalli” in Nahuatl and is used to designate several species of Opuntia. The first Spanish
name is “Indian fig” (higo de las Indias), which alludes to its origin from the New East Indies,
hence the origin of Cactus ficus-indica L., the first scientific name, but currently known as
O. ficus-indica, a crop species that figures prominently in the modern folklore of ethnobotany
(Griffith, 2004). Another common name is “tuna de Castilla” or “nopal de Castilla,” allegedly
referring to Andalucia, the area in which it was first disseminated (Le Houérou, 1996;
Kiesling, 1998). The Moors introduced the prickly pear to Africa when they left Spain and
called it the “Christian fig.” To date, a spinescent hybrid called “tapia” (a name alluding to the
use of this plant as a living fence) is frequently found in Morocco, while the spineless form is
rare (Kiesling, 1998).
Given the high potential for use and consumption of Opuntia spp. products in con-
junction with the prospective active nutrients and multiple properties of bioactive com-
pounds in prickly pear, in this chapter the nutritional attributes of this fruit are reviewed
and evaluated based on available literature. The prickly pear fruit is an excellent candi-
date for inquiry because of the high number of important nutrients relevant in the
pharmaceutical industry, such as betalains, vitamins, minerals, amino compounds, and
antioxidants. This chapter specifically examines published data to discuss the potential
nutritional value and health benefits of the prickly pear fruit from O. ficus-indica (and
other Opuntia species, whenever available). Also examined are the current trends in the
increasing demand of nutraceutical and human health promoting products derived from
fruits resulting from commercialization of this fruit, both in local markets and online.
BOTANICAL AND ANATOMICAL FEATURES OF THE PRICKLY PEAR FRUIT
Among all angiosperm families, few are as morphologically distinct as the Cactaceae, an
important phytogeographic element of the American deserts and the second largest
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 695
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
plant family restricted to the New World, apart from one species in the genus Rhipsalis
Gaertn., namely Rhipsalis baccifera ( J .S. Muell.) Stearn, which is native in the New World
and the Old World, but introduced to Madagascar, Mascarenes, Southern Africa, West
and East Africa, and Sri Lanka (Cota-Sánchez and Bomfim-Patricio, 2010). It includes
approximately 1500 species (Anderson, 2001) divided into four subfamilies (Anderson,
2001; Nyffeler, 2002). The family exhibits extreme levels of morphological diversity and
physiological specialization. The stem structures have been variously modified to with-
stand severe xeric conditions and tropical or semitropical wet/dry seasonal habitats and
have diverged significantly from a presumed leafy ancestor (Butterworth and Wallace,
2005). Cacti also exhibit extensive reproductive versatility and specializations in breed-
ing systems (Cota, 1993; Anderson, 2001; Cota-Sánchez and Abreu, 2007; Almeida et al.,
2013). The striking floral shapes, designed to attract a wide range of pollinators, act as a
mechanism for cactus diversification by promoting genetic variability reinforced by out-
crossing (Cota-Sánchez and Croutch, 2008).
The genus Opuntia belongs to the subfamily Opuntioideae, which includes several
genera (Anderson, 2001). The genus Opuntia is used to refer to platyopuntias, that is, cacti
with flattened cladodes or stem segments. In principle, the genus Opuntia s.s. includes
nopales and prickly pears, but excludes Consolea Lem., and encompasses 150–180 spe-
cies (reviewed in Majure et al., 2012). It is, therefore, the largest genus in the subfamily
Opuntioideae and the most widely distributed genus in the cactus family ranging from
southern Canada to Argentina (Anderson, 2001; Cota-Sánchez, 2002). As currently
treated, O. ficus-indica represents a taxonomic complex of several clones originating from
multiple lineages and is closely related to a group of arborescent plants from central and
southern Mexico bearing fleshy prickly pear fruits (Griffith, 2004). The center of
domestication for O. ficus-indica is located in central Mexico.
The spineless form of O. ficus-indica (Figure 1) is a horticultural cultivar. Based on
coprolite data, the domestication of this species dates back from approximately 8000
(Bravo-Hollis and Sánchez-Mejorada, 1991) to 9000 (Callen, 1965, 1967) years ago. The
origin of O. ficus-indica had remained a mystery until recently. According to Griffith’s
(2004) dispersal model based on molecular data (see his Figures 2, 3, and 6), the ancestors
of O. ficus-indica were selected in central Mexico from tree-like (arborescent) taxa bear-
ing fleshy fruits, including closely related species, such as Opuntia hyptiacantha F.A.C.
Weber, Opuntia leucotricha DC., Opuntia megacantha Salm-Dyck, and Opuntia streptacantha
Lem. Selective breeding for reduced spines and large fruits in O. ficus-indica quite likely
involved various unique clones originating from several parental lines, thus forming a
non-monophyletic group (Griffith, 2004). The cultivated plants were then distributed
via trade markets throughout Mesoamerica and then to the Caribbean and conceivably
into South America. It has been hypothesized that this species was transported to Europe
by Christopher Columbus on his return voyage from the Americas in 1493 and then
dispersed and naturalized in the Mediterranean area of Europe and North Africa and
eventually across other arid and semiarid regions of the world. At present, O. ficus-indica
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
696
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
is cultivated for its fruits throughout the vast dry areas of the world, with Mexico, Alge-
ria, Brazil, Chile, Sicily, and northern Africa being the most important producers (Bar-
bera et al., 1992). Other species widely cultivated in northern and central Mexico for
their large edible fruits are O. robusta J.C. Wendl. and O. durangensis Britton & Rose, two
polyploid taxa (Griffith, 2004). The harvesting season of Opuntia spp. varies from April
to August in the Americas (Scheinvar, 1995) and November to December in the Medi-
terranean basin (Le Houérou, 1996), with the fruits available unpeeled (Figure 3) and/
or peeled (Figure 4) in local markets.
In order to understand the prickly pear fruit, it is necessary to discuss the structure
of the cactus fruits first. The cactus ovary and fruit are extremely exceptional in that they
are surrounded by vegetative tissues, which in most species consist of many nodes, inter-
nodes, axillary buds, and even rather ordinary leaves (Cota-Sánchez, 2004). Cactus flow-
ers bear veins from the surrounding stem that enter at the top and sides of the ovary,
spreading and extending to the style, ovules, and ovary. This unique vasculature provides
evidence regarding the origin of the inferior ovary of a cactus flower from a stem that
protrudes outward and engulfs the ovary. What we generally call a “fruit” is basically a
combination of long-shoot coverings (the pericarpel) and the mature ovary, which is the
actual botanical fruit. Consequently, when we eat the fleshy fruits of prickly pears or
tunas, we are consuming mostly stem tissue (once the glochids and spines are removed—
see Figure 3(b)). Because the pericarpel is composed of stem tissue, it forms conic leaves
and areoles on its flanks, which, in turn, produce glochids and occasionally spines or even
flower buds (reviewed in Rebman and Pinkava, 2001). The thick pericarp, covered with
minute, barbed spines (also known as glochids), encloses a juicy pulp with 150–300
nonedible seeds. When eating the fruit, it is necessary to be very careful because the tiny
glochids (see Figure 3, especially Figure 3(b)) can easily pierce the skin, causing pain and
irritation.
The prickly pear fruit has an oval, elongated shape, like an oval apple or pear (Figures
1 and 3), and is technically a fleshy berry (Bravo-Hollis, 1978; Anderson, 2001) .
(a) (b)
Figure 3 Prickly pear fruits from cultivated Opuntia cus-indica. (a) Red pulp variety. (b) Yellow pulp
variety. Photos: Valentina Saniccolo and Francesco Cepolina.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 697
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Its weight ranges from 67 to 216 g (Moßhammer et al., 2006). In the market, these fruits
are available (peeled or unpeeled) in several attractive colors, such as white, green, yellow,
orange, red, and purple (Figure 4(b)), which vary in relation to the amount of betalain
pigment content (Anderson, 2001; Stintzing et al., 2005). Generally, cactus pear fruits
may be divided into three components that may be exploited for commercial processing:
seeds, peel, and pulp (reviewed in Moßhammer et al., 2006). The seeds of the prickly
pear fruit are highly variable in form, size, structure, and testa color. Seeds are normally
discarded (Feugang et al., 2006) but often eaten as part of the fresh fruit (pers. obs.).
There are, however, a few varieties with few or no seeds; current selection focuses on
reducing seed number and size while increasing fruit size (Bianchini et al., 1975). It has
been suggested that for marketing strategies, one of the most important selective breed-
ing objectives in prickly pear research should be the development of few-seeded variet-
ies (Felker and Inglese, 2003). The fleshy prickly pear fruits have a short shelf life, varying
from 2 to 3 and up to 4 weeks (Feugang et al., 2006), thus making marketing and
long-term storage and worldwide distribution of fruits difficult (Kader, 2002). Efforts to
diminish postharvest decay have been considered, taking into account decreasing
(a)
(b)
Figure 4 Prickly pear fruit, staple component of the Mexican and Central American diet culture.
(a) Whole and longitudinal section of prickly pear fruit with rind (pericarp) attached. (b) Sample of the
various colors of prickly pear fruits (resulting from dierent betalain pigments) for sale in a Mexican
market in the state of Zacatecas. The rind (pericarp) has been removed from the fruits. (Photo B: Tomás
Castelazo.)
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
698
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
microbial contamination while maintaining the consistency as well as the nutritional,
palatable, and enticing properties of the fruit (Piga et al., 1996).
