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Sabras Cactus Fruit

Updated on February 23, 2013

Edible Cactus Fruit Has Health Benefits

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What are Sabras Fruit?

Sabras Cactus Fruit are commonly known as Prickly Pear, Cactus Pear, Tuna, Indian Figs, Barbary Figs and Nepal Cactus throughout the world. But where did the name Sabras originate from?

The word Sabra originated in Israel and is the word for a native Israeli. In Hebrew it is called tzabar.

So how are native Israeli’s and Cactus Fruit related?

Both are said to be resilient and tough with a thick thorny skin but have a soft and sweet centre inside.

Sabras Cactus Fruit is big business in Israel and grown throughout the country for commercial reasons. Throughout the landscape of the Israeli hills, the Sabras Cacti appear to be planted as natural land divisions and barriers, looking as if they have always belonged to the natural landscape.

How to Prepare Sabras Cactus Fruit

The Prickly Pear Fruit

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Sabras . . . Known as Prickly Pear

They were in fact brought over from the dry arid areas of Arizona and New Mexico in the 19th Century and planted.

If you are in Israel during the months of July and August you will see the Sabras Fruit for sale all along roads and in markets. The ripening of the fruit may happen quickly within a two week period but due to the arid dry conditions of much of Israel, Prickly Pear may be harvested 10 months of the year.

Prickly Pear Cactus has been an extremely popular fruit in Central and South America, Mexico and Canada for thousands of year.

The Fruit can vary in colouring from green to dark reddish – purple skins and from light yellow to green to golden flesh. The flesh of the fruit should be soft, spongy and have a scattering of black seeds.

Up Close And Personal With Sabras Cactus Fruit

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Prickly Pear Fruit in The Market

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Facts about Prickly Pear

A member of the Opunita genus in the Cactus family, the Prickly Pear is very distinguishable with their flat fleshy paddle like leaves which are in fact not leaves but flattened stems.


The stems have three main functions, namely photosynthesis, flower production and water storage.


The majority of Prickly Pear will have purple, yellow or red flowers which will bloom annually.


A unique feature about the Pear Cactus is that it has two edible parts.

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The Pads (called Nopal) or stems may be cooked and eaten as a vegetable and the pear is the fruit which may be chilled and eaten like you would eat a melon or may be used in a variety of recipes.

Color and Texture of Cactus Fruit

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Health Benefits

The Prickly Pear Cactus has been growing in both popularity and as a major super food with many health benefits.

The Cactus Pads

The pads of the Cactus are a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins, including – vitamin A (beta carotene), vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.

They contain amino acids which are a vital building block of the body. Amino acids are needed to build antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses, carry oxygen throughout the body, build cells, repair tissue and build nucleoproteins (RNA and DNA). What makes the pads extra special is the fact they contain the 8 essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured by the body.

The thick gluey substance found in the pads contains polysaccharides (carbohydrates) which stimulate the Immune System.

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The Prickly Pear

It is the only known plant that contains 24 of the known Betalains which are anti-inflammatory agents that give Beets (Beetroot) their strong pigment and are responsible for the yellow, red and purplish colours of the fruit.

The juice of the fruit is a power house in fighting chronic inflammation.

Reasearch has shown the Prickly Pear has lowered the glucose levels of type 2 Diabetes.

Prickly Pear Flower

Prickly pear cacti, classified in the subgenus Opuntia, typically grow with flat, rounded segments that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike spines called glochids that easily penetrate skin
Prickly pear cacti, classified in the subgenus Opuntia, typically grow with flat, rounded segments that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike spines called glochids that easily penetrate skin | Source

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Sabras Cactus Fruit Comments

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      See how much I learn when I go to your hubs! You are a veritable fountain of knowledge. Who knew what delicacies awaited us in the form of a cactus? Certainly not I!

      I don't believe I have ever seen these in the supermarket; I will now be on the lookout, and then I will dazzle Bev with my knowledge.

      Great job my friend!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      LOL . . . Glad you enjoyed this my friend! I must say I am jealous of places that have an abundance of these Cactus fruits. Sadly Ireland doesn't have the climate! In Italy however the fruit will be available so being somewhat prepared is great! The health benefits are particularly impressive and if they are available where you are, give them a go! Thanks Bill always great to receive your warm and sincere comments! :-)

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Suzie - Okay, now I'm embarrassed. I've searched the Arizona deserts several times for rattlesnakes for zoos, and have seen these cacti many times. (In fact, the shade they produce provide a great place for a snake to escape the sun) Never had I any idea the fruit was edible. I think I've just maintained my Hud Club membership (Hud = Duh backwards) Great job and very informative. My face is red.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Richard.

