This is one of four projects approvedrecently by the National Institute of Agricultural Research and Technology (INIA), proposed and developed by the Canarian Institute of Agricultural Research (ICIA), with state funding and in collaboration with others Agencies and entities.
The research, which includes the Institute for Research in Food Sciences (CIAL) will be complemented by a series of projects and consists of the physiological characterisation and nutritional composition of native varieties of prickly pear or “higo chumbo” from the Canary Islands, to later select those more suitable for obtaining derived foods, that is, juices and fresh pre-cut product or functional ingredients for food use, through the application of innovative technologies.
From this fruit ingredients will also be developed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties for use in pharmaceutical and nutritional products, and the most interesting extracts of tuno plant will be determined in order to analyse their use in production of a soy milk based food.
The cultivation of tunos in the Archipelago dates from the 19th century. It began due to the fact that their broad green pads host cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), an insect from which a red dye of great commercial value is extracted. The sale of tuno fruits, which are part of traditional Canarian gastronomy, increased 33% on Tenerife and by 44% on Gran Canaria between 2013 and 2014, according to official data from MercaTenerife and MercaLasPalmas. Tuno plant has also plays a dynamic role in the Canary islands as part of biodiversity throughout the various landscapes.
This project aims to provide information of great use for farmers and marketers of this fruit and the many derivatives of the tuno plant, since although it is a product well rooted in Canarian culture and gastronomy, in recent years it has not been valued to its full potential.
The processing, either for Immune system boosting treatments or for the production of juices or beverages and the use of by-products for the extraction of nutraceuticals -products of natural origin with active biological properties, beneficial to health and with definite preventive and / or therapeutic capacity- , will further boost the consumption and appreciation of this healthy, natural and local product.