In Mexico and the southwestern US, the prickly pear fruit is relatively common and
appreciated as a valuable supplemental food source. Its use is mainly restricted to fresh
fruit consumption in its countries of origin (Sáenz-Hernández, 1995; Sáenz and
Sepúlveda, 2001), but the fruit is also exported to the European fresh fruit market (Miz-
rahi et al., 1997; Sepúlveda, 1998). Occasionally, the fruit is processed and found canned
or bottled as juice (Sáenz, 1996; Gurbachan and Felker, 1998; Bravo-Hollis and Schein-
var, 2002; Feugang et al., 2006). However, in spite of its popularity, there is still limited
conclusive knowledge about the nutritional properties and human health benefits of this
fruit.
NUTRITIONAL ASPECTS OF THE PRICKLY PEAR FRUIT
At present, there are no obvious references indicating a difference between traditional
and modern crops of prickly pear used for fruit production. As indicated previously, most
varieties originated from a small group of closely related species, from which the descen-
dants, that is, spineless plants with large fruits, were further selected and propagated clonally.
As a result, it is difficult to make a distinction between ancient and modern varieties.
Consequently, the information below is based on fruit characteristics of O. ficus-indica
(and other Opuntia spp.) from traditional and contemporary genotypes.
There is a plethora of studies dealing with the chemical characterization, antioxidant
properties, and nutritional components of the prickly pear species and the fruit, and the
information can be provocative and overwhelming. See also references in literature. In
general, the prickly pear fruit contains approximately 85% water, 15% sugar, 0.3% ash,
and less than 1% protein (Mohamed-Yasseen et al., 1996; Moβhammer et al., 2006). The
fruit has no distinctive aroma, but the pulp is very sweet, and the sugar component is
mainly glucose and fructose (in similar amounts), the concentration ranging from 10 °
to 17 °Brix (Stintzing et al., 2003; reviewed in Piga, 2004). This energy source in the
form of sugar is absorbed by the organism and becomes readily available for brain and
cell function. Considering the high water content, this fruit can reach a value of
50 kcal/100 g, an amount comparable to other fresh fruits like apricot, orange, and pear
(Feugang et al., 2006). The seeds account for approximately 10–15% of the edible pulp
(Feugang et al., 2006), or 3–7% on a weight basis, followed by the pericarp and mesocarp
(36–48%), and the edible pulp (39–64%) (Gurrieri et al., 2000; Felker et al., 2002, 2005).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture and based on the amount
of daily value (DV) provided in a 100 g serving, the Opuntia prickly pear fruit has a mod-
est content of essential nutrients. The dietary fiber is 14% DV, and vitamin C content is
23% DV. Among minerals, magnesium has a 21% DV. The remaining components are
not considered strongly significant for dietary supplements (Table 1). The concentrations
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 699
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Table 1 A comparative synopsis of the chemical constituents of the dierent parts/products of the
prickly pear fruit, primarily from Opuntia cus-indica, obtained from dierent literature resources and
the Food Composition Database (NDCB No. 09287) of the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA). Second value, whenever indicated, is from the USDA Website at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/
Constituents Fresh fruit pulp (%)
Fruit juice
(mg/L)2
Fresh fruit pulp
(mg/100 g)
Water 84–90/87.5
Carbohydrates 12–17/9.57
Ashes 0.3–1/1.64
Fiber 0.02–3.15/3.6
Protein 0.21–1.6/0.73
Lipids 0.09–0.7/0.51
Free amino acid content
Alanine 87.2
Arginine 30.5
Asparagine 41.6
Glutamic acid 66.1
Glutamine 346.2
Glycine 11.3
Histidine 45.2
Isoleucine 31.2
Leucine 20.6
Lysine 17.4
Methionine 55.2
Phenylalanine 23.3
Serine 174.5
Threonine 13.3
Tyrosine 12.3
Tryptophane 12.6
Valine 39.4
Vitamin content (100 g)
Niacin (Vit. B3) Trace amounts
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) Trace amounts/0.06
Thiamine (Vit. B1) Trace amounts/0.014
Vitamin C (total ascorbic acid) 12–81/14 12–81
Vitamin E 111–115 μg
Vitamin K153 μg
Mineral content
Calcium 12.8–59/56
Iron 0.4–1.5/0.30
Magnesium 16.1–98.4/85
Natrium 0.6–1.1/ND
Phosphorous 15–32.8/24
Potassium 90–220/220
Continued
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
700
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
of the nutritional components of the fruit are dependent on the cultivation site, climate,
and fruit variety (Sáenz-Hernández, 1995; Felker et al., 2005).
Several literature resources indicate that the prickly pear fruits are a source of
different nutritional compounds (Sáenz-Hernández, 1995; Stintzing et al., 2001,
2005). There have been several studies, for example, Gurrieri et al. (2000), Stintzing et al.
(2001), Piga (2004), Lee et al. (2005), and Feugang et al. (2006), that investigated the
composition of pulp in the Opuntia fruit and considered its flesh as a good source of
minerals, in particular calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous. Cactus pear
fruits exhibit an ascorbic acid content of 20–40 mg/100 g fresh weight and a titratable
acidity of 0.03–0.12% with pH values ranging from 5.0 to 6.6 (Feugang et al., 2006;
but see data in their Tables 2-6 for more detailed information). The concentrations of
these components are thought to be dependent on the cultivation site, climate, and
variety (Sáenz-Hernández, 1995; Kader, 2002; Tesoriere et al., 2005; De Wit et al.,
2010). Likewise, several types of amino acids, for example, alanine, arginine, and aspara-
gine, are present in prickly pear fruit. In addition, Kugler et al. (2006) reported com-
paratively high amounts of aspartic and glutamic acids, estimated at about 200 mg/kg
juice in Opuntia ficus-indica. Nutritionally important vitamins, such as vitamin C (ascorbic
acid), E, K, and beta-carotenes (Tables 1 and 2), are also constituents of the cactus pear
fruit. The antioxidant properties of both carotenes and vitamin E have been shown
to ameliorate the stability of fatty oils (Ramadan and Mörsel, 2003a). Only trace
amount of several types of vitamin B have been found in prickly pear fruits (Table 1).
Constituents Fresh fruit pulp (%)
Fruit juice
(mg/L)2
Fresh fruit pulp
(mg/100 g)
Selenium ND/0.6
Sodium ND/5
Zinc ND/0.18
Antioxidant content (100 g)
Ascorbic acid 12–81 mg2
Beta-carotene 1.2–30 μg
Flavonols: 0.11–9 g
Kaempferol derivatives 0.11–0.30
Quercetin derivatives 0.98–9
Isorhamnetin derivatives 0.19–2.48
ND or empty cells, no data; + symbol, includes kaempferol, quercetin, and isorhamnetin derivatives.
Additional data extracted and adapted from: Sáenz-Her nández (1995), Piga (2004), Stintzing and Carle (2005), Stintzing
et al. (2001, 2005), Tesoriere et al. (2005), Feugang et al. (2006), Shedbalkar et al. (2010).
Table 1 A comparative synopsis of the chemical constituents of the dierent parts/products of the
prickly pear fruit, primarily from Opuntia cus-indica, obtained from dierent literature resources and
the Food Composition Database (NDCB No. 09287) of the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA). Second value, whenever indicated, is from the USDA Website at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/
ndb/co nt’d
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 701
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
A significant amount of neutral lipid (87% of total lipids) is found in the seed oil from
the prickly pear fruit, but the concentration of polar lipids is higher (52.9% of total lipid)
in pulp oil (Ramadan and Mörsel, 2003a,b; Mannoubi et al., 2009). Remarkably, 36.8 g
of lipids per kg is found in the pericarp layer (or peel) (Ramadan and Mörsel, 2003a).
Fat-soluble vitamins (alpha-, beta-, and delta tocopherols, beta-carotene, and vitamin
K1) present in seed and pulp oils of the prickly pear fruit protect lipids from oxidative
damage (Feguang et al., 2006). It is well-known that cacti produce alkaloids, which is a
characteristic feature of the cactus family (Gibson and Nobel, 1986; Anderson, 2001), but
their role in human nutrition and health is still obscure.
Flavonoids (found in phenolic compounds) are another important constituent in
Opuntia pulp fruits. The several flavonoids have an antioxidative effect (Tesoriere et al.,
2004, 2005; Morales et al., 2012) and are more effective than vitamins because phenolic
compounds produce stable radicals, which in turn delay prooxidative actions on proteins,
DNA, and lipids (Aires et al., 2004). Other antioxidants in prickly pear fruits include pec-
tin, carotenes, betalains, ascorbic acid, quercetin, and quercetin derivatives. The fruits are a
rich source of flavonoids, including kaempferol, quercetin, narcissin, dihydrokaempferol
Table 2 Detectable amino acid content in the fruit pulp of three varieties of O. cus-indica.
Amino acid Gymnocarpo Morado Apastillada Mean value
Alanine 81.7 83.4 96.6 87.2
Arginine 37.1 21.2 33.2 30.5
Asparagine 45.5 35.5 44.2 41.7
Citrulline 14.2 5.9 28.7 16.3
Glutamic acid 83.0 42.5 72.8 66.1
Glutamine 574.6 288.8 175.1 346.2
Glycine 8.6 9.2 16.2 11.3
Histidine 50.0 32.3 53.3 45.2
Isoleucine 32.9 21.8 38.8 31.2
Leucine 21.3 nv 19.9 20.6
Lysine 18.3 16.5 nv 17.4
Methionine 76.9 56.3 32.5 55.2
Phenylalanine 23.9 24.1 22.0 23.3
Proline 1143.5 883.4 1768.7 1265.2
Serine 217.5 175.4 130.6 174.5
Taurine 407.3 323.6 572.1 434.3
Threonine 15.1 12.6 11.6 13.1
Tryptophane 11.2 9.2 17.5 12.6
Tyrosine 13.0 14.3 9.6 12.3
Valine 50.0 32.9 35.2 39.4
Data indicate that the prickly pear fruit is a fruit containing promising nutraceuticals and essential ingredients, such as
amino acids, taurine, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, soluble fibers, and refreshing and pleasant flavor
and colors.
