Prickly Pears

prickly pear
photo credit: marcomayer

About

The prickly pear fruits (fruit of the Opuntia cactus), referred to as Tunas in Spanish are eaten in Mexico as well as the in the Mediterranean In Italy they are called fichi d'india. The most common varieties eaten are the yellow, white, and purple pears. The pears with the purple interior are the sweetest. The fruit has numerous tiny spines and must be carefully peeled before eating. They can be eaten chilled or room temperature. It is customary in Italy to present the fruit in a bowl of cold water. The prickly pear fruit is also the base for prickly pear jams and jellies as well as Mexican "cactus candy".

Prickly Pear Aguas Frescas

These cool drinks are made with water, fruit and a sweetener (typically sugar) and are commonly served in Mexico by street vendors in barrel shaped clear jars called a vitrolero.  You will also find them in many Mexican takeout restaurants. Aguas frescas are the drink of choice in most Mexican cantinas.

Prickly Pear Agua Fresca Recipe

I N G R E D I E N T S
4 prickly pear, peeled
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 2 limes plus slices for garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground canela

I N S T R U C T I O N S
Puree pears in a blender. Pass through a fine sieve. Puree pear liquid, sugar, lime juice, canela, and ice in a blender 1 minute. Pour into glasses, garnish with lime slices.

Fun Fact about Prickly Pears

How To Peel Prickly Pears

  1. Place the fruit in a large bowl of chilled water. This helps to wash away some of the spines (not all). Use the following procedure to peel the fruit.
  2. Fold 2 or 3 sheets of paper toweling together.
  3. Handling the pear on it's ends, lift if from the water and place the pear on the toweling
  4. Keep the towels wrapped around most of the pear. Use a small sharp knife and make a slice along one side of the length of the pear cutting just through the skin.
  5. Now use the toweling to protect your hands and peel the skin from the pear.
  6. To serve, slice the pear horizontally into 1/4" thick slices and place on a plate. The purple pears make a particularly beautiful presentation with their dark seeds and purple flesh.
unripe prickly pear with flower
author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.