The Pear of the Prickly Pear Cactus. Healing Fruit!
Prickly pear cactus and fruit
Be careful when harvesting! Even the fruit has little spines which hurt and can irritate! They are difficult to remove.
And as you can see, on this variety of opuntia cactus, the spines on the nopales pads are very sharp and long.
I did pull this out of my thumb!
Here is Terri, taking her turn foraging with tongs!
Where there is smoke there is fire! Something I am realizing is a powerful metaphor for learning, personally, especially now.
But hey, where there is smoke there is fire! And fires were breaking out in the mountain ranges around us.
We wanted to prepare the fruit for use by burning off the glochids… over hot coals. We were thinking of putting the fruit in a metal mesh strainer with a metal base and handle. Stirring the prickly pears, semi immersed/hovering over hot coals… and turning them over to burn off the glochids… the little cactus spines on the fruit.
We were going to use our outdoor firepit. We call our hearth. But with smoke in neighboring mountains all around we did not want to make our neighbors and others who could see our smoke plume… have cause for fear. So, we lit the coleman stove and used that flame to burn off the glochids on our fruit instead.
These fruit are related to more popular prickly pears, often called tunas. Those appear to have more fruit and less seeds. These have a skin layer of fruit around a bunch of seeds. It is filled with moist seeds that honestly reminded me of frog eggs!. The pulp and skin (minus glochids) are all edible when blended in a vitamix for a juice. Then strain the juice to avoid bits of the rock hard seeds! Or remove seeds to begin with.
Also, remove the seeds from the fruit if you are making a jam or pie with the fruit because they are very hard and NOT chewable at all!
Here are some of the moist seeds with part of the fruit pulp.
I made an empanada using the de-seeded fruit, coconut sugar, and water (heated and syrupy) for the fruit filling and amaranth flour for the dough. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite recipe but the fruit was quite good. We ended up straining off the prickly pear fruit sugar syrup and that was delicious!
This sugar syrup is rich in betalains and nutrition. In fact, coconut sugar does not spike blood sugar levels and it is yummy!
Betalains, that are in the fruit are a great source of anti-inflammatory agents. Betalains also exist in smaller amount in beets and swiss chard. But, prickly pear fruit, its rich red pulp, has the highest amount of Betalains. Here is to your health! People suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions are said to benefit from these betalains.
Prickly Pear Coconut Sugar Syrup
Also research suggests a lowering of cholesterol and an aid for symptoms of diabetes. Other benefits also include some antiviral activity and other benefits!
To think this fruit is surrounding me in the New Mexico desert. Of course, I won’t forage them all. I just foraged a few. Respect for how hard the desert plants work to survive and the other creatures who enjoy the fruit too.
I am grateful to learn more about the Prickly pear cactus and its fruit.
Prickly pear is a natural refrigerant… it cools your body down. Especially the fruit. But don’t over consume! It can in some cases lead to cactus fever. A condition that results from over consumption.
A 4 oz glass of Prickly pear juice in this case would be a good serving. And cooling and refreshing too.
And, thankyou for joining me on this foraging journey!
And the following spring….one of the first blooms
And, still enjoying the prickly pear. This one in the escarpment area of New Mexico. Always happy to see my plant friends.
Not harvesting, just enjoying the view.
Posted on September 13, 2014, in Forage, Forage and Wildcraft, photography, recipes and foodways, southwest, wild edibles, wild edibles and the art life and tagged betalains, cactus fruit, cactus pads, forage southwest, healing fruit, helps arthritis, New Mexico Prickly pear, nopales, Opuntia, prickly pear fruit, tunas. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.