Lets step away from cricket protein for a second. As much as I love it there is so much more to discover out there! Take for instance the Prickly Pear Cactus…
The O. ficus-indica (Barbary Fig- or if your me the prickly pear cactus) grows abundantly around the world and requires both very little maintenance and water in order to thrive. It produces two foods: pads (nopalitos) and fruit (tunas AKA prickly pears). Not only are these foods delicious but the cactus itself grows at an extremely fast rate! Case studies show that fruit from the cactus can be harvested in as little as 3 months after planting! Not only that but 1 hectare (10,000 m2) of farmed cactus can produce 20-50,000 kg/yr of vegetable matter as well as well as 8-12,000 kg/yr of fruit!!
I grew up eating both of these foods and although prickly pears are a little strange with all of the seeds (not to mention thorns you have to get through first) they are pretty darn good. Both prickly Pears and nopalitos have made their way into large supermarkets and I love to grab them when I can, Tip: nopalitos go great on nachos 🙂. The rest of the cactus can even be ground up and used as livestock feed. Not one part of this plant goes to waste! I’m just learning now that this cactus is being looked into for another reason… Water Filtration.
The cactus leaves contain what is called mucilage – a viscous and gelatinous solution. Mucilage extracted from various plants has been used to make anything from marshmallows to the glue on postage stamps. The locals who farm this cactus use claimed to use the mucilage as a water purification method. A 2009 a study was done (link at bottom of page) to verify that this mucilage extract could be used to filter water from common contaminants. What they found was incredible! As little as 1 gram of mucilage is capable of cleaning up to 500 liters of water.
Much more needs to be studied to be able to conclusively say this is a viable water purification method but it’s a start. A natural resource that grows commonly in so many areas where clean water is hard to come by would be an amazing step forward!
Check out some amazing cactus farming plans HERE.
Note from the study done by Audrey Lynn Buttice at The University of Florida
“ Not only does the cactus provide a green technology for use in water purification, but it also avoids controversy that is often observed with current methods including community opposition, energy requirements, and inconsistent results. Due to its common use and abundant growth, the O. ficus-indica cactus could offer an inexpensive, easy to use and extremely valuable flocculant to countries that struggle with water contamination.”