- The most widely cultivated species in Mexico is Opuntia ficus.
- In Mexico the Milpa Alta borough in southern Mexico City produces 43.3 percent of the total of prickly pear cultivated in Mexico.
Prickly pears are green cactuses with a flat stalk that have racket shape pads covered with tiny spines. There are two principal varieties: the nopal tunero (fruit-bearing prickly pear) and the nopal verdura (vegetable prickly pear).
The fruit-bearing variety produces the tuna, an oval fruit with tiny spines on the thick skin covering the fleshy and juicy sweet fruit with lots of seeds.
In Mexico there are 140 prickly pear species, while throughout the continent there are 250.
The flat pads known as the vegetable prickly pear are rich in water, fiber, calcium, and potassium.
Prickly pear pads are often prepared as side dishes for typical regional cuisine, such as soups, salsas, and fillings. The freshly cut pads are also prepared in juice shakes or can be grilled.
- The prickly pear plant takes 5 years to reach maturity.
- Planted near cultivated fields, the prickly pear contributes to preserving soil moisture and fertility.
- Mexico has 140 cactus species of the opuntia genus, while 250 species exist in the Americas, only four of which are for human consumption.
- The annual scale of production in states throughout Mexico ranges from 6 to 326 thousand tons.
- The principal countries that buy prickly pear exports are the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.