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Prickly Pear

Wild Resources

The prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller) is a perennial, succulent and branched shrub plant, originally from Mexico. Resistant to drought and very efficient in its use of water, it grows wild, adjusting to arid and semi-arid regions. In Portugal, it is found all over the country, but especially in the Alentejo and Algarve, being harvested from August to October. Its high tolerance to drought and its multiplicity of uses have been determinant to the growth of the sector dedicated to this plant in Portugal and the world.


There are several varieties of prickly pear, defined by the colour of its pulp, the best known being the green, orange and red varieties. Each variety has a different potential in specific markets, but all of them are a great source of natural antioxidants, and the consumption of the fruit or its by-products has benefits to human health and diet.


The prickly pear plant can be almost entirely used. Anyone interested in exploiting this resource should define the product to be used, which may be one or more of the following:

  • Leaves (cladodes): human consumption (fresh or cooked), fodder, fuel, furniture, construction industry, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry;

  • Flower: pharmaceutical industry;

  • Fruit: human consumption and medicinal potential;

  • Seeds: production of vegetable oil for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry;

  • Roots: pharmaceutical industry.

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