Amounts expressed in mg/l; nv, not valid.
Adapted from Stintzing et al. (1999, 2001).
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
702
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
(aromadendrin, 6), dihydroquercetin, and eriodictyol (Knishinsky, 1971; reviewed in Zou
et al., 2005; Shedbalkar et al., 2010). Flavonoids are known to have positive health benefits
(Knishinsky, 1971; Wang, 1988; Tesoriere et al., 2004).
Betalains are pigments characteristically red to violet (betacyanins) and yellow to
orange (betaxanthyns) present in different plant parts of members of the Caryophyllales,
including the cactus family (Anderson, 2001). These pigments account for the gamut of
fruit color of the prickly pear fruit and add important components to its nutritional
nature. The concentration of these pigments is responsible for the differences and inten-
sity in color types of the fruit, from deep red/violet and variations of pale green to yel-
low-orange (see Figures 3 and 4). The characterization of betalains in prickly pear fruits
has revealed that these pigments have antioxidant properties (Butera et al., 2002; Stintz-
ing et al., 2005; Tesoriere et al., 2005). Thus, the prickly pear fruit is an antioxidant-rich
fruit with properties that can potentially prevent or delay cell damage in the human
body. Overall, the general distribution of nutrients and antioxidants in the prickly pear
fruit is an indication that the ingestion of the whole fruit is more beneficial from a health
perspective because more potentially nutraceutical active ingredients are absorbed and
used by our bodies.
The seeds of the prickly pear fruit are rich in minerals and sulfur amino acids (Sawaya
et al., 1983a,b; reviewed in Feugang et al., 2006). In addition, several authors (Sáenz,
1996) claim that the composition of fatty acids in O. ficus-indica seeds have beneficial
food properties, and the ground Opuntia seeds, with a chocolate/cumin taste, make an
exceptional condiment, useful in culinary arts (Felker and Inglese, 2003). At present,
prickly pear cacti extracts (from cladodes) are available in the market in powder or pill
form and have been used as a dietary complement with suggested health benefits.
Considering the chemical components of the prickly pear cactus (Table 1), it could
be said that the nutritional capacity of this fruit is relatively modest. There are, however,
several aspects to consider this a promising fruit. Although the prickly pear fruit lacks
proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and certain required dietary supplement minerals, it does
include several amino acids (Table 2), and it has strong antioxidant capacity attributed to
flavonoid (Table 3) and carotenoid content (Table 4). Furthermore, it is worth mention-
ing, as pointed out by Piga (2004), that the popular and increasing trend in the demand
for nutraceuticals is associated with an increased desire for natural ingredients and food
products promoting health. The multiple functional properties of cactus pear, in con-
junction with the antioxidant properties of the fruit, fit well with this trend. The data of
Piga (2004, and sources therein) reveal the high content of some chemical constituents
as well as betalains, taurine, calcium, magnesium, and antioxidants is significant, which
adds value to this fruit on a nutritional and functional perspective (see Tables 2–5). In
addition, the consumption of prickly pears provides promising nutraceuticals and essen-
tial ingredients, such as amino acids, taurine, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, vitamin
C, and a significant contribution to the intake of fiber and total phenolics in human diets.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 703
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Thus, nutritional and chemical properties of the prickly pear may not provide the required
balanced diet for human nutrition, unlike major staple foods, such as cereals and legumes;
nevertheless, the prickly pear fruit and derivative properties can certainly supplement
human nutritional requirements.
Despite the difficulty in breaking cultural nourishment traditions, which in developing
countries are often associated with nutritional imbalance and deficiencies, an assorted food
Table 3 Fractional and total content of avonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, isorhamnetin) in prickly pear
fruits from four species of Opuntia with dierent fruit skin colors. The last column includes the oxygen
radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value or antioxidant capacity in fruit extracts. The antioxidant
capacity of cactus fruits can be attributed to their avonoid, ascorbic acid, and carotenoid contents
Species and skin
fruit color Kaempferol Quercetin Isorhamnetin
Total
avonoids
(μg/g fresh
wt.)
ORAC (μl
of TE/g)
O. ficus-indica
(green-skinned)
2.2 ± 0.3 43.2 ± 2.5 24.1 ± 1.0 69.5 ± 3.8 26.3 ± 1.8
O. lindheimeri
(purple-skinned)
1.1 ± 0.4 90.5 ± 11.5 1.9 ± 0.5 93.5 ± 12.4 49.2 ± 1.7
O. strepthacantha
(red-skinned)
3.8 ± 0.5 51.0 ± 4.6 nd 54.8 ± 5.1 25.2 + 2.1
O. stricta var. stricta
(yellow-skinned)
nd 9.8 ± 3.0 nd 9.8 ± 3.0 15.8 ± 1.6
Flavonol content expressed in (mg/g fresh weight). Mean ± standard deviation values are based on triplicate determination.
nd, not detected; TE, trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity.
Adapted from Kuti (2004).
Table 4 Biochemical composition of red-skinned prickly pear fruit from dierent wild species of
Opuntia (Opuntia stricta and Opuntia undulata) in relation to commercial/modern O. cus-indica.
O. cus-indica O. stricta O. undulata
Ascorbic acid (mg/100 g ff) 18.5 ± 2.0 23.3 ± 1.7 14.5 ± 1.5
Total phenolics (mg gallic acid
equivalents/100 g ff)
218.8 ± 2.9 204.4 ± 4.2 164.6 ± 3.3
Total carotenoids (μg β-carotene
equivalents/100 g ff)
2.58 ± 0.07 4.71 ± 0.10 6.68 ± 0.28
Betacyanins (mg betanin/100 g ff) 15.2 ± 0.8 80.1 ± 5.6 24.6 ± 2.1
Betaxanthins (mg indicaxanthin/100 g ff) 25.4 ± 1.9 nd 17.8 ± 0.9
Betalains (betacyanins + betaxanthins)
(mg/100 g ff)
40.6 ± 2.7 80.1 ± 5.6 42.4 ± 3.0
Taurine (mg/100 g ff) 7.70 ± 0.46 6.80 ± 0.5 11.22 ± 0.74
Strongest antioxidant capacity and taurine content can be found in fruit extract of O. ficus-indica, whereas the fruits of
O. stricta are the richest in ascorbic acid and total phenolics. The O. undulata fruits have the highest carotenoid content
Weight values are for fresh fruit (ff) and expressed in mean ± standard deviation of three separate estimations.
nd, not detected.
Data adapted from Fernández-López et al. (2010).
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
704
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
selection is relevant to sustain a balanced, quality diet to properly meet nutritional health
benefits. Numerous sources, for example, Bialostoky et al. (2002), Frison et al. (2006), and
references therein, indicate that macro- and micronutrient consumption and a holistic food-
based approach are fundamental for ideal nutrition and ultimately optimum human health.
Variety leads to a nutritionally adequate combination of macro- and micronutrients, even
with a lack of specific nutritional knowledge (Geissler and Powers, 2010). In order to sustain
a balanced diet, a person needs relatively larger amounts of macronutrients, that is, carbohy-
drates, proteins, and lipids (fats), with concomitant relatively smaller amounts of micronutri-
ents, for example, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (Geissler and Powers, 2010).
USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF FRUIT AND OTHER PLANT PARTS
OF THE PRICKLY PEAR
Cacti (Opuntia spp.) have been used for centuries as common vegetables and medicines
by Native Americans and Mexicans to treat a variety of ailments and disorders ( Knishinsky,
1971; Anderson, 2001; Bravo-Hollis and Scheinvar, 2002; Cota-Sánchez, 2002;
Table 5 Chemical composition for prickly pears of O. cus-indica and Opuntia
dillenii.
Opuntia cus-indica Opuntia dillenii
Moisture (%) 82.27 ± 2.22 81.68 ± 2.42
Total fiber (%) 5.37 ± 0.87 9.49 ± 1.51
Protein (%) 0.90 ± 0.26 0.52 ± 0.12
Fat (%) 0.50 ± 0.13 0.71 ± 0.19
Ash (%) 0.39 ± 0.08 0.43 ± 0.06
pH 6.32 ± 0.17 3.34 ± 0.11
Ascorbic acid (mg/100 g) 17.2 ± 4.43 29.7 ± 2.95
Phenolics (mg/100 g) 45.2 ± 7.4 117 ± 10
Na (mg/kg) 6.25 ± 8.22 153 ± 162
K (mg/kg) 1583 ± 328 908 ± 251
Ca (mg/kg) 263 ± 76 535 ± 187
Mg (mg/kg) 251 ± 57 454 ± 102
Fe (mg/kg) 1.98 ± 0.57 1.53 ± 0.31
Cu (mg/kg) 0.38 ± 0.09 0.33 ± 0.05
Zn (mg/kg) 2.05 ± 0.51 1.29 ± 0.49
Mn (mg/kg) 3.03 ± 1.58 5.09 ± 3.80
Ni (mg/kg) 0.28 ± 0.10 0.20 ± 0.08
Cr (mg/kg) 0.11 ± 0.03 0.14 ± 0.03
There does not appear to be significant nutritional difference among fruits from different species.
