Avinoam Nerd Noemi Tel Zur and Yosef Mizrahi

Introduction Vine Cacti

Cytology

Pollination

Environmental Constraints Fruit Properties Columnar Cacti

Stenocereus queretaroensis Other Stenocereus Species Cereus peruvianus Vine and Columnar Cacti as World Fruit Crops Hylocereus

Selenicereus megalanthus Stenocereus and Cereus Conclusions and Future Prospects Literature Cited

Introduction

Medium to large edible cactus fruits are produced by members of subfamily Cactoidae, tribe Cacteae. They are known in Latin America as pitahaya or pitaya: pitahaya generally refers to fruits of vine (climbing) species and pitaya to fruits of columnar (erect) ones, although considerable variation exists (Ortiz 1999). Unlike the widely cultivated cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica, subfamily Opuntioideae; Chapter 10), pitayas and pitahayas have small digestible seeds and lack the barbed small spines (glochids) that cause difficulties in the handling of cactus pear. Their peel is either spineless or spiny, but the spines usually are large and easily removed upon ripening. Since 1980, an effort has been made to cultivate vine cacti in genera Hylocereus and Selenicereus and columnar cacti in genera Cereus and Stenocereus (Table 11.1, which includes common names of ethnic origin or created by growers). Hylocereus undatus is the most popular vine cactus and is a worldwide crop (Table 11.1). Among the columnar cacti, Stenocereus queretaroensis is the most cultivated, although the growth area is restricted to central Mexico. Research on pitahaya and pitaya crops is in its infancy. This chapter considers the identity, environmental limits, horticultural aspects, and commercialization of the main cultivated species.

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