The Prickly Pear

Last week’s Russo’s trip produced the following:

The fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus. I had seen these beauties many times before, but didn’t know what to do with them — so I never bought one. We often would see these growing wild on St. John as well (FYI — one of my most favorite places on Earth). I always wanted to pick one… but again, had NO IDEA what they tasted like or how to even eat one.

So, I brought this one home and googled it. It seems that the plant is actually called the “Prickly Pear Cactus” and then the fruit is sometimes called a Cactus Fig or Indian Fig, though this fruit does not even resemble a fig or remotely taste like one.

The external skin of the Prickly Pear is often covered in prickly nobs called glochids (hence the name) and must be removed before ingesting. Most (if not all) Prickly Pears I have ever seen in the markets were glochid-free… including this specimen.

I had no idea what to expect inside, so I just sliced the end off — and what a gorgeous color was my first thought. I was quite surprised actually… and definitely enticed. Wikipedia had some other interesting information about this fruit… for example, it’s medicinal claims include aiding patients with diabetes and for all you booze bags — helping with a hangover, by “inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators”… and some studies witnessed “significant reductions in nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite”. Interesting…

So how do you eat it?? Sliced raw, in candies and drinks — and at least two companies out there offer an alcoholic elixir that contains this fruit.

I sliced mine up and ate it raw. I still can’t get over the color… and the taste was very fresh — bordering on refreshing, with undertones of pear and something else that was familiar, but that I couldn’t put my finger on. The only odd thing is the seeds… you can see them in the picture below. They are hard. Quite hard… and they would be impossible to remove and I didn’t see their removal mentioned in any information online. If you have a texture issue, you might not like this. If you gobble up pomegranate seeds like there’s not tomorrow (like me), then you’ll have no issue with this.

My last comment is that they are a tad pricey. At Russo’s, which is notoriously affordable, they run about $1.98/lb this time of year… so this was almost $1 for just one fruit… and a fair amount is removed with the skin. Still worth a try though… and I’m thinking about infusing some Tequilla with these — sounds good, right?

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