Like bread fruit, the resilient, versatile and sustainable prickly pear cactus (also known as nopal) has potential to become a more widely used crop for many current and future needs. The drought-resistant plant grows mostly in Central America, but also as far north as Connecticut and as far south as Argentina and can live for 20 years, all the while improving soil quality. It’s already a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, but can also be used in products including shampoos, cleansers and cosmetics. It’s even functional as fencing, and works as a barrier at South Carolina’s Wild Hope Farm to keep deer off their property. Peanut Belk (head of business operations at the farm) says, “Not only does it produce flowers which attract pollinators, but the fruit we can harvest and sell to different brewers and cocktail vendors. It’s a crop that we don’t have to touch and yet can make a lot of money off of.” Various researchers and groups are looking into more uses for this versatile plant, and are hoping it could solve many issues to be faced due to climate change. The current obstacle is making it appealing to consumers, as Belk says, there’s a need to “build up the market and educate people around what the cacti are and how good they are.” Read more at Modern Farmer.
Image courtesy of Wild Hope Farm