Names: tuna • cactus pear • cactus candy • Indian fig • Barbary fig • Sharon’s fruit
About: Whose idea was it to try eating a painfully prickly cactus? It’s beyond me, but who ever it was clearly knew what they were doing. 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 my case 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, however I suggest it’s best pureed and strained from it’s billions and zillions 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
In Season: Late summer through early winter; September to December
Varieties: Cardona which have large purplish red fruit and Amarilla which are yellow.
Uses: add to yogurts • sorbets & ice cream • use as a flavoring in drinks • salad dressing • filling for tarts and cakes • jam or jellies • candiesP
NOTE: While there may not appear to be any spikes, tiny hair-like stingers can still pierce your skin. (I learned that the hard way, using tweezers to pull out the spines from my fingers!) Ergo, gloves should be worn when handling the cactus fruit. You can also use tongs and a fork or even singe the prickles using a blowtorch or oven burner.
Benefits: lowers blood pressure and blood sugar • rich in antioxidants
Nutrition: magnesium • potassium • calcium • vitamin C • fiber
Calories: 41 per 3 ounces
Replaces: melons and other tropical fruit
WHERE TO FIND
Store: Near other exotic fruit.
BUY this: Fruits with smooth, unblemished, deep-colored skin that yield to gentle pressure like an avocado.
AVOID this: Fruit that are moldy or broken.
HOW TO STORE
Place green, unripe prickly pear at room temperature until color changes to deep red and skin has softened. Once ripe, refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week. Peeled prickly pears will keep in in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
TASTE & TEXTURE
- flavor combination of watermelon, banana, strawberry, and cucumber
- spongy, floury
- floral aromas
- The Opuntia cactus that bear Prickly Pears are used as a natural alternative to barred wire fencing.
- The coat of arms of Mexico features the Prickly Pear cactus.
- The green paddles, or nopals, that the Prickly Pear grow from are also edible and used often in Mexican dishes.
- Prickly pears are a source of food for giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands.
~*~ RECIPES ~*~