AKA: cactus pear • cactus candy • tuna • Indian fig • Barbary fig • Sharon’s fruit
About: Native to The Americas, prickly pear is the fruit of a cactus that is just as delicious as it is eye-catching. Depending on it’s species, the fruit can vary in color from green-yellow to orange-pink, or in this post purple-red. Once you get through the thorny rind, you’ll find a juicy magenta treasure that bears the unexpected aroma and flavor of several different fruit. The flesh can be sliced and eaten raw, but it’s best pureed and strained from its many tiny of hard black seeds. The puree can be used in anything you’d like to lend the fruits unique flavor and striking color to.
Plant of Origin: Optunia ficus-indica
Varieties: yellow, orange, and pink
In Season: Late summer through early winter
Nutrients: calcium • fiber • vitamin C • magnesium • potassium
Benefits: lowers blood pressure and blood sugar • rich in antioxidants
Calories: 41 per 3 ounces
Substitutes: melons and other tropical fruit
Store: At your grocery store near other exotic fruit. I find mine at Italian Market, Livoti’s. Your next best option is Latin-American Markets.
Selection: Choose pears with smooth and firm skin. Avoid those with wrinkles, cuts, or bruises.
Other Products: prickly pear purée • prickly pear syrup
Instructions: Before handling the pear, wear gloves to avoid piercing your skin with spikes. If you don’t have gloves, you can also use tongs and a fork, or burn off the spikes using a blowtorch or oven burner. Use a piece of tape to remove any thorns Remove the top and bottom of the pear. Next, make a shallow cut on the skin from top to bottom. The thick skin should easily peel away, revealing the bright pink flesh inside.
Storage: Place firm, unripe prickly pear at room temperature for up to 3 days until color deepens and skin has softened. Once ripe, refrigerate for up to one week. Peeled prickly pears will keep in in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. that yield to gentle pressure like an avocado.
NOTE: The prickly pear has tiny hair-like stingers. You likely won’t notice they’ve pierced you until you start to feel a slight pain in your hands. These tiny thorns can be easily removed by placing a piece of tape on the afflicted area. Quickly pull the tape off and voila!
Taste & Texture: combination of watermelon, banana, strawberry, and cucumber • spongy • watery • floral aromas • grainy • soft • slightly sweet
Uses: add to yogurts • sorbets & ice cream • use as a flavoring in drinks • salad and salad dressing • filling for tarts and cakes • jam or jellies • candies
Prickly Pear Margarita (via Cooking with Cocktail Rings)
Prickly Pear Gum Drops (via Daily Dish Recipes)
Prickly Pear Lemon Bars (via Cupcake Project)
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