Nopal Opuntia ssp., In English at times referred to and known as the Prickly Pear Cactus, is probably the most prolific and durable Nopal cactus genus in the succulent family. The Opuntia ssp. the original Nopal cactus, as discovered by the earliest civilizations in the mountains of Mesoamerica, were close variations of the currently consumed species Opuntia ficus-indica(1) This specific variety, the Nopal Opuntia ficus-indica, was consumed as vegetable or food and used as a herbal remedy as far back as 12,000 years ago in the area now known as Mexico. Now, perhaps due to the popularity among consumers looking for a healthier nutritional lifestyle, Nopal is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the world, both as a food and dietary supplement type of plant.
The 300-plus Opuntia species that have been documented in botanical literature up to now, have all originated from this Mesoamerican Nopal Opuntia ficus-indica (OFI) species. These varieties have all adapted to the various environments where the OFI was originally introduced by explorers, merchants and migrating wildlife.(1) Recent scientific evidence is showing that Nopal as the original species of Opuntia ficus-indica, cultivated in its original native environment - the high mountain volcanic region of Mexico - still remains one of the most bioactive Nopal cactus plant species.
As we have mentioned above, the Nopal Prickly Pear cactus, is originally native to the high altitude volcanic soil mountain sides of Mexico, where it is nourished by rich organic soils and mild semi-tropical climates. We mentioned the Morphological characteristics of the Nopal prickly Pear as well. Obviously, many genus of cactus are native to semi-arid desert climates and Nopal is highly adaptable to the harsh conditions.
The introduction of Nopal over many years to these harsh environments has occurred on many continents but it has been demonstrated that the resulting morphology of desert-adapted Nopal, is a dry slow-growing, spiny variant with significantly reduced nutritional value.
The gourmet vegetable variety of Nopal treasured throughout Mexico, where Nopal Opuntia ficus-indica has been a staple food for the past 12,000 years, is cultivated at 2,200 meters above sea level and higher. This high altitude is quite significant for several reasons, one of which is the higher phyto-nutrient production in the plant, specifically in the polyphenol production content. This higher altitude phenomenon, resulting in higher polyphenols in the Nopal plant was demonstrated in a recent analysis of Nopal Opuntia ficus-indica species and it's reaction to elevated UV radiation exposure at the University of Arizona's arid land studies dept.. (study available, please e mail us for details)
To explain the higher altitude phenomenon in Nopal we only need to look to nature. In nature, plants produce polyphenols to protect themselves from oxidation caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The high altitude mountain Nopal, is naturally exposed to significantly higher levels of ultraviolet radiation stimulating the Nopal cactus to produce higher concentrations of polyphenols.
The high altitude environment is also a natural pest deterrent. Insects are less abundant at higher elevations and which helps indigenous high altitude Nopal farmers to produce a higher yield and healthier crop.
Desert Nopal receives little moisture and nutrient from the low organic content of desert soil, which produces slow-growing, thin, dry, nutrient deficient pads. In contrast high mountain Nopal grown in semi-tropical climate and rich volcanic soil produces thick, robust pads teeming with polysaccharide rich mucilage cells and higher dietary fiber. These optimum conditions promote rapid growth and nutrient assimilation from the soil, where the indigenous farmers use only natural compost as fertilizer.
Ancient wisdom gained from thousands of years of intimacy with nature has chosen a Nopal that comes from the sacred volcano mountainside region of south central Mexico where the sun and rain come together to provide the perfect Nopal growing climate.
References - For the referenced study on UV radiation and it's effects on the Nopal plant please consult us directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be pleased to send you the complete study
How we Grow our Nopal through our Co-op grower society is with extensive investigative testing with various local and national universities. We have found through this collaborative relationship that to grow premium quality Nopal you need four pre requisites. Altitude, Temperature and Water as well as optimum soil conditions.
Altitude - Above all, altitude is the key to a successful, prosperous field of Nopal. The three largest producing states all have altitudes exceeding 2,000 meters. We have taken advantage of this key requirement by finding the ideal growing conditions. Our farms situated on a steep pine forested slope (2,400 meters) have one of the best altitude and climatic conditions available to grow the highest quality naturally grown Nopal.
Temperature - An extended season of hot or cold weather can greatly reduce the optimum production of Nopal, The temperature at our farms is at the optimum, equal to that of Milpa Alta fields and without the pollution hazards of Mexico City. Ideal temperatures should be annual mean of 17-24 degrees 65F-85F.
Water - A plentiful supply of this vital nutrient through our rainy season guarantees exceptional quality and production without needing artificial irrigation techniques.
Natural Prime Cut - Our dedication to provide you the customer with the most mature, most succulent and ripest Nopal available has led us to exclusively farm mature Nopal stems that grow up to 40 cm in length. This size is prized as the most fibrous in Mexico and we dedicate ourselves to providing this size of exceptional quality.
Organic-nutrition -Through a special team of dedicated biologists, agronomists and producers, we have managed to grow the optimum in nutritional quality and in international sanitary standards as well.
Freshness guarantee - The methods and extra care we take in harvesting our Nopal, has given a new meaning to the word CARE. "Create with the Ability to Respect Excellence".