By Ralph Kratzer
Today I want to talk about a plant and its fruit which is ubiquitous on our island. You see them growing everywhere, even in the ditches! But did you know, that the fruit of this plant is not only tasty but also very healthy?
Originating from the cactus family, the prickly pear, also known as Indian fig or the prickly fig, is a large egg-shaped sweet orange or red coloured fruit.
Its outer layer is very prickly and great care has to be taken when harvesting them.
Commonly known in North Cyprus as the “babutsa” the prickly pear grows in the wild especially in the Mesaoria plain and is part of the typical vegetation of the Mediterranean climate. It is thought to originate from South Africa and is found in various arid, dry and lime soils.
Research, especially in Italy over the past years has revealed that “babutsa” contains vitamin C and because of the colour pigments, known as “betalain”, the fruit has a very high proportion of antioxidant properties. It is thought that the colour pigments, besides “betalain” as well as “indicazanthin” play a great role in providing antioxidant effects. Together with vitamin C they increase the defenses of your body and your general vitality.
The prickly pear is generally consumed cold.
Eating it whole along with its pips provides you with a satiety and therefore helps in weight control.
The high water content of the fruit and its ability to bind water has also made it a popular ingredient in the field of cosmetics with the production of wrinkle reducing creams.
For medical purposes the “babutsa” is used for digestive system problems.
Researchers who have hailed it as one of “nature´s perfect foods” stressed that the prickly pear as well contains a rich source of “phytochemicals” which are said to strengthen the immune system and therefore battle against many deseases.
You can eat this beautiful fruit out of the hand like a “Kiwi”, or consume it in fruit stews , sorbets or jams.
But always be careful with the sharp needles!