I love prickly pear. The fruit are called ‘tunas’ and I try to eat my fill every year. Luckily, several of my neighbors have huge plants with hundreds of fruits on each. They happily give them to me. Why? because dealing with prickly pear tunas requires techniques. Without the right technique, you’ll end up with tiny little thorns, called ‘glochids’ painfully stuck in your fingers.
There are many species of prickly pear (Opuntia sp.), but you can divide them into two groups. Those with red fruit and those with green fruit. They both have a sort of crystalline texture that’s similar to watermelon, and a flavor that is a little bit melon and a little bit raspberry. I think the red fruit is slightly sweeter than the green.
Peeling the fruit isn’t hard, but do be careful of the glochids. If you happen to get some in your skin, a little tape or glue works well to get them out. They are so small, tweezers don’t work very well.
Many people use torches to burn off the glochids, but I don’t mess with all that. I hold the fruit with tongs, slice it down the middle, then grasping one of the halves with the tongs, I insert the tip of my knife between the fruit and the thick skin. Pressing down with the blade and flattening the skin, separates the fruit from it’s covering easily. It takes a few minutes practice, but it’s not hard.
The fruit is filled with hard seeds. You can puree the flesh and then sieve out the seeds if you like. I don’t bother.
Once you have the puree you can use it in so many places. Drinks, desserts, milkshakes, sauces, the possibilities are truly endless.
Here is the recipe for prickly Pear Pie (I hesitate to call it ‘tuna pie’ because that doesn’t sound all that appetizing). It’s great for breakfast or brunch, hot or cold.
1 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 pound of butter
Dash of salt
1 cup prickly pear fruit puree
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place butter in a 9 x 13″ pan. Place pan in oven until the butter sizzles.
Meanwhile, mix eggs, milk, orange juice, sugar, flour and salt until blended. (I usually just throw everything into my blender and hit the button for 20 seconds or so, but a bowl and mixer works just fine too.)
Remove baking dish from oven and immediately pour the batter into the sizzling butter. Gently pour the prickly pear puree in a ‘figure 8′ pattern into the batter.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden.
Serve with more prickly pear puree, maple syrup or applesauce if desired.
- How to Peel A Prickly Pear (theinventionofliving.com)
- How to Grow Prickly Pear from a Cutting (groundtoground.org)
- Will Prickly Pear Be Known As A Superfood One Day? (awesomeashild.com)