Most differences are due to human selection for larger size, more taste, and longer shelf-life in
prickly pear fruits. No substantial difference was found between green and orange color pulp in
fruits of O. ficus-indica, but according to Díaz-Medina et al. (2007), the consumption of prickly
pears, in particular O. dillenii, represents a significant contribution to the intake of fiber, ascorbic
acid, Mn, Cr, and total phenolics in human diets
Mean values expressed in mean ± standard deviation.
Adapted from Díaz-Medina et al. (2007).
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 705
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Tesoriere et al., 2004). The nutritional and medicinal properties of the fresh cladodes
have long been known (Bravo-Hollis, 1978; Fernández et al., 1992; Cota-Sánchez, 2002) .
The bark is a tonic and diuretic, the fruits have cooling and tonic properties, and the
young buds and the milky juice are astringent (Sedbalkar et al., 2010). A number of
medicinal applications have been attributed to several cacti. Medicinally, prickly pear
components and extracts have been used in treatments for diabetes, cholesterol, and
immune system health (Knishinsky, 2004). Polysaccharides extracted from O. ficus-indica
have been used to treat wounds and to protect the liver from dangerous organophospho-
rous pesticides (Ncibi et al., 2008) . Opuntia species have been used to protect brain tissue
from glucose and oxygen deprivation (Huang et al., 2008) and to treat hypoglycemic
effects in diabetic patients by returning blood glucose to normal levels (Laurenz et al.,
2003), and extracts of O. streptacantha have been shown to inhibit alpha–glucosidase
activity (Becerra-Jiménez and Andrade-Cetto, 2012).
In Chinese medicine, cactus fruit is used as medicine to treat inflammation and pain
and as a detoxification agent for snakebites (Wang, 1988). However, Arizona cactus pear
extracts have been used to test anti-cancer effects. Zou et al. (2005) report that they
inhibit cell growth in several cancer cell cultures, suppress tumor growth in nude mice,
and modulate expression of tumor-related genes. While these effects were comparable to
those of a synthetic retinoid currently used in chemoprevention trials, the mechanism of
the anti-cancer effects of cactus pear extracts need further investigation and testing.
In summary, in spite of the several uses indicated above and the fact that the leaves,
flowers, stems, and fruit are edible parts highly appreciated in prickly pear species, the use
of O. ficus-indica is mainly restricted to fresh fruit consumption in their countries of ori-
gin (Sáenz and Sepúlveda, 2001). The fruit is typically eaten fresh, although it can be
candied or made into juice and jams (pers. obs.). Fresh prickly pears are mainly available
as food items in North American supermarkets serving Hispanic customers. The prickly
pear fruit has been investigated as a new source of natural sweetener (Sáenz et al., 1998),
and the pulp and seeds of Opuntia jonocostle F.A.C. Weber ex. Diguet and Opuntia matudae
Scheinvar have been shown to be sources of bioactive compounds (phenolics, flavonoids,
and tocopherols) (Morales et al., 2012).
FUTURE PROSPECTS
Cactus pear fruits are rich in betalains, taurine, minerals, and antioxidants (Moßhammer
et al., 2005, 2006), fitting well with the current healthy nutraceutical trend of human
society. This fruit is considered a promising future crop for commercial food applications, but
a comprehensive knowledge of the physical and chemical attributes and their current and
potential future uses of cactus prickly pears is still lacking. Many of the data are also contra-
dictory. Despite the scanty figures on conclusive clinical studies and evidence (Moßhammer
et al., 2006), numerous websites on the Internet claim that components of the prickly
pear have contraindications, such as hypersensitivity, and that its use should be avoided
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
706
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
during pregnancy and lactation (http://www.drugs.com/npp/prickly-pear.html) .
Conversely, other websites claim a wide array of health benefits, such as treatment for type 2
diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, colitis, etc., as well as side effects, including mild diar-
rhea, nausea, increased amount and frequency of stool, bloating, and headache. The fruit
is also consumed purportedly to treat respiratory tract infections, arteriosclerosis, diar-
rhea, and sore throat (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/
expert-answers/prickly-pear-cactus/faq-20057771).
Because of the lack of rigorous research regarding the actual effect on human health
of the prickly pear components, it is too early to call the cactus prickly pear a potential
panacea fruit or superfood. Most importantly, the reader should keep in mind that many
health claims available on the Internet are based on folklore or traditional or indirect
scientific evidence and have not be validated by scientific research, which suggests a need
to check the validity of herbal information available on this and other plants on the
Internet. In fact, Veronin and Ramirez (2000) conducted a systematic survey of health
claims of Opuntia and found that only 34% of the claims were addressed in the scientific
literature and much of the evidence was conflicting. However, the prickly pear fruit is
certainly popular in many areas of the world, particularly in Latin America, and can be
part of a healthy diet because it is high in fiber, antioxidants, and carotenoids (Piga, 2004;
Feugang et al., 2006, and references therein).
In a world with increasing interest in healthy food and lifestyle, it makes sense to
market crops with potential health-promoting and nutritional benefits, such as cactus
pears, which are increasingly gaining popularity from some health specialists and con-
sumers worldwide. In brief, future research regarding further investigation of cactus pear
chemistry and industrial utilization of the fruit as a raw material for foods is needed to
accurately assess the benefits and wonders of this plant in human society, particularly
regarding nutrition and health.
CONCLUDING REMARKS
To end this review, I would like to mention Piga’s (2004) comment regarding a tale say-
ing that people from some North African countries refer to the prickly pear fruit as “the
bridge of life” because it is the only food and water resource for animals during the long
dry seasons, and the hope is that this crop will substantially reward human exploitation
in all parts of the world, particularly in arid and semiarid regions, where food and water
supplies are limited. The nopal (Opuntia ssp.) is a plant of manifold qualities (Muñoz-de-
Chávez et al., 1995) and, at present, is a cash crop that is easy to tend and maintain in arid
and semiarid regions (Pimienta-Barrios, 1994; Scheinvar, 1995; Stintzing and Carle,
2005). Its cultivation is expanding to new parts of the world because of its straightfor-
ward propagation and growth and, most importantly, the fact that it feeds both humans
and livestock species in areas in which food resources may be limited. The seeds of
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 707
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
O. ficus-indica and most Opuntia species exhibit low germination rates due in part to the
seed’s sclerified (bony) aril. Thus, asexual reproduction is common in many opuntias.
The most prevalent type of cloning of Opuntia is vegetative propagation by stem or
cladode detachment (Rebman and Pinkava, 2001). It is through this mechanism that
some opuntias are capable of forming large natural populations, which are the result of
dense monocultures of clonal individuals, hence the ease of propagation as a crop plant.
Clearly, there are still numerous research needs related to the reproductive biology as
well as productivity and orchard management of the prickly pear cactus crop. The grad-
ual and improved information regarding the nutritional value of prickly pear fruit, in
addition to the promising potential of Opuntia species to establish in marginal land, has
promoted interest in preparing processed items to fulfill the need for diversification and
improved fruit shelf life (Inglese et al., 1995b, 2002; Piga, 2004). One of the biggest chal-
lenges is fruit improvement, specifically the creation of large, tasty, seedless fruits of
higher quality. In addition, increasing the consumer market is another shortcoming, but
despite the fact that changing people’s eating habits is difficult, it is feasible that more
effective marketing strategies may enable this plant to go beyond ethnic markets to make
the prickly pear fruit appealing to more consumers in larger cities. New marketing tech-
niques should widely exploit the utilitarian possibilities of prickly pear fruits and pads.
In addition to human and animal food, crops of prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.) have
been shown to have benefits for the environment. From this perspective, several Opuntia
species have been successfully used in land reclamation and rehabilitation procedures (Le
Houérou, 1996), and more recently O. streptacantha Lem. has been used as a bioaccumulator
in lead-contaminated waters in bioremediation programs (Miretzky et al., 2008). In an
excellent review, Shedbalkar et al. (2010) highlight the many characteristics of cacti, mak-
ing them a suitable model crop to attain productivity and sustainability with minimal
ecological or environmental impact to meet the growing world demand for food. The
same idea applies to O. ficus-indica (and other Opuntia species), as these are alternative
resources to meet food supply and nutritional health requirements. As a specialized and
environmentally friendly crop, it withstands long periods of drought, a factor that may
become significant in areas of the world with declining water resources and increasing
desertification as a result of human population growth and global warming. Furthermore,
these crops represent an effective food production system, including ecosystem services
and the production of fruits and vegetable parts for human and livestock consumption.
In conclusion, this underexploited crop has the potential to provide food, beverages,
and acceptable levels of nutrition in addition to significant pharmacological potential
and promising active ingredients in human nutrition and health. To put it simply, the
wide range of characteristics and applications of the prickly pear fruit (and plant) makes
it an ideal element to explore and experience in different daily life activities, including
nutritional diet and culinary arts, traditional and modern medicine, environmental land
use and arid and semiarid agrosystems, and industry.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
708
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
SUMMARY POINTS
• The cactus family has strong cultural and economic significance throughout the
Americas and provides crops used for alimentary, pharmaceutical, natural health, and
forage products. The genus Opuntia, commonly known as prickly pear cactus, includes
a number of species that produce nutritious fruits and young, edible cladodes (stem
pads, also called joints), which are used as a vegetable.
