A Closer Look: The Prickly Pear

My friend and classmate Rachelle and I recently went and explored the St.Lawrence market in search of a fruit or vegetable we had never tried before. It’s such a great location for us as it is only a block or so away from our campus so we just headed there after classes one day! I had only been once before, and I wanted to go again and see what else I could find and try. Market’s are the kind of places that no matter how many times you go, you can always find something new to try. Here is a small video of our little trip to the market, and check out Rachelle’s blog for her version of the trip we took (click here)

There are many produce stands within the St. Lawrence market, and lots of fruits to choose from. When we went downstairs, there was a produce stand with a few exotic fruits in it, so we thought we would give it a try. I saw the prickly pear (or cactus pear) on display, 3 for $5.00 and I thought it was perfect! I had never eaten them before and I was really curious to see what it tasted like. I am an avid food network-watcher and I have seen many chefs utilize the prickly pear in different ways but I had never seen anywhere I could buy it to try it out for myself!

How to peel the prickly pear:

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Opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. It also goes by the name of: tuna, sabra, nopal,  nostle, or paddle cactus. The prickly pear grows in Mexico and other Latin American countries, North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They grow in dry and drought-prone regions of the world. Prickly pears also carry a lot of great health benefits! In Mexican folk medicine, the pulp and juice of the fruit were used to treat skin wounds, swollen stomachs, solve digestive problems and urinary tract infections! Along with health benefits, it also provides many cosmetic benefits as well! The gel-like juice can be applied like conditioner to make your hair shiny and soft, while also protecting your scalp from the sun and wind! When used on the face, it helps eliminate dark spots, it can be used to strengthen your nails and relieve minor sores! It’s like a super-fruit!

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Photo by Grace Holyoke (2018)

The best way that I can describe what a prickly pear tastes like is a mixture of bubble-gum and watermelon. It’s a weird combo- but it works! It’s deliciously sweet and has a bright, brilliant colour. It has big seeds in the fruit like that of a pomegranate, so that is why many people choose to juice it and strain it to rid of the seeds. They’re usually a mix of purple and green on the exterior, and be careful when you touch them! They have small, hairlike prickles that easily adhere to skin or hair, which can be slightly painful. It basically feels like a splinter, so I would suggest wearing gloves when handling them. (I did not wear them in my photos, and I can attest that the feeling of many splinters in my hands is not a nice one).

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Photo by Grace Holyoke (2018)

I was looking up interesting recipes that I could do with this fruit. As I was researching, I found that the most common use is by juicing the fruit and straining out the seeds. The juice is then used in many cocktails and to make small candies. I will link a few of the recipes I found online:

 

Let me know in the comments down below if you do try any of these- I would love to hear how they turned out!

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Photo by Grace Holyoke (2018)

I decided that since it is such a fleshy-fruit, that I could make a galette out of it. The fruit itself is a little bit like watermelon in texture, so I didn’t think it would hold up to baking on it’s own very well. I added apples to my mixture and it turned out really well! I cut the prickly pear into nice sized chunks, and I cut my apples the same way, added some sugar, preserved lemons (Recipe for my Preserved Lemons here) and flour and placed it in some basic pie dough! The colour was amazing and the flavour was really interesting! Next time I would add a little bit more lemon, and maybe try adding berries instead of apple. I thought it was delicious, but it could have used more acidity.

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What is your favourite fruit? Have you tried any new/exotic fruits lately? Let me know in the comments! I love trying new things and I would love to try some of your favourites!

Cheers,

Grace Eveline

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9 thoughts on “A Closer Look: The Prickly Pear

  1. What an interesting commentary on the prickly pear and an innovative way to use it! The galette looks fabulous.

  2. I live on Vancouver Island and our neighbour’s fence is this rapidly growing cactus – many fruits are still attached and I’ve brought some home – inspired by your blog.
    THANKS !
    valerie

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