Chile | Alternative growings
Nopal enters the Chilean market thanks to the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation of the Andean country
It is an efficient crop in the use of water and, at the same time, with a low water requirement, as it adapts perfectly to the area where the coastal dryland is established.9/10/2020
Prevent diseases such as diabetes, constipation, hypertension, and obesity. In addition, it has antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. But what stands out the most in the world is its high content of dietary fiber, over 50% and especially soluble fiber 10%. These are the characteristics of the nopal, a plant used for the production of prickly pears, which, these days, thanks to the impulse of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), is being commercialized - for the first time - in powder format and, within little, fresh.
The FIA project "Nopalitos and nopal powder, super foods for the country" which is being developed in the O'Higgins region, is led by the project's executor, Víctor Beyá, who set out to investigate, develop and innovate, hand in hand with a sustainable process that uses solar energy and drip irrigation, in order to obtain a nopal powder with its maximum point of nutritional contribution.
“Basically, the process begins with selecting and harvesting young nopalitos, which are the ones with the highest amount of soluble fiber and, in turn, nutritional properties. These are then washed with water and dirt is removed, stripped, cut into 4 mm sheets and dehydrated in a solar greenhouse at a low temperature to preserve their properties. Later they are ground to a fine powder, kept in special food drums and packaged ”, explains Víctor Beyá, executor of the FIA project.
Nopalitos are the tender paddles or leaves (cladodes) of the nopal (15 to 30 days old approximately), with the harvest period from mid-October to March-April. When they are 1 year old, the prickly pears are produced on them.
The Chilean company Be Cactus that produces nopal powder, is located in the coastal dry land of Litueche, in the O'Higgins Region, there Víctor Beya and his mother Marilyn Marshall, were the ones who glimpsed the nutritional impact that they could have on consumers national properties of the nopalito.
"Products containing dietary fiber are seeing a boom in popularity, given scientific evidence pointing to their health benefits - from diabetes and weight control to gut health and immunity. Chile manifests a serious problem of obesity and overweight in its population, being the South American country with the highest degree of obesity with 70% of the population ”, says Beyá.
It is in this area, where the nopal becomes a functional food that becomes an alternative that can contribute to the well-being of people. “From the nopal you can get: the fruit (tuna) and the nopalitos. The latter, despite their beneficial nutritional properties for health, are not used in our country. Therefore, the idea of starting to produce nopalitos and their by-products arose since it was visualized as an excellent product that would help solve, in part, the paradigms that we are facing ”, said Víctor Beyá.
Along these lines, the executive director of FIA, Álvaro Eyzaguirre, maintains that “this project is part of the Foundation's challenge of developing innovative markets, considering that it adds value to Nopal by generating two products with a high concentration of dietary fiber, excellent content in iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium, as well as vitamins. These products also respond to the increasingly growing consumer demand for foods with functional properties that enhance metabolism ”.
"Also being a species that is not very demanding in nutrients and with low water requirements, it adapts to areas with a low level of precipitation that, in addition, are under the effect of the impacts of climate change, which opens an opportunity for diversification of the productive matrix for small farming, ”adds Florence Pélissou, FIA's agricultural innovation executive who oversaw the initiative.
In the research to obtain the product, Be Cactus had the support of FIA, thus being able to discover the ideal time of harvest so that the plant does not lose its qualities and the dosage of the powder in different food matrices such as juices, tortillas and soups. With this product an innovative market is motivated and, in turn, it responds to the growing demands for foods with functional properties, but with a one hundred percent environmentally sustainable project.
"Being an efficient crop in the use of water and, in turn, with low water requirements, it adapts perfectly to the area where it is established in the coastal dryland. The plantation is developed in contour lines, in order to protect the soil from erosion by wind and rain. Irrigation is technified through drip, and powered with photovoltaic energy. It works with organic fertilizers and plant covers that enrich the soil. The dehydration and all the energy used in the process of making nopal powder comes from solar energy ”, says the entrepreneur.
The fresh nopalito can be used (raw or cooked) in salads, natural juices, smoothies or smoothies, stews, roasts, sauces, tacos; on the other hand, in the form of powder, it makes it easier to meet the daily fiber requirement, by using it as a complement to different foods (juices, salads, soups, cream, omelettes, breakfast, smoothies, yogurt, etc.)
“In Chile its use and consumption were unknown. We are the first plantation in the country for the production of nopalitos, pioneers in the region in the production of nopal and its by-products. The small-scale process is relatively innovative and the research information generated is also unique in the country, where a complete characterization of the physical, chemical and biological properties of the nopal powder is made, ”concluded the member of Be Cactus.
Currently, the Nopal Be Cactus powder is being distributed in various regions of the country, through Luki, Alimentos Saludables, a marketer. In the Metropolitan region it can be found in Espacio Regenera, La Chakra, Purolivo, Nuttynuts, V-Mart, Secreto Verde, Alhóndiga, Vegan Meow, among others. In Regions, Vegan Emporio (Antofagasta), Vida Natura (Viña del Mar), and Vorigen (Coquimbo).
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