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37 responses to “A New Ingredient: Prickly Pears”

  1. Jay Ducote

    This is amazing. I grew up deer hunting in South Texas where were surrounded by prickly pears but never once thought of doing anything with them. If I ever get a chance to go again and collect some cacti, I’m coming back to you for recipes!

  2. Holly Heyser

    For the benefit of your readers, I must add that the prickly pear margarita was DIVINE, once I got over the fact that it resembled magenta antifreeze. That stuff is quite fluourescent… But yeah, I got over that pretty quickly. YUM!

  3. Live to Hunt

    OMG, those fine hairs are indeed the devil. We had an 8 foot prickly pear that produces lots and lots of fruit and god forbid you touch one of those things sans a heavy glove. As for what else to do – me thinks a prickly pear mojito would be awesome.

  4. amy

    That’s really cool. I’m sure I can find some (place that ships) if I look hard enough….I have an inkling that I’d love to have some of this!

  5. Kyle

    A friend of mine fell into a prickly pear patch once, while wearing shorts and little else… He still winces after 60 years.

  6. Josh

    When I read that you thought they were hard to find, my head shook. But, I remember that we come from different places.

    I grew up on candied tunas, “tunas” being the Mexican word for them (probably Spanish, but having married a Nicaraguan, I’ve found out that many of my “spanish” words are Mexican).

    Perhaps you should grow one – you can get nopales out of them, too, which I love.

    About glazes, my elderberry jam is tart (in a good way), and I’m thinking of making it a glaze for a turkey. Suggestions?

  7. Russell

    Ugh, I grew up in Southern California and my mom made jam from prickly pears. So when I was a kid I was tasked with diving in and picking them in the enormous cactus forest that was our back yard. The painful, itchy memories kind of put me off them for about 20 years. But a year or two ago I bought some in the store and made a Prickly Pear Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving, which turned out fairly well. I do like the watermellony-ness of them, and yeah, great with Tequila.

  8. susan

    Is it possible that the Chef Michael Tuohy you mention the gentleman who had a resto in Atlanta called Woodfire Grille? If so, when next you see him, please advise we miss him quite a lot. He is a lovely man.

  9. vyki

    I love making things out of prickly pears. I live on an island so badly wrecked its one of the few wild edibles we can collect. Recently we have discovered a new way to pick and process them.

    Before picking the fruits we make a brush out of dead grass and brush all of the spines from the fruit and the pick with a gloved hand. or some of us prefer to pick with bbq tongs and then gently roll them in the grass to remove the spines. (like the island foxes do) If you collect the fruits with out first removing the spines you risk getting spines stuck in other fruits in your bag.

    To process the prickly pear fruits, we first wash them to remove any remaining glochids, and then peel the skin off with a knife. (If you use a towel to remove the nodes on the fruit, you may eat the skin too.)

    The secret we seem to have discovered is then to slice the fruits in half length wise and scoop out the seeds and dark pulp into a bowl, and then also reserve the flesh of the fruit that was between the dark centers and the outer skin.

    The juice is removed from the seeds by cooking briefly and then straining through cheese cloth to remove the seeds.

    Then you have too separate parts to work with, a dark sweet rich juice from the centers and and a bright tart flesh.

    Recently we have made cobblers with the tart flesh, and frozen the juice into ice cubes– and slowly used the cubes to make smoothies, home-made candy, and a syrup for coconut flan.

  10. Kiva Rose

    I love making Prickly Pear wine every year (I made prickly pear fruit and dandelion flower wine this year), and I’ve made a fair amount of Prickly Pear cordials too, this year I made a prickly pear and wild rose tequila cordial with desert wildflower honey that was just barely sweet and very flavorful.

    We also de-stickerize the fruit and dry them to use in tea.

    We also make a similar glaze to yours with prickly pear, juniper berries, spices etc Prickly pear, depending on how long you cook it down etc can be quite light and berry like, and I’ve found it to very nice for wild turkey.

