palate pleasing P R I C K L Y P E A R S
H A R V E S T S O M E L O C A L , W I L D S W E E T N E S S
HOUGH the name is
often applied as a euphemism
for a cantankerous person,
the real prickly pear can actu-ally
be a sweet and endearing
addition to the plate. That is,
of course, if you are successful at navigat-ing
its treacherous, protective exterior.
This invasive cactus with purplish,
reddish fruits can be found pretty much
all over the world, even right here at
The prickly pear thrives in sandy soil
or arid conditions and is found predom-inantly
in Mexican, Southwestern and
Mediterranean fare. But with its mild sweet-ness
and a subtle note of strawberry in its
flavor profile, it can be applied to a myriad
of international cuisines.
The cactus pad, the flower petals and
the pear portion of the succulent plant are
all edible, with each offering unique tex-tures
and exotic flavors for a wide range
of applications that will excite any palate.
Combining the pads and the pears into a
dish will best accentuate the tastes and
textures of both.
The prickly pear is high in carotenoids,
fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, and is sim-ply
Anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-di-abetic
properties are attributed to this spiny
specialty, along with a host of other ther-apeutic
claims, but it’s still being studied
extensively to determine even more medi-cal
The yellow flowers of summer give way
to purple or red pears in the fall, which can
be harvested for everything from cocktail
syrups and salsas to jellies and chutneys.
But be forewarned — just because you
might not see the thorns doesn’t mean
they aren’t there. The prickly pear has tiny,
microscopic spines that are nearly impossi-ble
to get out of your hands.
When harvesting prickly pears, be sure
may 2021 60
to use thick, leather gloves or a set of
tongs. To remove the spines, soak the pears
in an ice bath for 30 minutes and scrub
them while wearing rubber gloves. And
don’t forget to wash all the apparatus used
to clean them.
So grab a few on your next walk — or
avoid the perils of picking and cleaning
and buy some at a store like La Huerta
Fresh Produce — and add them to a salad,
smoothie or a fruit salad. Just make sure to
be careful and don’t provoke them!
B Y P E T E R V I E L E