• Theprickly pearfruitisalsoknownastuna, Indian fig,Christian fig,andtunade
Castilla.
• Mexico is considered one ofthe major areas of geneticdiversityofOpuntia, and
Opuntia ficus-indica is one of the most agro-economically important cactus crop spe-
cies and is cultivated in arid and semiarid regions of the Americas, Mediterranean
region, Australia, and Africa for its fruits. The spineless forms correspond to horticul-
tural varieties.
• Thecactuspearfruithasanoval,elongatedshape,likeanovalappleorpear,andis
technically a fleshy berry. The fruits have several attractive colors, such as white,
green, yellow, orange, red, and purple, which vary in relation to the amount of beta-
lain pigment content.
• Thepricklypearfruitsmaybedividedintothreecomponentsthatmaybeexploited
for commercial processing: seeds, peel, and pulp.
• Thepricklypearfruitcontainsapproximately85%water,15%sugar,0.3%ash,and
less than 1% protein. The flesh is a good source of minerals, in particular calcium,
magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous. Several types of amino acids, for example,
alanine, arginine, and asparagine, are present in prickly pear fruit. Important vitamins
include vitamin C (ascorbic acid), E, K, and beta-carotenes. A significant amount of
neutral lipid (87% of total lipids) is found in the seed oil. Flavonoids (found in phe-
nolic compounds), effective antioxidants, are another important constituent.
• Red,yellow,andpurplepigments(betalains)arecharacteristicinpricklypearfruit.
These pigments have antioxidant properties, and their concentration is responsible
for the differences and intensity in color types of the fruit.
• Overall, the general distr ibution of nutrients and antioxidants in the prickly pear
fruit is an indication that the ingestion of the whole fruit is more beneficial from a
health perspective because more potentially nutraceutical active ingredients are
absorbed and used by our bodies. However, considering the chemical components of
the prickly pear cactus, the nutritional capacity of this fruit is relatively modest and
should be used as dietary complement.
• Thepricklypearfruitcanbeconsideredas“thebridgeoflife”becauseitistheonly
food and water resource for animals during the long dry seasons in dry areas of the
world. This crop can substantially reward human exploitation in all parts of the world,
particularly in arid and semiarid regions where food and water supplies are limited.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 709
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The author thanks Denver Falconer and Dewey Litwiller for providing cr itical feedback in previous versions
of this manuscript. I am also indebted to Stephanie Wood for suggestions on the proper usage of Nahuatl
terms. Patrick Griffith, Valentina Saniccolo and Francesco Cepolina (http://www.cepolina.com/nature.
htm), Tomás Castelazo (http://www.tomascastelazo.com/), Stephanie Wood, and David Guzmán (www.
veralmex.com) for supplying photographic material for publication as indicated in figure captions.
REFERENCES
Aguilar Enríquez, M.L., Pérez Olvera, C.P., Pérez Olvera, S.P., 2004. La flora del escudo nacional mexicano.
Polibotánica 18, 53–73.
Aires, V., Adote, S., Hichami, A., Moutairou, K., Boustani, E.-S.E., Khan, N.A., 2004. Modulation of intracel-
lular calcium concentrations and T cell activation by prickly pear polyphenols. Molecular and Cellular
Biochemistry 260, 103–110.
Almeida, O.J.G., Cota-Sánchez, J.H., Paoli, A.A.S., 2013. The systematic significance of floral morphology,
nectaries, and nectar concentration in epiphytic cacti of tribes Hylocereeae and Rhipsalideae (Cacta-
ceae). Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 15, 255–268.
Anderson, E.F., 2001. The Cactus Family. Timber Press, Portland, OR, USA.
Barbera, G., Carimi, F., Inglese, P., 1992. Past and present role of the Indian-fig prickly-pear (Opuntia ficus-
indica (L.) Miller, Cactaceae) in the agr iculture of Sicily. Economic Botany 46, 10–20.
Becerra-Jiménez, J., Andrade-Cetto, A., 2012. Effect of Opuntia streptacantha Lem. on alpha-glucosidase
activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 139, 493–496.
Bialostosky, K., Wright, J.D., Kennedy-Stephenson, J., McDowell, M., Johnson, C.L., 2002. Dietary intake of
macronutrients, micronutrients and other dietary constituents: United States, 1988–94. National Center
for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 11 (245), 168.
Bianchini, F., Corbetta, F., Pistoia, M., 1975. The Fruits of the Earth. Crown Publishers, London, UK.
Bravo-Hollis, H., 1978. Las Cactáceas de México, vol. 1. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México,
Mexico City, Mexico.
Bravo-Hollis, H., Sánchez-Mejorada, H., 1991. Las Cactáceas de México, vol. 3. Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico.
Bravo Hollis, H., Scheinvar, L., 2002. El Interesante Mundo de las Cactáceas, third ed. Fondo de Cultura
Económica, México City, Mexico.
Butera, D., Tesoriere, L., di Gaudio, F., Bongiorno, A., Allegra, M., Pintaudi, A.M., Kohen, R., Livrea, M.A.,
2002. Antioxidant activities of Sicilian prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) fruit extracts and reducing
properties of its betalains: betanin and indicaxanthin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50,
6895–6901.
Butterworth, C.A., Wallace, R.S., 2005. Molecular phylogenetics of the leafy cactus genus Pereskia (Cacta-
ceae). Systematic Botany 30, 800–808.
Callen, E.O., 1965. Food habits of some pre-Columbian Mexican Indians. Economic Botany 19, 335–343.
Callen, E.O., 1967. Analysis of the Tehuacán Coprolites. In: Byers, D.S. (Ed.), Prehistory of the Tehuacán
Valley, vol. 1, Environment and subsistence, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, USA, pp. 261–289.
Casas, A., Barbera, G., 2002. Mesoamerican domestication and diffusion. In: Nobel, P.S. (Ed.), Cacti: Biology
and Uses. University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA, USA. pp. 143–163.
Casas, A., Pickersgill, B., Caballero, J., Valiente-Banuet, A., 1997. Ethnobotany and the process of domestica-
tion of the xoconochtli Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae) in the Tehuacán Valley and La Mixteca Baja,
Mexico. Economic Botany 51, 279–292.
Cota, J.H., 1993. Pollination syndromes in the genus Echinocereus: a review. Cactus and Succulent Journal
(U.S.) 65, 19–26.
Cota-Sánchez, J.H., 2002. Taxonomy, distribution, rarity status and uses of Canadian cacti. Haseltonia 9, 17–25.
Cota-Sánchez, J.H., 2004. Vivipary in the Cactaceae: its taxonomic occurrence and biological significance.
Flora 199, 481–490.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
710
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Cota-Sánchez, J.H., Abreu, D.D., 2007. Vivipary and offspring survival in the epiphytic cactus Epiphyllum
phyllanthus (Cactaceae). Journal of Exper imental Botany 58, 3865–3873.
Cota-Sánchez, J.H., Bomfim-Patricio, M., 2010. Seed morphology, ploidy and the evolutionary history of
the epiphytic cactus Rhipsalis baccifera (Cactaceae). Polibotánica 29, 107–129.
Cota-Sánchez, J.H., Croutch, D.S., 2008. Notes on the floral biology of Praecereus euchlorus subsp. euchlorus
(Cactaceae). Schumannia 5, 99–103.
De Wit, M., Nel, P., Osthoff, G., Labschagne, M.T., 2010. The effect of variety and location on cactus pear
(Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit quality. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 65, 136–145.
Díaz-Medina, E.M., Rodríguez-Rodríguez, E.M., Díaz-Romero, C., 2007. Chemical characterization of
Opuntia dillenii and Opuntia ficus-indica fruits. Food Chemistry 103, 38–45.
Felker, P., Inglese, P., 2003. Short-term and long-term research needs for Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. utiliza-
tion in arid areas. Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Development 5, 131–151.
Felker, P., Soulier, C., Leguizamon, G., Ochoa, J., 2002. A comparison of the fruit parameters of 12 Opuntia
clones grown in Argentina and the United States. Journal of Arid Environments 52, 361–370.
Felker, P., Rodriguez, S.C., Casoliba, R.M., Filippini, R., Medina, D., Zapata, R., 2005. Comparison of
Opuntia ficus indica varieties of Mexican and Argentine origin for fruit yield and quality in Argentina.
Journal of Arid Environments 60, 405–422.
Fernández, M.L., Lin, E.C.K., Trejo, A., McNamara, D.J., 1992. Prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) pectin reverses low
density lipoprotein receptor suppression induced by a hypercholesterolemic diet in guinea pigs. Journal
of Nutrition 122, 2330–2340.
Fernández-López, J.A., Almela, L., Obón, J.M., Castellar, R., 2010. Determination of antioxidant constitu-
ents in cactus pear fruits. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 65, 253–259.
Feugang, J.M., Konarski, P., Zou, D., Stintzing, F.C., Zou, C., 2006. Nutritional and medicinal use of cactus
pear (Opuntia spp.) cladodes and fruits. Frontiers in Bioscience 11, 2574–2589.
Frison, E.A., Smith, I.F., Johns, T., Cherfas, J., Eyzaguirre, P.B., 2006. Agricultural biodiversity, nutrition, and
health: making a difference to hunger and nutrition in the developing world. Food and Nutrition Bul-
letin 27, 167–179.
Geissler, C., Powers, H., 2010. Human Nutrition, twelfth ed. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Gibson, A.C., Nobel, P.S., 1986. The Cactus Pr imer. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Griffith, M.P., 2004. The origins of an important cactus crop, Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae): new molecular
evidence. American Journal of Botany 91, 1915–1921.