      A man of many talents eh?? Rattlesnakes for zoos! Rather you than me, snakes are my big phobia and when we were last at our pad in Italy Mike while clearing junk from behind the house came across a snake nicely curled up in the outdoor kitchen!! I nearly died when he told me! You are more than welcome to "do your stuff" here and rid us of more Sammy's (how sad, we named him).St Pat vanished the snakes here so sadly I could not get used to seeing snakes in the wild. You should grab some of the prickly pear (with gloves of course!) and give them a try or pick them up in a market.

      Try a recipe or two then you will be out of the Hud club forever my friend!!

      Appreciate your humourous comments ALWAYS!!!! LOL, Thanks for reading red faced :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzie. Boy did we see Prickly Pear in Sicily, they were everywhere. We did try them and they were not too bad, pretty good actually. I did not know that they were packed with vitamins and minerals so thanks to you I learned something new today.

      On our first trip to Italy a few years ago my sister-in-law picked one up and I'm sure you can guess what happened?

      Great job Suzie. VU, sharing, etc.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Wow what a great hub about a fruit I knew very little about!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      I'm not surprised you saw them in abundance! We have them growing by our property as far as I know! Have to double check next trip! They really are a power house of goodness so I must definitely get them in Italy.

      Thanks so much for your comments I always look forward to them, Cheers for the VU etc . . .

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Audrey,

      Glad you enjoyed and learnt some things about this interesting fruit! Thanks so much for leaving me your comments!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      My other used to use these with eggs and they are surprisingly good. I have seen them as candy as well. I didn't realize they had so much added value to the body's health. Very interesting post. Well done!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi teaches,

      How interesting with eggs and as candy, I would love to try both! The health benefits are quite amazing as I found out more and more on this fruit of the desert. Look forward to making part of my diet on a regular basis in Italy. Appreciate your comments! :-)

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Suzie, that's really cool how part of the cactus is a veggie and another part of it is a fruit! Kinda like a one stop plant. Great information! Voted up and more.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi TT,

      Glad you enjoyed! I saw the veg part used in the Aussie Masterchef programme and the interest sparked from there! Appreciate as always your interest and support, many thanks for the vu etc!!! :-)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Suzie,

      I have eaten the cactus leaves but not the fruit. Now I know what to do with it by watching that video. Will have to give it a try! Living here in Houston, Texas both are offered for sale in grocery stores...especially those catering to the Hispanic market. My parents when they lived in McAllen, Texas actually grew a spineless cactus and we ate the leaves using them much like green pepper. It was good chopped up with some onion and added to scrambled eggs, for instance. I haven't had it in a while. Am sure the leaves would also be good in soups. Now that I know all of the many health benefits...will be buying both. Thanks for this informative hub. Up votes and sharing!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Peggy,

      You are such a mind of information, I love reading your work and comments! The cactus leaves you described like green peppers and adding to scrambled eggs - fabulous info, thanks so much! I am looking forward to being able to buy and grow them in Italy. With our weather in Ireland we sadly do not have them growing here. Thanks so much for your support ,votes, shares and the link is greatly appreciated!! :-)

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Very interesting hub and cactus are something we do not have here in WNC only as ornamental in some gardens. I lived in South Texas and watched as some goat farmers would burn the cactus and the goats would eat. I was told it was a good feed for the goats.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Fiddleman,

      Glad you enjoyed! I read about the cowboys of old would burn the cactus and give to cattle for the liquid when short of water. Appreciate your visit:-)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I really enjoyed reading about the health benefits of prickly pear, Suzie! Here in Peru we call them tuna and they're eaten right from the skin or made into Popsicles or a refreshing summer beverage. I didn't know they are as healthy as they are delicious! Thanks so much for another awesome hub!

    • Suzie HQ profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi vespawoolf,

      Lucky you having the fruit grow natively in Peru, If you do a hub on using the fruit then I will add it in for sure!

      My new article on making a creative gift features your desert I love!!! Great to see you and appreciate your thoughts and comments greatly my friend!! :-)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Suzie, I hope to be as supportive of you as you are to me! We are heading home today and I have some prickly pear recipes swimming around in my head. Will let you know! Thanks again so much.

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Vespa, you are a great constant here, and I love and admire your fabulicious delights you continue to produce!

      Many thanks :-)

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

      Delightfully presented information. I tried to peel a prickly pear fruit once...and that was it for me. Your video made it so simple. Nutritional information of the fruit and the pads too was interesting--now no one in AZ or NM or even TX, as well as Israel will need to go hungry...and their food will be their medicine...coo-ol! Greatly enjoyed your hub, and with its pictures alongside. (And yes, glad it is more available than those four places too. :-))

    • Suzie HQ profile image
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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi frogyfish,

      Glad you enjoyed this tour of cactus fruit. I look forward to having them grow in the surrounding landscape or even in our backyard, when we move to Italy. Ireland is not quite the right temp for them!!! Many thanks for your humour and comments!

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