Cactus Pears / Prickly Pears
Cactus pears arrive at the market in early fall and remain there, keeping an eye on the going on, until springtime. Like it’s name indicates, a cactus pear is the fruit of the cactus plant and true to the origin, it is protected by sharp and prickly thorns from the would be cactus pear assassins. Do not give up though. By the time the cacti fruit makes it to the market it has been stripped of its protective armor and is vulnerable and ready to be peeled back and devoured.
Here is how I peel a Cactus Pear:
I lay it on its side on the cutting surface and slice off the flower end. I then hold the pear in my hand (protected with a piece of paper towel, just in case a few invisible fine thorns remain) and make a slice through the skin from the flower end to the stem end but only up to and not through the flesh of the fruit. I make 4 cuts like that all the way around and then peel back each segment to expose the fruit. Think of it like peeling a banana more or less, only here you have to help the skin split into segments. Some people cut off both ends, make a slit through the skin from top to bottom and then roll the skin back around the fruit to expose the flesh. It’s a bit harsh. I like to give the pear some dignity and expose it slowly.
Truthfully, it’s such a treat to have fresh, ripe prickly pears that I enjoy eating the pear just like that and don’t often add it to anything else. However, if you do want to use it in a dish, try adding sliced cactus pear to a fruit plates or add to salads, or green salads. You can also puree it in a blender or juice it (it needs straining then) and use as a base for a martini, margaritas, lemonade or iced tea. It adds zesty flavour and a wonderful colour in any of these applications.