The Cactus Pear, Prickly Pear or Tuna (as it is called in Spanish) is my favorite fruit, hands down. If you have never tasted one, it should be on your bucket list. You will either love it or hate it, due to the massive amount of edible seeds that permeate it. I have always been amazed that a desert plant that is so feared due to it’s dangerous spiney thorns produces such a succulent, sweet fruit. For me, the taste is a cross between a pear and watermelon. They are in season during the summer months, mostly July through September, but this is October and I was amazed to still find them in the market.
Do not–I repeat, DO NOT attempt to cut them off of a cactus plant yourself. You will be removing tiny, prickly hair-like thorns from your hands for weeks. The ones in the grocery stores have already been cleaned, but you should still handle them with care. Use leather gloves or tongs until you have practiced peeling a few. In season, you can find them in the produce section of your grocery store, but will probably pay a pretty penny for them. I buy mine at the local Mexican market, where they are much more affordable and abundant. This is how the display might look:
There are also red and yellow ones, but I find the green ones to have the best flavor.
Now, grab a fork and a sharp kitchen knife. Slice off both ends of the cactus pear.
Holding the pear steady with the fork, make a 1/4″ deep slice from end to end.
Wedge your finger or the knife in between the leathery skin and the pear itself and continue until you have peeled the pear.
Discard the ends and skin. Refrigerate any uneaten pears.
Et cetera: The cactus pear is rumored to be a Superfood used to prevent many maladies, but this has yet to be proven. What it IS is high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids. I could care less. You can’t keep me away from them. As a child, I once ate so many, I got a severe tummy ache. My grandmother, not knowing what ailed me, called the doctor, who made a house call since he was a cousin of ours. His diagnosis: “She ate too many cactus pears”. I curtail my intake now to one a day.
If the seeds bother you, you can quarter the pears and liquefy them in the blender, then strain the juice through a sieve and drink the juice. Or better yet, you can make this delicious Cactus Pear Sorbet.