Prickly Cactus Pears

Prickly Cactus Pear

After a good workout, I decided to treat myself to a couple bites of 99% imported Italian dark chocolate from Muzzi, but what to follow that up with? My new fruit discovery of course: the prickly cactus pear.

Native to Mexico and Latin America, but also found throughout the United States, Africa and Asia, this cactus fruit has been consumed raw and in dishes for centuries. As the name implies, it grows on cacti, and has tubercles with small prickly spines on its skin. The ends and base of the pear has glochids which are even more nasty when attached to the skin.

One must be cautious, but it’s well worth to get the pear open as it reveals juicy, red fruit with tiny seeds. The seeds are edible, can be chewed or spit out and dried later (and ground into flour for baking). I prefer to swallow and chew them. It reminds me of other rouge inclined fruit such as the tomato, watermelon and pomegranates due to its juice and seeds. Did I mention it was sweet and delicious?

There are a couple of methods of opening up the fruit. You can steam it lightly for one which will help remove the spines and allow for easy peeling. Personally, I love to eat fruit by itself and raw as a snack or for dessert after a meal. We’ll put the pears under cold water in a bowl or under the tap (remember those gloves) which should despine somewhat. Dry them with paper towels, rubbing vigorously around to further get the remaining spines out. We like to cut the ends, as that is the most nasty part of the pear. Then, we halve the pears and enjoy in whatever manner. In our case, we just use a spoon to scoop the fruit out and into our anticipating mouths.

Summer Read Cactus Pears
The pears would be very good in sorbet, ice cream, jams, salads, juices, soups, and of course, margaritas.

For more information…

Optunia (wikipedia)
Edible Cactus – Prickly Pear

4 comments

  1. tuzoenduro says:

    Hi, in Mexico we call them tunas, and you can actually get them in a wide array of colors. There are red, green and yellow tunas like the ones on your post. We also have pitayas and a whole bunch of other cactus fruits. The way we eat them is we peel them, sprinkle them with a little bit of lime and some rock salt and eat them raw like that.
    To peel them you have to use a very sharp knife, you cut the top and bottom off and then slice just the skin lengthwise from top to bottom. Once you have them like this you peel the skin off very carefully with your knife. Somewhat the same way you cut a kiwi only with spines, heh.
    I forgot to mention, you have to wear thick rubber gloves all the time lest you prick yourself.
    The images do look lovely though, happy eating.

    T.

  2. Athena says:

    Hi tuzoenduro – Thanks for commenting. I pretty much eat it raw in the way you imagine (use gloves, sharp knife, cut lengthwise), but I just scoop the fruit rather than peel. I’ve only tried the red variety, but I have heard of the others. Cheers.

  3. Matt says:

    Very delicious fruits! They’re also make for a fantastic and nearly foolproof mead. The red color doesn’t stick around, but fades to a sort of sunset gold. Very delicious, very sweet.

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