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For generations Algerians like the Gueldasmi family have barely eked out a living growing prickly pear fruits, but thanks to the cactus's new found virtues their lives are steadily improving.
"Now, my future is here. There is no need to go abroad" to find work, said Fethi Gueldasmi, 40, whose family's revenues have been growing thanks to what agronomists and biologists now call the "green gold".
Scientific - Reports - Opuntia - Species - Prickly
Scientific reports indicate that the Opuntia species of prickly pears which thrives in arid regions like Algeria's northern Sidi Fredj contains a plethora of virtues.
Everything from the cactus—once considered sacred by the ancient Aztecs—can be transformed to yield nutritional and medical benefits except for its prickly spines.
Discs - Cladodes - Fodder - Tender - Inner
The green spiny discs known as cladodes are used for fodder while their tender inner flesh is a star of the cuisine of Mexico, where the cactus originated and figures on its national flag.
Oil extracted from the seeds of fruit has antioxidant benefits and is used in cosmetics for its anti-ageing properties, besides being rich in vitamin C, calcium and magnesium.
Flowers - Cactus - Tea - Pulp - Fruit
The flowers of the cactus go into making herbal tea while the pulp of the red fruit is turned into juice, vinegar, jams and even sorbets.
A 2017 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concluded prickly pears could be the answer to much of the world's food security woes and prevent soil erosion.
In Sidi Fredj, once an impoverished town in the Souk Haras province bordering Tunisia, Gueldsami, like his father and grandfather before him, farms prickly pears.
Fruit - Spines - Tasty - Flesh - Pittance
The fruit must be handled carefully to avoid being pricked by the sharp spines. And until recently it was harvested for its tasty, sweet flesh, which only fetched a pittance of 10 dinars (US 0.08 cents, 0.07 euro cents) a piece at the local market.
Since 2013 however all that has...
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