0812 GMT September 18, 2021
The head of Darab Agriculture Jihad Department announced the successful cultivation of cactus opuntia plant, commonly called prickly pear cactus, in Darab, the southern Iranian province of Fars.
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Ahmad Reza Salehi predicted a bright future for the production of the crop as the climate of the region is suitable for growing these flowering plants, adding that the fruit of the cactus opuntia, as well as the plant itself, are highly favored among local people.
Cactus opuntia grows well in regions with a tropical climate, Salehi said, adding that it is for the first time in the country that the plant is cultivated in the southern parts of Fars Province.
Opuntia, or prickly pear, is a genus of flowering plants from the cactus family. The broad, smooth, and prickly plant, also known as paddle cactus, is native to Central America and the arid and desert regions of North America. The fruit is a berry with arillate seeds, similar to a pear.
Referring to the variety of colors of this fruit, Salehi said that depending on the degree of ripening and type of plant, the color of cactus fruits varies.
The fruit comes in colors in the range of white, green, purple, yellow, red, and orange.
Prickly pear, commonly called cactus fruit, cactus fig, Indian fig, or tuna in Spanish, is edible. It must be peeled carefully to remove the small thorns on the outer skin before consumption to avoid being pricked in the mouth, lips, and tongue.
“The sweetness and juiciness of the fruit varies from slightly sweet to very sweet, depending on its degree of ripeness, which can be eaten raw after being separated from the plant, or used in the preparation of syrups, salads and other foods,” Salehi said.
He elaborated on the properties of these fruits, saying that due to their growth in desert areas with a dry climate, cactus fruits contain a variety of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help to reduce triglycerides and bad cholesterol levels in the body. They are also able to reduce body fat.
Salehi explained that compounds in cactus fruit have a strong detoxifying and anti-inflammatory effect and prevent cell damage that can cause cancer and ageing. These compounds strengthen the immune system and make the body more resistant to infections. This cactus fruit also eliminates hunger due to its rich fiber content.
The head of Darab Agriculture Jihad Department also said the climatic diversity of Darab leads to wide crop diversity in the area.
Pointing out that the main products of Darab include citrus fruits, wheat, cotton, corn, and dates, he said the region is one of the largest producers of wheat in the country, with orange being among the top agricultural products of this city.
According to Salehi, the high-quality organic figs of Darab are exported to Europe and the Persian Gulf countries.