Cacti are succulent perennials that are native to arid and semi-arid regions, so perfect for Cyprus’ weather conditions. Cacti are also cultivated in over twenty countries for their fruits and fall into three categories – cactus pears, pitahayas which are the fruits of the vine cacti and cladodes which are consumed as vegetables, particularly in Mexico.
Although there is evidence of cacti in human diets which dates back more the 8,000 years in Mexico, worldwide consumption has developed only in the last few hundred years.
The cactus pear fruits are harvested in the summer but the harvest can be delayed by removing the early flowers which leads to a second harvest in the autumn which is more valuable to due lessened competition from other species. After harvesting, the glochids must be removed mechanically, after which they are packaged by colour and weight. Fruits with red pulp are prized in the United States and some European countries, whereas greenish pulp for mature fruits is generally preferred in Mexico.
In early 2015, the Municipality of Ayia Napa began the development and creation of one of the largest cactus parks in the Mediterranean. The area next to the Sculpture Park is now home to a variety of cacti and succulents with between 6,000 to 8,000 plants and has become a wonderful new attraction for locals and tourists alike. Set up high on a rocky landscape which overlooks the sea on the eastern edge of Ayia Napa, the views are spectacular. There are many places to sit and contemplate with the park offering a very calm and serene atmosphere.