Have you ever wondered how to eat a prickly pear cactus fruit? The true name is Opuntia, the common names are Prickly pear, cactus fruit, cactus pear, cactus fig, tuna (fruit not the fish), sabra, and nopal.
In this article, you will learn where prickly pear comes from, what the health benefits of prickly pear are, and how to eat prickly pear and what they taste like.
If you enjoy tasting new fruits, this is a awesome little fruit to try. On to the information!
Where do prickly pear come from and where do they grow?
First of all, there are two main colors or types of prickly pear cactus fruit. The purple ones and the greenish-yellow ones. They grow natively in hot arid climates, for example, they grow very well here in Arizona and the other South Western States. We even have them growing on the side of the streets in town here where I live.
They grow really well in Mexico, which makes sense because they originated in the Americas. The fruit they produce is commonly called tuna in Mexico, and Prickly pear here in the United States. They can be found in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the Middle East among other places. I probably left a few countries out, they are widespread across the world.
What are the health benefits of prickly pear cactus fruit?
Some of the health benefits for prickly pear cactus fruit are:
- Full of antioxidants, with the deep purple ones containing the most antioxidants
- They support liver health
- They help to fight inflammation
- Cactus fruit are high in vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium
- Very low in calories, one fruit is only about 40 calories
- They are low in carbs and high in fiber.
For more health benefits check out this article on prickly pear.
How to eat a prickly pear cactus fruit?
Now I will show you how to eat prickly pear cactus fruit.
First, if taken from the wild, you will notice there are several very sharp thorns/spines in the skin, that must be removed before handling them. If you buy them from the supermarket, they should already be removed, but still be careful, they sometimes miss some of them.
One way to remove the spines, is to wear leather gloves and then roll or rub the prickly pear in paper towel, or a clean cloth. If the thorns get stuck in your skin, they are really hard to get out. So make sure to remove them! And don’t bite into one with thorns, the last thing you want are thorns stuck on the inside of your mouth.
It is time to remove the skin. Although the skin is edible, I always remove it to be safe, that is a sure way of not eating any spines. Cut the tops and bottom of the prickly pear off.
Then slice the fruit lengthwise, about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch deep. You should now be able to peel the skin off of the fruit no problem.
You can easily compost the skin or throw it away. Now all you need to do is slice up that fruit.
Now you know how to eat prickly pear cactus fruit. You can eat them as is raw or they can be used in a number of dishes. In Mexico they are commonly used in appetizers, soups, salads, drinks, jelly and jams.
What does prickly pear cactus fruit taste like?
When you first bite into it you will notice there are very hard crunchy seeds, which you can eat or just spit them out. If you are making jam or something you would just strain them. They will blend up fine if put into a smoothie.
They have a very mild sweet flavor, depending on the variety and ripeness, some are sweeter than others. The texture reminds me of a mixture between a kiwi, pear, and watermelon. To me, it has a nice pleasant flavor. Some people describe the flavor as a cross between a watermelon and classic bubble gum.
Now that you know how to eat prickly pear, next time you get the opportunity, try one out!
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