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CactiBiology and Uses$
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Park Nobel

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520231573

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520231573.001.0001

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Nopalitos, Mucilage, Fiber, and Cochineal

Nopalitos, Mucilage, Fiber, and Cochineal

(p.211) Chapter 13 Nopalitos, Mucilage, Fiber, and Cochineal

Carmen Sáenz-Hernández

Joel Corrales-García

Gildardo Aquino-Pérez

University of California Press

This chapter discusses some of the important uses of the cactus plant. Cacti are important as a vegetable, as a dietary supplement, and as the host for the red-dye-producing cochineal. A common use of cactus stems is nopalitos—tender young cladodes—a traditional vegetable eaten fresh or cooked in various dishes. Nopalitos are generally obtained from Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia robusta, or Nopalea spp, and contain complex polysaccharide mucilage, which has great potential as part of dietary fiber. The production of cladode products as over-the-counter medicinal products is growing fast. Cladode-derived products are sold for the control of diabetes, cholesterol, gastric and intestinal afflictions, and obesity. Two types of cochineal, the dye-producing cactus parasite, are also recognized.

Keywords:   cacti, cochineal, nopalitos, cladodes, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia robusta, Nopalea, dietary fiber, cladode products, medicinal products

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