Opuntia ficus-indica, the Indian Fig Cactus, is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant grown in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. Likely having originated in Mexico, O. ficus-indica is the most widespread and most commercially important cactus. Common English names for the plant and its fruit are Indian fig opuntia, Barbary fig, cactus pear, prickly pear, and spineless cactus, among many. In Mexican Spanish, the plant is called nopal, while the fruit is called tuna, names that may be used in American English as culinary terms.

It is grown primarily as a fruit crop, and also for the vegetable nopales and other uses. Most culinary references to the "prickly pear" are referring to this species. The name "tuna" is also used for the fruit of this cactus, and for Opuntia in general; according to Alexander von Humboldt, it was a word of Taino origin taken into the Spanish language around 1500.

Cacti are good crops for dry areas because they convert water into biomass efficiently. O. ficus-indica, as the most widespread of the long-domesticated cactuses, is as economically important as maize and blue agave in Mexico. Because Opuntia species hybridize easily, the wild origin of O. ficus-indica is likely to have been in Mexico due to the fact that its close genetic relatives are found in central Mexico.

Opuntia ficus-indica is polyploid, hermaphrodite, and autonomous. As Opuntia species grow in semi-arid environments, the main limiting factor in their environment is water. They have developed a number of adaptations to dry conditions, notably succulence.

The perennial shrub Opuntia ficus-indica can grow up to 3–5 m height, with thick, succulent, and oblong to spatulate stems called cladodes. It has a water-repellent and sun-reflecting waxy epidermis. Cladodes that are 1–2 years old produce flowers, the fruit's colors ranging from pale green to deep red.

The plants flower in three distinct colors: white, yellow, and red. The flowers first appear in early May through the early summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the fruits ripen from August through October. The fruits are typically eaten, minus the thick outer skin, after chilling in a refrigerator for a few hours. They have a taste similar to sweet watermelon. The bright red/purple or white/yellowish flesh contains many tiny hard seeds that are usually swallowed, but should be avoided by those who have problems digesting seeds.

O. ficus-indica is consumed widely as food. The fruits are widely commercialized in many parts of the world, eaten raw, and have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C of any fruit. The leaves (or cladodes) are cooked and eaten as a vegetable known as nopalitos. They are sliced into strips, skinned or unskinned, and fried with eggs and jalapeños, served as a breakfast treat. They have a texture and flavor like string beans. The fruits or leaves can be boiled, used raw, or blended with fruit juice, cooked on a frying pan, and used as a side dish with chicken, or added to tacos. Jams and jellies are produced from the fruit, which resembles strawberries and figs in color and flavor. Mexicans may use Opuntia as an alcoholic drink called colonche.

The cattle industry of the Southwest United States has begun to cultivate O. ficus-indica as a fresh source of feed for cattle. The cactus is grown both as a feed source and a boundary fence. Cattle are fed the spineless variety of the cactus. The cactus pads are low in dry matter and crude protein, but useful as a supplement in drought conditions. In addition to the food value, the moisture content adequately eliminates watering the cattle during drought. Numerous wildlife species use the prickly pear for food.

DNA analysis indicated O. ficus-indica was domesticated from Opuntia species native to central Mexico. The Codex Mendoza, and other early sources, show Opuntia cladodes, as well as cochineal dye (which needs cultivated Opuntia), in Aztec tribute rolls.  The plant spread to many parts of the Americas in pre-Columbian times, and since Columbus, has spread to many parts of the world, especially the Mediterranean, where it has become naturalized.

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