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Home - Use - Prickly Pear Cactus - Production and innovation


Saín El Alto, Zacatecas

Prickly pears that have been more intensely domesticated are known as “mansos” or tame. The main trends of selection in domestication are related to criteria of utility and the preferences of the farmers. The desired qualities of prickly pear are young, thin leaves, low mucus, fiber and spines, and a slow rate of oxidization when cut open.

The largest and sweetest tunas are selected, with rich and juicy flesh, few and small seeds, a thin spineless skin with few blemishes; red skin color predominates but there are other colors.

Starting in the 1950's, commercial prickly pear plantations covered 80,000 hectares, but in the eighties they suffered a drastic reduction due to pests, susceptibility to excessive genetic homogeneity and poor choice of soils, as well as external climatic factors. Today there are about 56,000 hectares, of which 78% are dedicated to the production of tuna, about 20% to nopalitos, and less than 2% for xoconostle. The demand for and supply of prickly pear is growing every day. In both the exploitation of wild populations and in intensive farming, there is a requirement for practices and schedules of propagation, planting, pruning, fertilization, pest and crop management to optimize production with methods that do not damage the fresh product but instead ensure its suitable maturation.

Wild prickly pear now covers about one and half million hectares, mainly in the Altiplano and the Bajío. In these areas, nopalitos, tunas and xoconostles are collected for both personal consumption and for sale in either a fresh or processed condition.

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