Prickly pears are cacti plants belonging to succulents. Originally from Central America, more precisely from Mexico, the prickly pear spread among the populations who traded it already in the times of the Aztecs; considered by them a sacred plant with a strong symbolic value, it arrived in Lisbon around 1490 with the return of Christopher Columbus. Arborescent plant that can reach 5 meters in height, has a stem made up of cladodes, modified flattened and oval-shaped stems which ensure chlorophyll photosynthesis; the flowers, which are born precisely on the cladodes, generally appear after the first year of life of the plant. The fruit, a fleshy berry with numerous seeds, has a soft but firm pulp and a very sweet flavour, while its color varies according to the plant; containing a large number of seeds, once peeled and deprived of the thorns, it can be kept in the fridge and eaten cold.
Cultivated in many areas of the world, Mexico is still the first producer followed by Peru, Brazil and Italy, a country where cultivation is mainly concentrated in Sicily, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia and Sardinia.