Benefits of Cactus Farming
Tender cactus leaves (nopalitos) are nutritious substitutes for green beans, okra, squash, and bell pepper. Its top production occurs in the summer months when other vegetable plants are out of season.
The major use of cacti in the past has been for fruit, vegetable, animal forage and wildlife food. This native plant with a spiny reputation has been waiting for increased research and development to prove its numerous potential capabilities.
Hopefully, the cactus species can take its place as a recognized crop along with other native plants such as corn, squash, tomatoes, and potatoes.
As we in the Texas Cactus Council are all very well aware, the nutritional benefits of tuna are many and profound. But over the years these benefits have been mainly researched in an anecdotal manner. So they have been largely classified as a “folk remedy” by those in the medical community. Lately, however, some scientists have begun turning their attention to this wondrous fruit.
The following study compares tuna (Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit with vitamin C. It suggests that supplementing a diet with tuna will decrease oxidative stress in healthy humans:
For generations people in South Texas and Mexico have been using cactus fruit to effectively control their diabetes, and now the greater population is beginning to figure out that they have been onto something, as evidenced by these two links:
This one studies the diabetic effects on those who specifically live in South Texas :
Apparently the pigments in cactus fruits are also diuretic, and this company is promoting their use for weight management and antioxidant protection:
And new research is even suggesting that cactus flower extracts may very well be used to treat enlarged prostates! If you yourself would like to start researching this topic, simply go to http://www.pubmed.org and type in opuntia, betalain, or anything else cacti related you can think of…Be prepared for high quality information overload!
Another thing that is currently being done is trying to scientifically determine the place tuna has on the ORAC scale, which stands for oxygen radical absorption capacity. It is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities of different foods. 3000 units is considered an industry standard for health.
Regarding where tuna rates on the ORAC scale, Jason Avent, plant physiologist for CriderAmericas and cactus expert, has identified these two references as important:
Wang, H.; Cao, G.; Prior, R. L. Total antioxidant capacity of fruits. J. Agric. Food Chem. 1996, 44 , 701-705.
Kuti, J. O. Antioxidant compounds from four Opuntia cactus pear fruit varieties. Food Chem. 2004, 85 , 527-533.