By Wafa A.Alkhazzan
A prickly pear is a cactus and grows in dry places. It is perennial and often has a wonderful ability to resist drought, since it is filled with water. The plant is a favorite food of camels in desert areas in spite of the sharp spines scattered on its surface. It is noteworthy that the people in some areas grow this plant as a wall around their homes to protect their property and at the same time to take advantage of the delicious fruits, which usually ripens in early summer.
However, it should be noted that the fruit can cause constipation. Traditionally, one drinks a glass of water after eating to avoid this.
The mature prickly pear is about 14% sugars, and 1.5% proteins. It has a very high percentage of vitamins A, and C. It is also crucial for getting sufficient amounts of glutamic, citric, and oxalic acids. It also contains various minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus.
The plant has a great importance in Yemen. Many plant it in large areas, and the area where the pear is planted grew to 500 000 square meters this year, which is an increase of 32% compared to 2006. Its productivity raised to 60 tons by the end of 2013, and provided jobs for more than 4, 000 people, which increases to 13, 000 during the harvest.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is right to encourage the cultivation of the crop, which joins others as a possible substitute for qat, especially since it is so water efficient. Recently, prickly pear exports have even begun to ship to Lebanon, and the future for the plant is bright.