Cactus plants are plants adapted to withstand the extreme conditions associated with arid regions.
They have thickened succulent parts used to store water, and are different from other plants in so many ways.
There are so many species of cacti, and some cacti are also grown for their edible fruits.
The dragon fruit and prickly pear are two popular fruits that grow on cactus plants.
In this post, we are going to compare two these two fruits.
Difference between prickly pear and dragon fruit
The prickly pear and dragon fruit are fruits from different genera of cactuses with different qualities
On appearance both fruits have projections on their surfaces, however the dragon fruit has green scaly projections called bacteoles while prickly pear has multiple small hair-like spiny projections known as glochids which are removed before consumption.
The dragon fruit is also usually slightly larger in size that the prickly pear
Their plants are also different, the dragon fruit plant has a vine-like pattern of growth and requires support while the prickly pear plant grows upright.
What is prickly pear?
The genus Opuntia is made up of several species of cactus plants that produces edible fruit known as prickly pears or tuna.
Opuntia ficus-indica is the specie of the prickly pear plant that is cultivated most often.
Prickly pears can be found in the Mexican desert, they can also be found in other places including Australia and Africa.
These plants are succulent, and they have flat green pads covered with spikes all over their surfaces.
The pads of the prickly pear cactus are also known as cladodes and they are edible. The prickly pear fruit grows on top of these flat pads.
Prickly pear appearance
The fruits could have various colors including green, pink, red, purple and yellow orange.
Prickly pear fruits have spines which are known as glochids on their flesh. These glochids are first removed before consumption.
The pulp of the fruits also varies in color, and within the pulp, there are several tiny seed. Prickly fruits can technically be classified as berries.
Uses of prickly pear fruit
These juicy fruits have a taste that can be compared to watermelon, and they can be used to make juices, jams and cocktails
Prickly pear is a highly nutritious fruit. It contains fiber, minerals including magnesium, potassium and calcium, it also has vitamins as well as antioxidants.
What is dragon fruit?
The dragon fruit is a tropical fruit with a unique appearance. Their exterior of the fruits have green scaly projections known as bracteoles.
Also known as pitaya or strawberry pear, this fruit originates from Mexico and Central America.
The dragon fruit is grown on several species of Selenicereus cactus including Selenicereus undatus, Selenicerus costaricensis and Selenicereus magalanthus.
These plants which are also succulents have a vine-like pattern of grown and may require support with a trellis. They are described as climbing cactus due to the height, and sometimes they might need pruning
The dragon fruit can be grown from seeds or cuttings
One peculiar characteristic of their flowers is that they bloom at night
Dragon fruit appearance
There are three species of selenicerus plants producing sweet varieties of dragon fruits. The pink, red and yellow dragon fruits.
The fruits may have pink skin and white flesh which is the most commonly produced and a product of the selenicerus undatus species.
They may be red skinned with a red flesh when they are from the costaricensis species
The Selenicereus megalanthus produces yellow fruits with white flesh.
The dragon fruit has an oblong shape that is about 6 to 12 com long with black seed within the flesh.
Dragon fruit uses
The dragon fruit is juicy and sweet, and has a taste that is similar to a kiwi or pear.
It could be used to make smoothies or fruit salads.
The dragon fruit is low in calories and also has less sugars. However, they are rich in other nutrients including magnesium and calcium, and they also have antioxidants.