What are your recipes for prickly pear?
July 12, 2008 12:36 AM   Subscribe

Prickly Pear -- The official state plant of Texas. How do you prepare them?

I just bought five of them for a buck (first time I've ever seen them in the grocery, much less bought them), asked some fellow late-night shoppers how to eat them -- they told me not to eat the skin but rather just the inside. Which I did, soon as I got home; I quartered one, ate the inside, and it's sweet as candy -- cool. Sort of a Southwestern kiwi fruit. But what is your recipe for prickly pears? Do you use the skins of the pear also?

While we're at it, what is your recipe for prickly pear 'pads' or 'paddles,' whatever it is you call the stems?

Our friend Google tells me that there's just all kinds of things to do with them, different recipes. Also, I didn't know that the prickly pear is the official state plant of Texas, which I find sortof comical -- I mean, how about bluebonnets, or Indian paint brushes? But they didn't ask me, that I can recall.

Anyways, what do you MeFites do with them, how do you prepare them? Can I toss the 'pad' part into the smoothies I make? How about the entire pear, can I toss that into a smoothie, skin and all? Or, rather, I know I can do that, but have you, or would you?
posted by dancestoblue to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Hmmm... I've never thought of them as anything but ornamental, but apparently you can make jelly out of them...

4 cups prickly pear juice
5 cups sugar
2 pkgs of powdered pectin

Bring the pectin to a boil according to the manufacturer's directions, follow the manufacturer's directions in terms of adding sugar and "other ingredients" (i.e. the prickly pear juice) and bring to a hard boil for three minutes. Then pour into jars and seal.

Note: This is basically the same process for making any other kind of jelly, but I've never made it with prickly pear juice, therefore I can't vouch for its effectiveness and/or eventual results.
posted by amyms at 1:04 AM on July 12, 2008

Nopalitos con heuvos for the pad and margaritas for the fruit.

I peel the pads & fruit with a paring knife (veggie peeler might work as well on the pads) and use a pair of pliers to pull out any remaining spines. You could also just use the tip of the knife to dig out the spines but I like having an excuse to use pilers in the kitchen.
posted by jamaro at 1:26 AM on July 12, 2008

I've made the jelly. Found it wasn't all that great. The taste is sweet but insipid or perhaps just too subtle for my tastes. And it didn't set. But that was probably my bad in some way.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:04 AM on July 12, 2008

did you google "Nopalitos"? that's the name that is used in Mexican for the pads. you can slice them and then boil them for something equivalent to green beans.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:00 AM on July 12, 2008

Well, the fruit is eaten in Bolivia, and we sure as hell never ate the skin or even considered it.

However, you probably got it with the glochids (evil, nearly invisible spines) removed. We did not, and always treated the fruit with great fear and respect as a result.
posted by O9scar at 7:33 AM on July 12, 2008

My favourite way to eat nopalitos is to cook a pork roast & shred it, make a simple red chili sauce (using drippings from the roast, red chili powder of your choice, a bit of flour to thicken), throw the nopalitos in and eat with warm flour tortillas. Yummm.
posted by kattyann at 7:34 AM on July 12, 2008

I had pickled prickly pear—say that three times fast. While the taste wasn't bad (wasn't good, either), it contained slime like you've never seen before. Think okra slime times 1000. The very texture made the stuff hard to swallow and enjoy.
posted by spamguy at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2008

Their boxes all feature saguaro illustrations, but prickly pear cactus is actually the flavoring for some products of the Cactus Candy Company. Go figure. Here's a simple pulp candy you can make at home, flavored with prickly pear.
posted by paulsc at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2008

DO NOT EAT THE SKIN unless you have a fetish for chewing ground glass.

Seriously, they may look smooth when you buy them, but tunas (the Spanish word for the pink fruit) have the tiniest little spines feathered all over them. They're rubbed off with sand before you buy them - mostly - but these spines are pretty much invisible and thus impossible to remove if they getcha. So unless your idea of fun is staring in a mirror desperately poking around your suppurating tongue with a pair of tweezers... well.

Also, could you clarify? It sounds like you bought both the leaves - nopalitos - and the fruit - tunas?

I like nopalitos fried or steamed and used in ways similar to kohlrabi. Margaritas sounds great for the tunas, though we could never wait so we always just ate them fresh.
posted by GardenGal at 12:52 PM on July 12, 2008

Margaritas from the fruit are wonderful. And I've had good jam, also -- very sweet, as Stewriffic noted, but I thought the flavor was well-defined and interesting.
posted by janell at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2008

Response by poster: Also, could you clarify? It sounds like you bought both the leaves - nopalitos - and the fruit - tunas?

I bought five of the 'tunas', but am considering buying the nopalitos also, to try, based upon feedback from MeFites.

I just now pulled one of those tiny, bitty spines out of one of my fingers, I could only see it with reading glasses on but I sure did feel it -- I moved the three remaining tunas into a bowl and it got me. So tiny but they surely do sting -- these spines are the reason I never, ever would have thought to eat prickly pear -- I've gotten nailed plenty of times in the past.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:36 PM on July 12, 2008

We've made jelly and also added the juice to a (I think) vanilla ice cream recipe. Not a lot of flavor as I recall, but color like you wouldn't believe.
posted by jvilter at 10:18 AM on July 13, 2008

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