Other names: Indian Fig, Prickly Pear, Tunas
Availability: June through March.
Source: Mexico and the United States
Handling Tips: 45°F storage. Watch out for needles.
General Information: The two most common varieties are the green and red cactus pears. Both varieties have several seeds within their moist, flavorfull pulp; the seeds can be eaten if not too large and hard. The meat smells of and tastes similar to watermelon, and is distinctly refreshing and unique. Use in juices, sorbets, fruit cups, and cocktails. Rich in fiber, vitamin C and potassium.
Applications: The cactus pear fruit with its fresh berry, melon flavor (all varieties have subtle differences in flavor) is used in a variety of ways. From freshly peeled (remember to swallow those seeds - FIBER!), or strained into desserts, baked into breads, used in beverages (margaritas), even gently boiled down to make a syrup for jelly and candies. The seeds can be dried for use in soups or ground into a flour for sweet cakes.
History: Although the ancestors of the Prickly pear cactus are thought to have originated in the tropical Americas, it is native to semiarid parts of the United States, Mexico, and South America. However it is also grown commercially in the Mediterranean (Sicily), and flourishes in Africa and Australia.