Cactus Pear: The Prickly, Sweet Fruit

The cactus pear is also known as the “prickly pear” because of how it looks. This fruit is fairly neutral in flavor with a subtle sweetness. 

History of Cactus Pear

The first known instance of cactus pears’ consumption comes from South and Central American countries in the 1500s. The cactus pear was soon exported out the the Americas to the far reaches of the world. The prickly pear was introduced to Australia at Port Jackson in 1788, and by the 19th century there were many cactus pears plantations growing this juicy fruit. 

Image Credit: Achim Thiemermann from Pixabay 

Flavor of Cactus Pear

The cactus pear has a sweet and bland flavor. It is often likened to a melon with an ultra floral aroma. Despite its name, the cactus pear is not actually a pear and it is not as sweet as regular pears. The name is derived from how they resemble a pear. Cactus pears grow on cactus paddles, known as nopales. Once their spiny spikes are removed, nopales are edible with a rather crisp and tart-like flavor.

Culinary Benefits of Cactus Pear 

One of the best things you can do in the kitchen is to innovate. We’ll show you some recipes where you can incorporate cactus pears  and some where you can substitute cactus pears for other types of fruit. 

Image Credit: Flickr user pixie_bebeCC BY-ND 2.0 )

Let’s start the day with Stuffed French Toast; in this recipe you get all the classic French toast ingredients such as cream cheese, fresh berries, maple syrup along with toasted challah bread. Instead of using regular berry jam, however, you can easily use cactus pear jam as a substitute. The tart cactus pears will cut through the rich cream cheese and the sweet maple syrup. This iteration is a delightful tropical spin on classic French toast. 

Staying on the French Toast train, another way to utilize cactus pear as a substitute is in our recipe for French Toast Suzette. For a fun new alternative, use cactus pear puree instead of using the orange juice, butter, and brown sugar sauce. Serve with slices of pineapple for a tropical vibe. 

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Another way to utilize cactus pear is to integrate it into our recipe for Summer Berry Crumble. Once you have your berries, butter, ice cream, oats, cinnamon, and cardamom, add pieces of cactus pear to make the dish even richer. The cactus pear will add freshness, a floral aroma and a unique flavor to the crumble. 

Of course, you can also make cactus pear juice, cactus pear sorbet, and cactus pear salad as well. 

Ways to store Cactus Pear

Store cactus pears in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and it will remain fresh for 2 to 3 days. Wash and air dry them once you buy them. If you want to pick your own cactus pears,  make sure they turn deep magenta or wait for them to fall on the ground, that way you will know they are ripe and ready to eat. Handle carefully, however, those spines are sharp!

Feature Image: Gundula Vogel from Pixabay 

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