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Pricky Pear 'White'

Opuntia ficus-indica 'White'

Prickly pears are tall leafless succulents with modified pad-like stems covered in clusters of sharp spines. Flowers produce oval-shaped fruit filled with edible pulp and edible seeds. Originally from Mexico they adapted too well in South-Africa and declared invasive, unless used for food.

Planning

Difficulty
Easy
Flowering time
Spring
Fruiting time
Summer

Harvesting

Harvesting is done by hand as the fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica are delicate. The small spines on the fruits are removed by rubbing them on an abrasive surface or sweeping them through grass. Before consumption, they are peeled and sliced. Harvest the fruit once they have changed colour.

Propagation

Cuttings
Use mature leaves, leave the leaf-cutting on top of soil to dry wound out and it will soon form roots.
Seed
Sow in spring time, after pre-soaking the seeds. Germination time is 1-3 months.

Special features

Drought resistant
The plants are drought tolerant once established.
Hedge plant
Prickly pears have in the past been panted as hedges to keep wild animals out of planted fields.

Geography

Origin
Mexico
Natural climate
Arid

Environment

Light
Full Sun
Soil moisture
Dry
Soil type
Loam, Sand
Soil PH preference
Neutral
Frost hardiness
Half-Hardy

Uses

Edible
The fruit is eaten fresh, but jams and jellies can be produced from the fruit, which resemble strawberries and figs in color and flavor. Mexicans have used Opuntia for thousands of years to make an alcoholic drink called colonche. Mexican and other southwestern residents eat the young cactus pads (nopales, plural, nopal, singular), usually picked before the spines harden. They are sliced into strips, skinned or unskinned, and fried with eggs and jalapeños, served as a breakfast treat. They have a texture and flavour similar to string beans. They can be boiled, used raw blended with fruit juice, cooked on a frying pan, and often used as a side dish to go with chicken or added to tacos along with chopped onion and cilantro.

Personality

Family
Cactaceae
Flower colour
White
Scent
None

Problems

Mealybugs, spider mites and cochineal might attack it. It is also attacked by fruit flies and moths. Too much water or cold causes rotting. As soon as you detect the softening of tissues, remove the rotten part and treat the infected part with fungicide.

Companion plants

Pair with plants that require the same climatic conditions.

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