Cacti are a species of plant that can survive in extremely dry and hot habitats and can store large amounts of water. Cacti belong to the Cactaceae plant family that includes around 1400 species. Most cacti are native to deserts and dry regions of North and South America.
Cacti are popular house plants due to their unique appearance and low maintenance. In South America, the cactus plant is used to make a variety of dishes including, soups, salads, vegetable dishes and desserts.
People often think of cacti as inedible due to their prickly spines and the hot desert conditions they survive in. In this article, we look into the nutrition of cacti and answer the question – Is cactus a fruit?
“Is cactus a fruit?” is a question often asked by many plant enthusiasts. In this article, we discuss the cactus fruit, the most popular species of edible cacti and the benefits of eating cactus fruit.
Is Cactus A Fruit?
Is cactus a fruit or a vegetable?
Vegetables are edible parts of plants, whilst fruits are the ripened plant ovaries. So it depends on what part of the cactus plant you want to eat.
Some cacti contain both edible fruit and vegetable. For example, a prickly pear pad is a vegetable. The same species of cactus produces edible fruit from its orange to yellow flowers.
What Is A Fruit?
Fruit is the mature ripened ovary of a plant. The ovary is the ovule-bearing reproductive structure in the flower of the plant. The ovary’s purpose is to protect the ovules until they become fertilised and turn into seeds.
In basic terms, a fruit is the sweet and fleshy part of a plant or tree that contains seed and can be eaten as food.
Grow Your Own Cactus?
Check out this grow you own cactus kit!
Growing a cactus from a seed is fun and easy. This kit includes a terracotta pot, 150 cactus seeds and a leaflet about the saguaro cactus!
Benefits of Eating Cactus Fruit
There are tons of health benefits of eating cactus fruit.
Cacti are known for both their medicinal value and nutrients. Both cactus fruit and cactus pads can help fight infections and ease the symptoms of multiple ailments.
Other benefits of eating cactus fruits include:
- Cactus fruit has both anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
- The fruit can help ease hangovers.
- Cactus fruit can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Cactus fruit can help improve your digestion due to its potassium and betalain content.
- The fruit is high in carotenoids and antioxidants.
In recent years, health supplements containing cactus have increased in popularity.
What Species of Cacti Produce Edible Fruit?
Many species of cacti produce edible fruit.
The most popular species of cacti that produce edible fruit include:
- Opuntia (prickly pear).
- Myrtillocactus geometrizans.
The most popular species of edible cactus is the prickly pear cactus.
The fruit of prickly pear cacti, commonly known as cactus fig, cactus fruit, nopales or tuna, is edible. The fruit must be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer isn’t properly removed, small spines can be ingested, causing discomfort of the tongue, throat and lips.
Prickly Pear fruit widely available throughout Mexico. Cactus is used to make a range of dishes including, soups, salads, vegetable dishes and desserts.
Conclusion – Is Cactus A Fruit?
Some species of cacti contain both edible fruits and vegetables. The fruit is the sweet and fleshy part of the cactus that contains seed and can be eaten as food. The most popular species of cactus that produces edible fruit is the prickly pear.
There are several benefits of eating cactus fruit. Cactus fruit has both anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
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