Gurbachan, S., Felker, P., 1998. Cactus: new world foods. Indian Horticulture 43, 29–31.
Gurrieri, S., Miceli, L., Lanza, C.M., Tomaselli, F., Bonomo, R.P., Rizzarelli, E., 2000. Chemical characteriza-
tion of Sicilian prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) and perspectives for the storage of its juice. Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry 48, 5424–5431.
Huang, X., Li, Q., Zhang, Y., Lu, Q., Guo, L., Huang, L., He, Z., 2008. Neuroprotective effects of cactus
polysaccharide on oxygen and glucose deprivation induced damage in rat brain slices. Cellular and
Molecular Neurobiology 28, 559–568.
Inglese, P., Barbera, G., La Mantia, T., 1995a. Research strategies for the improvement of cactus pear (Opun-
tia ficus-indica) fruit quality and production. Journal of Arid Environments 29, 455–468.
Inglese, P., Barbera, G., La Mantia, T., Portolano, S., 1995b. Crop production, growth, and ultimate size of
cactus pear fruit following fruit thinning. HortScience 30, 227–230.
Inglese, P., Basile, F., Schirra, M., 2002. Cactus pear fruit production. In: Nobel, P.S. (Ed.), Cacti: Biology and
Uses. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USA. pp. 163–183.
Kader, A.A., 2002. Fruits in the global market. In: Knee, M. (Ed.), Fruit Quality and its Biological Basis.
Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield, UK. pp. 1–16.
Kiesling, R., 1998. Origen, domesticación y distribución de Opuntia ficus-indica. Journal of the Professional
Association for Cactus Development 3, 50–60.
Knishinsky, R., 1971. Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, USA.
Knishinsky, R., 2004. Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine: Treatments for Diabetes, Cholesterol, and the Immune
System. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, Rochester, VT, USA.
Kugler, F., Graneis, S., Schreiter, P.P.-Y., Stintzing, F.C., Carle, R., 2006. Deter mination of free amino com-
pounds in betalainic fruits and vegetables by gas chromatography with flame ionization and mass spec-
trometric detection. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 54, 4311–4318.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of the Prickly Pear Fruit 711
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Kuti, J.O., 2004. Antioxidant compounds from four Opuntia cactus pear fruit varieties. Food Chemistry 85,
527–533.
Laurenz, J.C., Collier, C.C., Kuti, J.O., 2003. Hypoglycaemic effect of Opuntia lindheimeri Engelm. in a dia-
betic pig model. Phytotherapy Research 17, 26–29.
Le Houérou, H.N., 1996. The role of cacti (Opuntia spp.) in erosion control, land reclamation, rehabilitation
and agricultural development in the Mediterranean basin. Journal of Ar id Environments 33, 135–159.
Lee, Y.-C., Pyo, Y.-H., Ahn, C.-K., Kim, S.-H., 2005. Food functionality of Opuntia ficus-indica var. cultivated
in Jeju Island. Journal of Food Science and Nutrition 10, 103–110.
Majure, L.C., Puente, R., Griffth, M.P., Judd, W.S., Soltis, P.S., Soltis, D.E., 2012. Phylogeny of Opuntia s.s.
(Cactaceae): clade delineation, geographic origins, and reticulate evolution. American Journal of Botany
99, 847–864.
Mannoubi, I., Barrek, S., Skanji, T., Casabianca, H., Zarrouk, H., 2009. Characterization of Opuntia ficus indica
seed oil from Tunisia. Chemistry of Natural Compounds 45, 616–620.
Miretzky, P., Muñoz, C., Carrillo-Chávez, A., 2008. Experimental binding of lead to a low cost on biosor-
bent: nopal (Opuntia streptacantha). Bioresource Technology 99, 1211–1217.
Mizrahi, Y., Nerd, A., Nobel, P.S., 1997. Cacti as crops. In: Janick, J. (Ed.), Hort. Reviews, vol. 18. Wiley,
New York, USA, pp. 291–346.
Moßhammer, M.R., Stintzing, F.C., Carle, R., 2005. Development of a process for the production of a
betalain-based colouring foodstuff from cactus pear. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies
6, 221–231.
Moßhammer, M.R., Stintzing, F.C., Carle, R., 2006. Cactus pear fruits (Opuntia spp.): a review of process-
ing technologies and current uses. Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Development 8,
1–25.
Mohamed-Yasseen, Y., Barringer, S.A., Splittstoesser, W.E., 1996. A note on the uses of Opuntia spp. in Cen-
tral/North America. Journal of Arid Environments 32, 347–353.
Morales, P., Ramírez-Moreno, E., Sánchez-Mata, M.C., Carvalho, A.M., Ferreira, I.C.F.R., 2012. Nutritional
and antioxidant properties of pulp and seeds of two xoconostle cultivars (Opuntia joconostle F.A.C. Weber
ex Diguet and Opuntia matudae Scheinvar) of high consumption in Mexico. Food Research Interna-
tional 46, 279–285.
Muñoz de Chávez, M., Chávez, A., Valles, V., Roldán, J.A., 1995. The nopal: a plant of manifold qualities.
World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 77, 109–134.
Ncibi, S., Othman, M.B., Akacha, A., Krifi, M.N., Zourgui, L., 2008. Opuntia ficus indica extract protects
against chlorpyrifos-induced damage on mice liver. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46, 797–802.
Nyffeler, R., 2002. Phylogenetic relationships in the cactus family (Cactaceae) based on evidence from
trnK/matK and trnL-trnF sequences. American Journal of Botany 89, 312–326.
Parish, J., Felker, P., 1997. Fruit quality and production of cactus pear (Opuntia spp.) fruit clones selected for
increased frost hardiness. Journal of Arid Environments 37, 123–143.
Piga, A., 2004. Cactus pear: a fruit of nutraceutical and functional importance. Journal of the Professional
Association for Cactus Development 6, 9–22.
Piga, A., D’Aquino, S., Agabbio, M., Schirra, M., 1996. Storage life and quality attributes of cactus pears cv
‘Gialla’ as affected by packaging. Agricultura Mediterranea 126, 423–427.
Pimienta-Barrios, E., 1994. Prickly pear (Opuntia ssp.): a valuable fruit crop for the semi-arid lands of
Mexico. Journal of Arid Environments 28, 1–11.
Pimienta-Barrios, E., Muñoz-Urias, A., 1995. Domestication of opuntias and cultivated varieties. In: Bar-
bera, G., Inglese, P., Pimienta-Barrios, E. (Eds.), Agro-ecology, Cultivation and Uses of Cactus Pear. FAO
Plant Production and Protection Paper No. 132 pp. 58–63.
Pimienta-Barrios, E., Nobel, P.S., 1994. Pitaya (Stenocereus spp., Cactaceae): an ancient and modern fruit crop
in Mexico. Economic Botany 48, 76–83.
Pimienta-Barrios, E., Nobel, P.S., 1995. Reproductive characteristics of pitayo (Stenocereus queretaroensis) and
their relationships with soluble sugars and irrigation. Journal of the American Society of Horticultural
Science 120, 1082–1086.
Ramadan, M.F., Mörsel, J.T., 2003a. Recovered lipids from prickly pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.] peel:
a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, natural antioxidant vitamins and sterols. Food Chemistry
83, 447–456.
Author's personal copy
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars
712
Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars, First Edition, 2016, 691-712
Ramadan, M.F., Mörsel, J.-T., 2003b. Oil cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L.). Food Chemistry 82, 339–345.
Rebman, J.P., Pinkava, D.J., 2001. Opuntia cacti of North America: an overview. Florida Entomologist 84,
474–483.
Sáenz, C., 1996. Food products from cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica). Food Chain 18, 10–11.
Sáenz, C., Sepúlveda, E., 2001. Cactus-pear juices. Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Devel-
opment 4, 3–10.
Sáenz, C., Estévez, A.M., Sepúlveda, E., Mecklenburg, P., 1998. Cactus pear fruit: a new source for a natural
sweetener. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 52, 141–149.
Sáenz-Hernández, C., 1995. Food manufacture and by-products. In: Barbera, G., Inglese, P., Pimienta-Barrios,
E. (Eds.), Agro-ecology, Cultivation and Uses of Cactus Pear, FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper
No. 132 pp. 137–143.
Sawaya, W.N., Khalil, J.K., Al-Mohammad, M.M., 1983a. Nutritive value of prickly pear seeds, Opuntia ficus-
indica. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 33, 91–97.
Sawaya, W.N., Khatchadourian, H.A., Safi, W.M., Al-Muhammad, H.M., 1983b. Chemical characterization
of prickly pear pulp, Opuntia ficus-indica, and the manufacturing of prickly pear jam. Journal of Food
Technology 18, 183–193.
Scheinvar, L., 1995. Taxonomy of utilized opuntias. In: Barbera, G., Inglese, P., Pimienta-Barrios, E. (Eds.),
Agro-ecology, Cultivation and Uses of Cactus Pear, FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper 132
pp. 20–27.
Sepúlveda, E., 1998. Cactus pear fruit potential for industr ialization. In: Sáenz, C. (Ed.), Proceedings of the
International Symposium: Cactus Pear and Nopalitos Processing and Uses, Santiago, Chile pp. 17–21.
Shedbalkar, U.U., Adki, V.S., Jadhav, J.P., Bapat, V.A., 2010. Opuntia and other cacti: applications and biotech-
nological insights. Tropical Plant Biology 3, 136–150.
