Prickly pair are only native to the Western Hemisphere although they thrive in other places where they have been successfully introduced such as Malta, Egypt, Australia, and many places in Southeast Asia. Prickly pears are edible. They can be used to purify water. And perhaps best of all, they can be fermented to make an alcoholic brew known as colonche, which has been made in Mexico for thousands of years. In fact, the genus of this plant is Opuntina which is taken from the Greek city Opus, said to have had an edible plant.
Other prickly pear facts:
- When introduced to Australia in the 18th Century, the plant became a “Green Hell” spreading to over a million acres a year and crushing the homes of settlers under clumps of cactus over 20-feet high. The Aussies formed a Prickly Pear Board to deal with the issues.
- The national seal of Mexico has an eagle sitting on a prickly pear.
- In Cuba, prickly pear is used as a barrier to keep locals from seeking refuge on the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo.
Travel safe. Have fun.