Fun Fact Friday: Prickly Pear Cactus

Natasha Clay

Do you like tuna? Not the fish, but rather the prickly fruit?

Fun Fact Friday: Prickly Pear Cactus

(Photo: Pixabay)

Opuntia ficus-indica is a type of cactus also known as Nopal that is grown in the southern region of Peru in Moquegua. This cactus can be found in a variety of countries in South America, as well as the U.S., Mexico, Africa, Australia, and the Mediterranean, but its production excels in sunny, desert-like conditions.

The ears or pads on the cactus can grow anywhere from 4-18 inches. The pads themselves are edible, but its consumption is very rare in Peru, and only the tuna fruit is consumed. The prickly pear is widely used as medicine, as it is rich in proteins and vitamins. It is used to treat diabetes, stomach problems, cuts, bruises, cold symptoms and more.

(Photo: Prickly pear/Pixabay)

How to eat tuna and pads from the Pricky Pear cactus:

This delicious fruit grows on the pads of the cactus and comes in various colors. If you do decide to eat the pads, which are very delicious, make sure you wear thick gloves to avoid getting pricked.

With a veggie peeler or paring knife cut the spines of the pads, rinse and peal the residue, after this is done you can remove your gloves. There are also tiny invisible spines on the pads that can be difficult to remove from the skin so it’s also recommended to turn the pads on a gas burner with tongs.

After this process, run the pads under cold water, slice, cook or grill and mix with other ingredients if you like and enjoy.

Eating the pear:

Most store bought pears are already spine free and easy to handle, but uncleaned pears will most likely still have glochid (small prickles). Always remember to use gloves or tongs when washing the pears. To remove the spines and prickles, place the pears in a colander and rinse under cold water at least six to seven times while swirling the pears about for five minutes. Next, remove the skin and enjoy the sweet flavor.

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