Stintzing, F.C., Carle, R., 2005. Cactus stems (Opuntia spp.): a review on their chemistry, technology, and
uses. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 49, 175–194.
Stintzing, F.C., Herbach, K.M., Mosshammer, M.R., Carle, R., Yi, W., Sellappan, S., Akoh, C.C., Bunch, R.,
Felker, P., 2005. Color, betalain patter n, and antioxidant properties of cactus pear (Opuntia spp.) clones.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53, 442–451.
Stintzing, F.C., Schieber, A., Carle, R., 1999. Amino acid composition and betaxanthin formation in fruits
from Opuntia ficus-indica. Planta Medica 65, 632–635.
Stintzing, F.C., Schieber, A., Carle, R., 2001. Phytochemical and nutritional significance of cactus pear. Euro-
pean Food Research and Technology 212, 396–407.
Stintzing, F.C., Schieber, A., Carle, R.C., 2003. Evaluation of colour properties and chemical quality param-
eters of cactus juices. European Food Research and Technology 216, 303–311.
Stuppy, W., 2002. Seed characters and the generic classification of the Opuntioideae (Cactaceae). In: Hunt,
D.R., Taylor, N.P. (Eds.), Studies in the Opuntioideae (Cactaceae). D. Hunt, Milborne Port, Dorset, UK.
pp. 25–58.
Tesoriere, L., Butera, D., Pintaudi, A.M., Allegra, M., Livrea, M.A., 2004. Supplementation with cactus pear
(Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit decreases oxidative stress in healthy humans: a comparative study with vitamin
C. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80, 391–395.
Tesoriere, L., Fazzari, M., Allegra, M., Livrea, M.A., 2005. Biothiols, taurine, and lipid-soluble antioxidants
in the edible pulp of Sicilian cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) fruits and changes of bioactive juice com-
ponents upon industrial processing. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53, 7851–7855.
Veronin, M.A., Ramirez, G., 2000. The validity of health claims on the world wide web: a systematic survey
of the herbal remedy Opuntia. American Journal of Health Promotion 15, 21–28.
Wang, P.Z., 1988. Chinese Medicine Surgery. Traditional Chinese Medicine Press, Beijing, China. 164–183.
Zou, D.-M., Brewer, M., Garcia, F., Feugang, J.M., Wang, J., Zang, R., Liu, H., Zou, C., 2005. Cactus pear:
a natural product in cancer chemoprevention. Nutrition Journal 4, 75–95.
Author's personal copy
... Like all cacti, prickly pear is a bushy, succulent, branched plant composed of joints or fleshy segments that reach an average height of 3-6 m and have a stem or trunk 60-150 cm wide [52]. The O. ficus-indica species is a shrub/arborescent plant that can reach up to 5 meters in height. ...
... At present, prickly pears can be found in different colors and shapes, and with or without thorns, but there are no obvious differences between traditional and modern cultivars [52]. Their difference lies in the amount of betalains and betaxanthins found, depending on the prickly pear variety [46]. ...
... The moisture content varies between 82% and 92%, and the protein and fat content does not exceed 2% and 1% of the total weight, respectively ( Table 9). Prickly pears do not have a distinctive aroma, but the pulp is very sweet and the sugar components are mainly glucose and fructose, whose concentration varies from 10 to 17°Brix [52]. In addition, the prickly pear pulp is characterized by a water activity between 97.2% and 99.3%, a pH of 5.2-5.5, and a titratable acidity (% citric acid) that ranges from 0.001 to 0.003 [60]. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
The South American Andes hide countless cacti and are part of valuable Andean biodiversity. Within this large family of Cactaceae are edible cacti that are highly valued for their medicinal properties and used as edible fruits. In this review, we will make a description of the overall chemical composition, main phytochemicals found in some edible cacti of the Andean region such as sanky (Corryocactus brevistylus), pitahaya (Hylocereus monacanthus, Hylocereus megalanthus) and tuna or prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica). In addition, we will include its medicinal and therapeutic properties and its commercial applications and uses as a natural colorant.
... O. ficus-indica was introduced into South Africa during the 18th century and is now widespread (Zimmermann & Moran, 1991). Numerous studies have profiled the nutritional value of O. ficus-indica (Hernández-Urbiola et al., 2011;Dahmardeh, 2012;Ö-Zcan & al Juhaimi, 2011;Rocchetti et al., 2018;Sawaya et al., 1983); a more detailed review of the nutritional value of O. ficus-indica is given by Cota-Sánchez (2015). The usefulness of some exotic species can be explained by the ever-growing demand for regulated species in South Africa and elsewhere (Moshobane et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Opuntia ficus‐indica, commonly known as prickly pear, is a widely distributed plant originating in central America. Its wide distribution and popularity as a cultivated plant are due to the sweetness of its fruits. Here, the role of O. ficus‐indica in the livelihoods of people in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was investigated. Roadside traders of prickly pear were surveyed 2019–2020 using paper‐based questionnaires and a convenience sampling strategy. Evidence of O. ficus‐indica trading as a means to generate income was uncovered. Notably, none of the traders knew about invasive species. Future studies should seek to understand the motivations of purchasers. The extent to which rural communities use this species for food security and poverty alleviation is not fully understood. The Opuntia ficus‐indica (whose fruits are traded in South Africa) is a species that is classified according to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (10/2004) Alien and Invasive Species (NEM:BA A&IS) regulations as an invasive species. This study sought to provide an understanding of the socio‐economic value of O. ficus‐indica and the characteristic profiles of the people who trade with O. ficus‐indica in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. A convenience sampling strategy was conducted along trading roads in Limpopo province, and the data were collected by surveying traders' attitudes toward the prickly pear trade using questionnaires. Our findings show that at the time of sampling 72 traders participated in prickly pear trading along the roadside. Unemployment is cited as the primary reason for their involvement in trading. O. Ficus‐indica is an important fruit for rural communities in Limpopo province. It helps communities living below the poverty line to generate income and to support their livelihoods. Our study highlights the need for the establishment of a Prickly Pear Traders' Agency in order to promote the trade of O. ficus‐indica as a measure to generate income, alleviate poverty, and ensure food security. The paper concludes with recommendations for local government support for O. ficus‐indica traders through the formalization of the trade and through monetary support. Opuntia ficus‐indica, commonly known as prickly pear, is a widely distributed plant originating in central America. Its wide distribution and popularity as a cultivated plant due to the sweetness of its fruits. Here, the role of O. ficus‐indica in the livelihoods of people in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was investigated. Roadside traders of prickly pear were surveyed 2019–2020 using paper‐based questionnaires and a convenience sampling strategy. Evidence of O. ficus‐indica trading as a means to generate income was uncovered. Notably, none of the traders knew about invasive species. Future studies should seek to understand the motivations of purchasers. The extent to which rural communities use this species for food security and poverty alleviation is not fully understood.
... The cactus pear is a sweet, juicy, exotic fruit appreciated by international consumers (Cota-Sánchez, 2016). Although Mexico is the largest producer of cactus pear worldwide, with more than 14,000,000 tons harvested per year (Secretaría de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural, 2020), many of them are lost due to inadequate storage practices (Hernández-Carranza et al., 2019). ...
Article
Cactus pear is an underused exotic fruit rich in health-promoting compounds with a high amount of peel in its composition. Thus, it is necessary to look for its application in the food industry. The aim of this study is to assess the proximal analysis, health-promoting compounds, sensory acceptance, and probiotic survival (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) of supplements based on red (RCPP) or green (GCPP) cactus pear peel. Both supplements presented a low moisture content (< 8%) and a high amount of dietary fiber (66-76%), with an adequate quantity of soluble dietary fiber (16.53 ± 1.84 and 19.78 ± 0.83%). Total phenolic compounds, betalains, and antioxidant capacity of the supplements were in the range of 392 to 543 mg GAE/100 g, 23 to 95 mg betalain/100 g, and 17 to 97 mmol Trolox/100 g, respectively, being always higher in RCPP, which was also better accepted by the consumers. After 5-h of gastrointestinal simulation, L. rhamnosus survival was about 5.79 x 10⁶ CFU/mL for GCPP supplement, while 3.22 x 10⁶ CFU/mL, were counted in RCPP supplement. Cactus pear by-products may be used for developing food supplements rich in fiber and probiotic bacteria widely demanded by the consumer. © 2022, Sociedade Brasileira de Ciencia e Tecnologia de Alimentos, SBCTA. All rights reserved.
... This insect is commercially and economically very valuable because it is a natural biological source of carminic acid, a red dye from the anthraquinone group with a vast range of industrial uses and applications in sectors including pharmaceutics, food, and cosmetics (Méndez-Gallegos et al. 2010, Campana et al. 2015, Serrato et al. 2017). On the other side, this cactus specie also has huge socio-economic value, producing nutritional fruits and young edible cladodes that are used as vegetables (Cota-Sánchez 2015). In addition, mucilage from the cladodes has a number of uses, mainly in the environmental sector, for instance, as a natural flocculant, emulsifier, and stabilising agent (Bouaouine et al. 2019, de Andrade Vieira et al. 2021). ...
