Beles (Cactus), the hidden treasure of Tigrai.

Beles is widely known as cactus in the world. Its commonly found in Mexico and Tigrai. The cactus fruits, in Tigrai, called Beles and are very sweet and are eaten raw, right off of the plant. Depending on the level of ripeness, they can range from slightly sweet to syrupy sweet. 

Beles trees

Cactus and their fruits are a large part of Mexican cuisine. The wide, flat cactus pads (“nopales”) are used in many Mexican main dishes such as salads, eggs and as a filling for other dishes.

Cactus fruit nutrients are variable, but all cactus fruits contain a variety of antioxidants known to protect cells. These antioxidants help to reduce triglycerides and bad cholesterol levels in your body. They’re also able to reduce body fat percentages and help lower your risk for metabolic syndrome.

In Tigrai, if only we can look deep into what we have, the things we could give to the other world would surmount the things the world give us.

It has been a seasonal food to the people of Agame, Southern and other highlanders of Tigrai during the mid of the rainy season. It’s cultivated from a thorny cactus tree grown on hilltops, mountain sides, riversides and places that are not basically useful for other important production.

There were some initiatives in developing Beles into a preservable form of food, such as juice, jam, etc. If only we can focus on capitalizing such resources, we could generate enough income to cover a portion of our expenses.

Few years ago, however, Mekelle University and other stakeholders injected Cochineal, a transmitting disease in the name of conducting a research and destroyed majority of the Beles tree in Tigrai. Now, they couldn’t control the disease and local researchers are trying their best reverse the effect.

Cochineal, red dyestuff consisting of the dried, pulverized bodies of certain female scale insects, Dactylopius coccus, of the Coccidae family, cactus-eating insects native to tropical and subtropical America.