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Sunday, November 13, 2011

A New Favorite: Green Cactus Pears

If you’re asking yourself": “What is that?!” then you are where I was a little while ago. We’re by no means short of cactus here in Arizona and I’ve seen my fair share of the fruit they bear, but I have never actually tried it. I was also under the mistaken impression, that only the red fruit  is edible.
Around this time of year, I often see cactus related fare in the grocery sections of our local supermarkets, but so far, I’ve never gone for any of them.
Until about a week ago. When I went to my local Asian store, they had a whole bin of these green cactus pear things at $0.60/ lb. and I was feeling in an experimenting mood, so I got a few. Since I had no idea what to do with them, I first just cut them open to see what was inside!
Much to my surprise, a LOT of very hard seeds. We tasted the juice and it resembled the flavor of pear a lot! More precisely, it tasted like a cross of a pear and a slightly “green” watermelon! Since I had no idea what to do with them, I consulted the internet and found out they could be eaten raw.

Not only that, it seemed that this little fruit has a LOT of health benefits that were right up my alley! Stabilizing blood sugar levels - yes please! Low in calories, rich in fiber and low in sodium, this fruit offers a good source of vitamin C and potassium too.  Sign me up!
Native to the Americas, Green Cactus pears has long been used to promote healing, specifically for inflammatory skin disorders, eye inflammation, intestinal tract dysentery, urinary tract inflammation, burns, and joint and muscle inflammation.
Even better!
On the internet it also said that this fruit can be eaten as is, or as a perfect addition to salads, or made into jam or jellies. I wanted to use it raw, but I couldn’t get around the seeds. In my variety they are SO hard, I can’t bite through them, and there are so many, that you have a mouthful of rock hard seeds and a bit of fruit around it. So that was out for me.
When you add the whole fruit to the blender, you get a VERY gritty smoothie, again, because of the seeds! I think that there are other varieties though that have softer seeds that would do just fine for eating or a smoothie. Not this variety however!
I did  figure out a quick and easy way to juice them.
But first of all -  a word of warning! These little things look quite harmless. You can’t see any prickles on it. DON’T believe it!
This fruit has TINY, needle-like hairs , that are totally invisible to the naked eye, but they burrow themselves into your skin and you can’t get rid of those little buggers. So, since I’ve been having cactus pear juice every morning for a week now (I went back to get some more!) I have gotten quite used to handling them carefully!

It starts at the store! Use another bag around your hand to place them into your veggie/fruit bag, so you don’t have to touch them. Take an empty bag home with you!
When you get home, use that empty bag around your hand when taking the cactus pears out. Place them in a bowl and rinse generously with cold water. That’s the only time you’ll see some of those fine “hairs” floating on top of the water. Rinse the fruit twice, discarding the water in between.
Drain and use some kitchen paper towels to dry each one, rubbing them a  bit to get the stray prickles.
Discard the paper towels!
After that you still have to be a bit careful, but much less so.
I tend to use a paper towel every morning to handle them until I peeled the fruit, just in case!

Now, should you get one or two of those hairs into your hand anyway, there’s a way to get them out, even though you can’t see them. You will know where they are because you can FEEL them!
Take a strong piece of tape over the area where the prickle is. Press it down well then pull it off. The prickle usually comes with it!

And here’s how I prepare them for my morning smoothies:

Slice off the flat end.

Slice off the pointy end.

Make a slit along the side, about 1/4 inch deep.

Pull back the peel on either side to reveal the fruit. It all comes off in one piece!

Place a strainer over a bowl and place the fruit in it.

Smoosh them with your hands. The ripe fruit is not that hard to squeeze.

Let it sit over the bowl for a couple of minutes, then use the back of a spoon to get as much of the juice and pulp out.  Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the strainer to get all the fruit pulp. Discard the seeds.

And here you have it. The juice and fruit pulp, ready to either drink as is or in our case, add to our morning smoothies!

This may look like a lot of steps, but once you’ve done it, it’s about as fast as peeling an orange from start to finish, so not really work intensive at all!

Have you ever tried cactus pears? What do you do with them?

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  1. Hey Birgit - I wanted to see if you had any LC holiday cookie recipes. I am planning on doing a round up on my blog next week and would love to link to some of my fav LC authors. I got over 90K views on my blog last month and want to "share the wealth" so to speak. If you want to be included, email me at carketch29 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

  2. I'm not sure if my last comment got lost? Thanks for the blog! I found it googling more info on this fruit as its one of my favorites! It's very refreshing and tastes like a sweet cucumber to me, as a cucumber would taste if it were a fruit. I have never seen the red ones in my area for some reason but I'd really love to try other varieties! I am glad you shared about the juicing not being too labor intensive because I have thought about doing that too for either juice or jelly.. my only concern is that jelly would be soo sweet? The pear is already so mild that I can't imagine adding a ton of sugar to cook it down to a gel. Maybe there is a better way I could find online.. I'm no expert on jelly making!


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