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Prickly Pear

(Opuntia engelmannii, Opuntia ficus indica)

Other Names: Indian fig, Ficcudinia

Description:
Prickly pears, the fruit of the cactus plant, typically grow with flat, rounded segments that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, almost hairlike spines called glochids that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. They can grow up to 10 cm long depending on the variety. Not all are edible and the most common edible variety is Opuntia ficus indica.

Uses:
The fruit is edible, although it has to be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. It is often used to make candies and jelly. The young stem segments, called nopales, are also edible.

Health:
The stem of the prickly pear is used to treat type II diabetes, diarrhea and stomach ache. The variety Opuntia ficus indica is said to have a reducing effect on alcohol hangover by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators.

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