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November 28th, 2017 / Thomson Reuters

It is spiky, alien-looking and can be found decorating homes around the world, but experts say the prickly pear cactus could help alleviate hunger in arid regions due to its ability to thrive in harsh conditions and its multiple uses.

“It’s impossible to describe how many things you can get out of this plant … I really believe it’s a miracle crop,” said Paolo Inglese, a professor at the Department of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences at the University of Palermo in Italy.

As climate change brings erratic rainfall and prolonged droughts, countries should look to the cactus pear, which can grow in desert-like conditions, experts said on Friday at the launch of a book on the plant.

Its fruits and its flat, balloon-shaped pads can be eaten by humans and animals, they said.

The insects that live and feed on the cactus pear provide dye for textiles, foods and cosmetics while its seeds, fruits, and stem have high levels of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the book said. Read more