Bermudians island-wide are familiar with the pink fruit that grows from leaves of the Nopales cacti: for generations locals have eaten the fruit raw or boiled and made jams, juices and candies from its sweet insides. The prickly pear’s taste has been likened to that of the watermelon or raspberry and its fragrance is sweet and subtle, much like a cucumber.
The prickly pear has many nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins C and B, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium and more.
If you haven’t foraged for prickly pears before, it can be an intimating process, but trust us: the health benefits prickly pears provide, coupled with the fruit’s deliciousness, make it a worthwhile venture. Below you’ll find three prickly pear recipes worth making, as well as information regarding the best ways to forage and prepare the wild growing fruit.
How to Properly Forage for Prickly Pears
If you’re going out to source wild growing prickly pears, it’s a good idea to wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants as the prickly barbs can go flying when the fruit is plucked from the cactus. In addition to protective clothing, metal tongs and oven mitts are also useful in shielding your hands and fingers from prickles.
To pick a prickly pear, simply grab the fruit with a pair of tongs and pull whilst carefully twisting. The fruit should come apart from the cactus easily enough. Use a bucket to hold the fruit you’ve collected as they’ll still have thorns on them, so keeping them in your pocket will be an unfortunate decision on your part.
Before you begin to peel them, you want to make sure to dislodge any prickles or thorns that the fruit may still be holding on to. You can do this in a variety of ways: some swear by raking the fruit over a hard surface, some instead use flame and heat, some disregard both methods and instead use tough gloves and tweezers. It’s up to you to decide which method is most convenient but we recommend watching a few video tutorials before trying it for yourself.
Once you’ve freed your fruit from its thorns, it’s pretty easy to prepare for consumption. Simply slice both ends of the prickly pear off and make a 1/8″ slice lengthwise down the body of the fruit. Wedge your finger into the middle of the slice, and peel the skin back. Once the skin is off, you can eat the fruit as is or juice it.
Three Prickly Pear Recipes We’re Sure You’ll Enjoy!
Prickly Pear Margarita
2 cups silver tequila
2 cups triple sec
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice, plus lime slices or wheels, for garnish
1/2 cup prickly pear puree
Kosher salt, for rimming glasses
Add the tequila, triple sec, lime juice and prickly pear puree to a pitcher and mix well. Chill for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, spread some salt on a small plate. Run a lime slice around the rim of each glass. Dip the glass rims in the salt to coat. Fill the glasses with ice and pour the margarita mix over. Garnish with a lime slice.
Gluten-Free Prickly Pear Cheesecake
Ingredients for Crust:
3 tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup GF ginger cookie crumbs
¾ cup GF moist vanilla cake crumbs
¾ cup sugar
Ingredients for Cheesecake:
1 ½ cups softened cream cheese
1/8 cup GF flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
½ cup prickly pear puree
½ teaspoon key lime extract
Using a fork in a medium bowl blend together crumbs and sugar. Add butter and stir to moisten. Press into bottoms of greased pans of desired size ¼ to ½ inch thick.
In an electric mixer blend cream cheese, flour, salt and sugar until smooth.
Beat in the eggs, yolk and heavy cream. Add puree and lime extract and blend well.
Pour filling onto crust and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.
Cool and drizzle with your favorite sauce. Keep refrigerated.
Prickly Pear Sorbet
8 prickly (cactus) pears (3 pounds total)
1/2 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
2 tablespoons lime juice
Ingredients for Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Wearing rubber gloves, wash the cactus pears and with paper towels, rub off any prickly fuzz left on the skin. Halve the pears lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh and seeds and put them into a blender.
Add the simple syrup and lime juice to the blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavor with more syrup or lime juice, to taste. Strain the puree through a fine sieve, discarding any seeds and pulp.
Pour the sorbet into pyrex dish, smoothing the surface so the mixture is level. Cover with plastic wrap and place dish in the freezer for at least 6 hours.
Once mixture has rested for allotted time, spoon into individual dishes and serve.
Directions for Simple Syrup:
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cool before using. Syrup can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, for 1 month.