Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Southwest knows about the deliciousness that is the prickly pear. Yes, that spiny cactus is edible!
The fruit top of the cactus is a delicious treat on its own, and you can also eat the flesh of the cactus.
The bright pink fruit can be eaten raw, made into jams, juice, or as in many bars and Mexican restaurants across the Southwest, used for margaritas! Any time I am in the area, I make a point of not only bringing home prickly pear jam, but having a prickly pear margarita or two.
The fruit has a light, sweet, refreshing flavor akin to watermelon.
The flesh of the prickly pear is also edible, and is often used in Mexican cooking. Referred to as "nopales", you can find it jarred in brine at most Mexican and international markets. Prickly pear also has many health benefits. In Mexican folk medicine, the prickly pear is used for its anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used to treat various ailments ranging from digestive problems to skin wounds.
Finding fresh prickly pear in Chicago unsurprisingly, proved difficult. I was, however able to fine some at a Mexican grocery store called Carneceria Guanajuato. I was so happy to discover such an awesome find! They were not very ripe, but after all, it is the Midwest.
There are many great specialty brands based in the Southwest that sell prickly pear products. Cheri's Desert Harvest carries jams, jellies, syrups and honey all made from the prickly pear fruit. There are many ways to eat the delicious prickly pear! Here are a few easy recipes featuring the cactus:
1 jar nopales, drained
1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 avocado, diced
1 cup quest fresco, crumbled
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 T cilantro, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and combine. Serve chilled.
Prickly Pear Margarita
2 oz prickly pear cactus syrup plus 2 oz lime juice OR two ripe prickly pears, blended and strained plus 1 Tablespoon lime juice
4 oz good quality tequila
2 oz Triple Sec
Coarse salt for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
Shake in a cocktail shaker or mix well, and serve over ice. Garnish rim with salt and lime wedge.
We don't have prickly pear on the menn for any upcoming cooking classes at The Chopping Block due to its limited availability, but if you are interested in learning more about Mexican cuisine, join us for Taqueria DIY and Viva la Vegetarians, Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and Grilling Fiesta.
Get ready for Cinco de Mayo with our recipe for Chipotle Guacamole, and stop in both of our stores for a sample of our delicious Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, Thursday May 5th.