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  Nr. 41 - September 2001
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Prickly Pear Cactus

by Gina Saunders, September 2001
Saw a programme on TV talking about survival in the desert. It seems that the prickly pear cactus seen everywhere on Paros supports many other creatures. They eat the pads, they drink the juice and, like many humans on this island, they eat the fruits. The fruits especially are rich in vitamin C and minerals.

Our elderly neighbours introduced us to the fruits which they served as a titbit with coffee or as an ‘after dinner platter’. Needless to say, we returned home with a ‘pad’ which is all you need to grow this plant. Now, 16 years later, it is enormous and has various offspring around the garden.

To eat the fruits you need to wait until they have turned colour to red, then (with a pair of rubber gloves to avoid the soft prickles on the fruits) you cut the fruit from the stem, wash them, peel them, quarter them and serve!

I was prompted to recount this by seeing a little bird pecking busily at the plant and, on investigation, I found that it had made quite a hole. This was not the only hole - there were many holes and bite-sized pieces missing from the cactus. I suspect that the bite-sized holes were made by lizards, though I’ve never seen them do it.

Which brings me to the suggestion that we should all put out a dish of water (with a stone in the middle to stop creatures drowning) to help the birds, the reptiles and all the other little creatures that inhabit the island through the particularly hot weather.
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