Article
Full-text available
The carmine cochineal (Dactylopius coccus Costa) has high economic value as it is a natural source of carminic acid, an organic chromophore used in a wide range of sectors including pharmaceutics, food, and cosmetics. High demand is fuelling the search for innovative production techniques in order to move away from dependence on the prickly pear, which carries a number of limitations. The aim of this study was to establish cochineal colonies and breed and mass-produce the insects using two laboratory-scale production systems. The first system (STC-01) comprised a prismatic acrylic box with three compartments; synthetic matrices were placed vertically inside the box to provide support and a source of nutrients for the cochineal, and the system was lit artificially during fixed daylight periods. The second system (STC-02) comprised an automated micro-tunnel allowing the insects to move towards the sunlight, containing synthetic matrices arranged horizontally. There was a significant difference in yield between the two systems in a cochineal total life cycle of 120 d (80–90 d harvest period in both cases), with STC-01 being superior and producing a maximum yield of 4.86 ± 0.68 g fresh weight per day per square metre compared with 3.20 ± 0.14 g fresh weight per day per square metre production yield in STC-02. We conclude that cochineal production under controlled artificial conditions is feasible and sustainable, removing the need for natural and biological support and overcoming the environmental limitations posed by traditional production methods.
... citric acid Wolfram et al., 2002;Abd El-Hameed et al., 2014). The nutritional benefits of fruit and cladodes are mainly related to their antioxidant properties (Piga, 2004;Cota-Sanchez, 2016;Berrabah et al., 2019). The antioxidant potential of the fruit is two times higher than any other fruit species due to the high levels of vitamins B6 and C and nutrients like calcium (Ca), potassium (K), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg) and manganese (Mn) (Tesoriere et al., 2005;Albano et al., 2015). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Opuntia spp. are among the most important potential crops in the sustainable agricultural development of arid and semi-arid regions. They are mostly known as a fruit crop, and it is slowly achieving the status of the formal crop; however, there is an increased interest in Opuntia fruit and cladode production due to the great demand for human and animal nutrition in the global market. Fruit are harvested based on peel color, fruit size, fullness and flattening of the floral cavity or receptacle. They are non-climacteric and highly perishable with a short shelf life of few days under marketing conditions. Shelf life is mainly affected by decay, which is related to physical damages during harvest and handling. The fruit is also susceptible to chilling injury when exposed to a prolonged cold temperature below 9 °C. For harvested cladodes, the acid content and flavor may fluctuate significantly during the day and can also be affected by postharvest storage temperature. Therefore, to reduce decay, maintain quality, and prolong the shelf life of Opuntia fruit and cladode, this chapter will discuss on harvest methods, as well as postharvest physiology and technology of Opuntia species that are used for the production of fruit, as well as cladodes that are widely used as a type of vegetables for human nutrition, in addition to those used as forage for animal feed.
... Their uses have been reported against insect bites, rheumatism, hemorrhages, and gastrointestinal issues [3,7]. Prickly pears are oval shaped fruits commonly referred to as "tunas" (Figure 1) and are extensively distributed throughout Mexico [8]. They have been known to contain flavonoids, phenolic acids (caffeic, coumaric, vanillic, among others), betalains, ascorbic acid, fatty acids, lignans, and sterols [3,6]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Cacti fruits are known to possess antioxidant and antiproliferative activities among other health benefits. The following paper evaluated the antioxidant capacity and bioactivity of five clarified juices from different cacti fruits (Stenocereus spp., Opuntia spp. and M. geomettizans) on four cancer cell lines as well as one normal cell line. Their antioxidant compositions were measured by three different protocols. Their phenolic compositions were quantified through high performance liquid chromatography and the percentages of cell proliferation of fibroblasts as well as breast, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancer cell lines were evaluated though in vitro assays. The results were further processed by principal component analysis. The clarified juice from M. geomettizans fruit showed the highest concentration of total phenolic compounds and induced cell death in liver and colorectal cancer cells lines as well as fibroblasts. The clarified juice extracted from yellow Opuntia ficus-indica fruit displayed antioxidant activity as well as a selective cytotoxic effect on a liver cancer cell line with no toxic effect on fibroblasts. In conclusion, the work supplies evidence on the antioxidant and antiproliferative activities that cacti juices possess, presenting potential as cancer cell proliferation preventing agents.
Chapter
Full-text available
The Opuntia, commonly known as cactus pear or prickly pear, belongs to the Cactaceae family and is widely distributed either as indigenous, alien, wild, or domesticated species in various countries across the world. Seeds are usually removed as waste products from the fruit pulp and can constitute important new oil source. The Opuntia seed oil, commonly called prickly pear seed oil, has been extracted using maceration-percolation, Soxhlet, cold pressing, supercritical carbon dioxide, and ultrasound extraction, for which yields of 1–20% have been reported. Opuntia ficus-indica is the most common Opuntia species for which the physicochemical characteristics, the composition of fatty acids, sterols, and tocopherols have been reported. The main fatty acids of prickly pear seed oil are palmitic, stearic, oleic, and linoleic acids. Environmental conditions and maturation stages of prickly pear have effects on the properties of the oil. High levels of sterols are present, with β-sitosterol as the dominant sterol. The dominant tocopherol is γ-tocopherol. The oil exhibited a high in vitro antioxidant potential, and with its reported phenolic content, it has various health and cosmetics applications.
Chapter
The plant-based biologically active ingredients are commonly molecules with therapeutic activities for various medical conditions. Opuntia spp., belonging to the family Cactaceae, contain a high level of bioactive compounds, which deserved attention in the past decade to evaluate the bioactivity of a whole extract or a specific purified compounds. This chapter aims to describe the chemical constituents and bioactive compounds in Opuntia spp., notably polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, organic acids, and their beneficial properties.
Article
Opuntia ficus indica (OFI) waste was evaluated as a fermentation feedstock for lactic acid production using Lactobacillus plantarum. Dilute acid pretreatment of the OFI cladodes (OFIC) was performed for extracting maximum fermentable sugars by optimizing process parameters using statistical optimization method. The best results were obtained with HCl 1% (v/v), temperature 120 °C, residence time 40 min, granulation 350 µm and substrate loading 5% (w/v), the sugar concentration reached 24 g/L with low concentration of hydroxymethylfurfural. The feasibility of producing lactic acid from OFI fruit peel (OFIFP) as a source of carbon was also investigated. Lactobacillus plantarum was shown to have a capacity for lactic acid production from OFIC350 (granulation 350 µm) hydrolysate and OFIFP extract without detoxification. The highest lactic acid yields of 0.46 and 0.78 g/g were obtained from enzymatic hydrolysate of pretreated OFIC350 and OFIFP extract, respectively.
Article
Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) cladodes are a source of dietary fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that could be utilized by the food industry for both their nutritional and technological properties. In the present study, cladodes were dried at 45 °C for 24 h, followed by a 18 h vacuum drying at 45 °C or 60 °C. The dried cladodes were then ground in a grain mill, resulting in two coarse cladode flours (C45 and C60, respectively). A portion of the two flours was further ground with jet mill, yielding two fine flours, J45 and J60, respectively. Color, bulk density, water and oil holding capacities, solubility and dietary fiber content were determined. In addition, rheological properties and sedimentation kinetic of aqueous cladode flour suspensions were evaluated. An increase of insoluble fiber was observed with micro-grinding. All samples exhibited shear thinning behavior, while jet milling led to substantial decrease in apparent viscosity values. Coarse fractions sedimented quickly, achieving almost maximum sedimentation within 10 min, while the micro ground samples sedimented half as fast. In conclusion, particle size significantly alters the technological properties of cladode flour, broadening the range of applications cladodes could be used for.
Article
Full-text available
A general overview about the floral biology and pollination syndromes in the genus Echinocereus (Cactaceae) is discussed in conjunction with the possible mechanisms for diversification.
Article
Full-text available
The cacti of Canada include four taxa: Escobaria vivipara var. vivipara, Opuntia fragilis var. fragilis, O. humifusa, and O. polyacantha var. polyacantha. These species are well adapted to survive the freezing temperatures prevalent during the long Canadian winters. Although they are widely distributed in the southern portion of the country, some species are rare or uncommon at the provincial level, e.g., E. vivipara var. vivipara in Saskatchewan and O. polyacantha var. polyacantha in British Columbia. O. humifusa is listed as rare at the national level but is common in the U.S. This paper presents an overview of the taxonomy, distribution, current status, and traditional aboriginal and modern uses of Canadian cacti. It also discusses the reproductive strategies and the correlation in the distribution of cacti at high latitudes with chromosome number variation (polyploidy).
Chapter
Full-text available
Mesoamerica is one of the most important centers of domestication of plants in the world. Several species of Opuntia, as well as columnar and barrel cacti, were among the most important plant resources domesticated during prehistoric Mesoamerica. Today, dozens of Opuntia and columnar cacti are still utilized by indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, indicating that these species are in advanced stages of domestication. This chapter examines cultural and biological aspects of the use and management of cacti among peoples of Mexican Mesoamerica and analyzes how domestication is occurring in some species. It compares the morphology between wild and manipulated populations of Opuntia and Stenocereus species to illustrate patterns of artificial selection and evolutionary trends resulting from domestication under different forms of management. The chapter also explores the diffusion of cacti, especially platyopuntias, into other regions of the world to examine trends in domestication of these species outside of Mesoamerica.
Chapter
Many species of the Cactaceae produce edible fruits. Among the approximately 1,600 species in this family, the genus Opuntia has the most relevant role in agriculture. The cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica [L.] Mill.) is cultivated for fruit production in all continents except Antarctica. The main producing country is Mexico, with a production of over 345,000 tons fresh mass year⁻¹ on about 70,000 ha of specialized plantations. This chapter outlines the basics of cactus pear cultivation, including site selection, cultivars, harvesting, fruit productivity, and fruit quality, and also discusses the economic features, postharvest physiology, and postharvest fruit management.