MYRTILLOCACTUS – WONDERS OF THE BLUEBERRY CACTUS

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There is very little information published about this cactus when you consider what’s accessible on other columnar types. Blueberry cactus? What does that mean exactly? The myrtillocactus is a columnar type of full, thick, bright-green columns that carry very few, short spines. It is not among the most craved or even familiar of the fruit-bearing cacti as most owners aren’t actually aware of the fact that the little dark beads that follow the pretty blooms are actually edible, good for your body and a treat to the palate. However, it is a showstopper and a great conversation piece to have in your arsenal.

I had just started my cactus collection years ago when I first learnt of a cactus plant that produces fruit reminiscent of blueberries along the column. It fascinated me and I had to have it. We were still in New York at the time so my garden was indoors 80% of the time. My plant was just a baby no more than four inches tall. Yet, I planted it in a ginormous pot and gave it a mix of compost, humus, sawdust, sand and cow manure. Crazy, huh? All this work for a four-inch plant… Well, it turns out I did the right thing. Like your fish in a tank, your plants will grow as to be as big as the container you provide for them allows. If the plant roots are restricted, it triggers the reproductive process in the plant which is something to consider if you’re interested in having a profusion of blooms along your columns in a smaller space. Your blueberry cactus can thrive on neglect like most cacti but try not to leave your plant loveless for too long. Allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Depending on your climatic conditions your myrtillocactus plants may bloom within a year if you started with a cutting from a mature plant. The blooms appear as little pear-like blossoms averaging three inches across along the edges of the plant going all around and down the columns. You’ll get to enjoy them for days on end before they are followed by the little berry-like fruit that change from green to blue-green to a deep, midnight plum color when ripe. Now comes harvesttime!
I like to think that the possessions on which we place the greatest value in this life usually come at greater cost or expense – that dream car, your perfect home, the job of a lifetime you climbed ladder after ladder to get to… I say all that to encourage you. Like I’d mentioned before, cactus plants have their own line of defense, especially some of our family’s favorites like opuntia and trichocereus. Their defense is wrought with spines and glochids that can prove painful and annoying to deal with if they get hooked into your skin but what they protect is worth the trouble and I believe they are treasures we should all the luxury of enjoying so come harvesttime, do not be daunted. I’m not saying you should be prepared for pain. I’m imploring you to be prepared so you won’t have to encounter pain because it is a very real risk. Ensure you have, thick, rubber gloves just for use with your cactus plants before tackling the establishment or maintenance of a cactus pot or garden. Do not use the gloves for any other activities. Always store them away from common areas, especially if you have children or pets that aren’t immersed in water.

Fortunately, the myrtillocactus only has a few spines along the stems of the plant. There are none on the fruit themselves so you can remove and store your gloves immediately after harvesting. Now comes the fun part! The fruit is crunchy but juicy like a normal blueberry with darker skin! The easiest way to enjoy it is to carefully pluck your berry-like fruit from their place along the edge of the column. They separate from the plant almost effortlessly.

Don’t underestimate your myrtillocactus. It is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. Myrtillocactus blueberry-fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. They are some of the richest sources of a host of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like Vitamins C, E, A and B complex vitamins, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and so much more that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, defend against bacteria and fungi, and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol and almost no unhealthy, cholesterol-producing fats. They can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other diseases. Carotene is another component of your myrtillocactus fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors. They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. Talk with your caregiver and health care providers about the foods you’d like to enjoy during your pregnancy. My doctor allowed me to eat as much cactus fruit as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides the fruit) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in the blueberry cactus fruit so there is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy it. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all good for you… so dive in and I hope you enjoy the journey to discovery as much as we have!

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