Opuntia vulgaris (syn. ficus-indica)1
from Central America)
Qulquale (Amharic), Gelhi (Tigrigna), Hadaami (Oromiffa), Prickly pear (English)
is a dense succulent bush with swollen articulated branches which become woody,
or a tree reaching 2-5m. Sometimes it forms impenetrable thickets. The oval
flattened stem joints grow one above each other, ear shaped, to 40cm long and
bristling with tufts of very sharp spines. These green stems fulfil the function
of leaves and manufacture the plant's food. True leaves are small and thin and
appear briefly at the tips of very young shoots and soon fall off. The flowers
are bright orange-yellow, 6-8cm across, with many sepals, petals and stamens
arranged spirally. Flowers develop in rows on the upper edges of young joints
almost all year round. The fruits are fleshy and egg shaped but deeply depressed
at the top, green, ripening brick-red-yellow-purple. When the fruits are ripe,
the spiny skin, with its barbered hairs, slips off leaving sweet edible flesh
around the seeds.
preparation methods and palatability
Fruits are reddish when ripe and eaten
raw (removing the outer cover) by children in normal times. But consumed
by everybody during food shortage periods. The fruits are also covered
with sharp and thin spines.
In Daro Lebu wereda, West Haraghe,
particularly in the remote lowlands of Daro Abona, people are collecting
and consuming available fruits from O. ficus-indica that is widespread
all over the lowlands, during the dry season. Children and women collect
the ripe fruits with a long wooden stick that has a large nail at its end
(see picture). The fruit is pierced by the nail and torn off. It is then
rubbed on the ground to remove the spines. The upper end of the fruit is
sliced-off with a knife and the remaining piece sliced open on one side
so that the thick skin can be easily removed by hand to eat the inner part
(see pictures). High consumption of O. ficus-indica fruits, even though
rather pleasant and tasty, causes intestinal problems. The fruit's taste
and fleshy consistence are similar to a watermelon.
Opuntia species are spread all over
Ethiopia and well known in most parts for their fruits as a famine food.
In many parts of Tigray Region, the fruits are even sold on local markets,
such as in Mekele town. In Konso people also eat the fruits in times of
cactus which grows in arid and humid areas (500-2,400m), but the species is
commonly spread in low- and midlands in Ethiopia.
is vegetative by cuttings, but severe control is required as it can become an
Daro Abona, Daro Lebu Woreda, West Hararghe, Oromia; (2) Dibla Seat Kebele,
Ganta Afesum Woreda, Eastern Tigray, (Tigray); (3) Babile Woreda, East Hararghe
is an important fooder for camels in Somali Region.
leaves are used as forage for animals in bad years when there is severe feed
shortage. But the thorns should be removed by burning using fire or it has to be
at its early succulent stage.
of the following description have been taken from Katende et al. 1999: p.328/329
along the Harar-Jijiga road in Babile Woreda, East Hararge, July 2001
Opuntia ficus-indica at
flowering stage and with fruits being picked with a harvesting stick (above
Opuntia ficus-indica at
flowering stage, Daro Lebu Wereda, West Harargh (above)
Edible inner part of the
Boy with harvesting stick
Boy eating cactus fruits