  11. Holly Heyser

    Josh: Let the record note that I gave Hank the evil eye for tossing those seeds in the front yard, right by the front door, you know, because it’ll make such a great welcome plant.

  12. E. Nassar

    Hank-
    In Lebanon, prickly pears are a very popular refreshing fruit. It is peeled and served chilled, just like watermelon. I love it’s melon/berry taste. BTW, the seeds are edible, but not “chewable”. I know this makes no sense, but I would eat the fruit whole and simply swallow the seeds. They are supposed to aid digestion (not sure if that is true). Others suck on the pulp and simply spit the seeds out.

  13. Colleen

    Thank you for the idea of adding pure citric acid. I could not get my first batch of PP syrup to taste the way I wanted it to, and will try your recipe when I attempt my next batch.

    And there is just no way to properly describe the evil of the glochids. A horrid cluster of micro-pains which gel together into finger-tip-burning awfulness.

  14. Tamar

    On a recent trip to Albuquerque, I harvested a bunch of prickly pears from a giant cactus growing in front of an office building (the people on their cigarette break looked at me like I was crazy). I washed off the glochids (after discovering their presence the hard way), cut them in half, scooped out the flesh, and ran it through a sieve.
    When I asked New Mexicans what to do with the juice, they all said “Margaritas!” But I’m thinking of cooking it down and making a quince/prickly pear preserve. Northeast meets Southwest.

  15. Phillip

    I’ve enjoyed everything from nopalitos on a salad to prickly pear liqeur, and I think they’re a wonderful thing.

    But I wouldn’t want the bloody things in my yard. They WILL take over!

    I’ve a funny (now, not then) story about a young guy who looks a lot like me and has the same name, who once set a squirrel trap and sat under a pine tree to wait for his quarry. Unbeknownst to the boy, under the pine tree was a nice little patch of prickly pear, barely covered by a mound of pine needles. Under the sadistic ministrations of his grandmother, we learned yet another use for duct tape!

  16. Garrett

    Not high in the slightest. Most likely. Probably. Depends on when you catch me.

    Anyways, love the idea of adding citric acid. I usually just toss in a squeeze of lime juice but I’m sure your way keeps the flavor pure and bubblegum like. As for the thorns? Heavy gloves and the use of fire takes them out pretty quickly. =)

  17. Bo

    When I was a young boy living and traveling in Mexico, we ate cactus tunas to such a degree that it caused me some panic when I urinated a brilliant magenta colour!

  18. Michelle | Bleeding Espresso

    Thanks for the mention…that pheasant looks truly divine!

  19. Marlana

    I have a NJ Italian friend who transplanted himself to Tucson, AZ. He makes a great prickly pear mead.

  20. scott

    Can’t believe I missed this one. I carry a Sicilian prickly pear jam. As far as I know, I’m the only online retailer to carry it.

  21. CMBlake6

    […] excellent post from there is this: Prickly Pears. We in the southwest know these delightful plants. The main paddle of that cactus is a good food […]

  22. Kirsten

    I was so moved by your last post that I couldn’t respond. Glad to see you’re back in the saddle. FANTASTIC POST! And the comments were such a great addition as well! I may have inspired a whole new herd of foragers with this post alone. Thanks!

  23. Kevin

    I use a blow torch, the kind with a propane bottle. Go over the the fruit first and then pick. Saves a lot of time and not getting stuck so often.

  24. Jessa

    Prickly pears are excellent with cucumber (in a frozen blender drink with lemon and mint, or chopped together in a light “fruit” salad with honeydew and a citrus vinaigrette).

    Mint is generally a good addition, or sage if you’re going savory.

    I tried making a cactus pear and lemon verbena jelly a few years back, but cooked it too long and lost a lot of the “good” flavors. I’ll try again someday.

  25. Sarah

    I went fishing for prickly pears last fall with my family, picking the fruit with a homemade contraption of a long pole attached to a can. After we picked a few piles we removed the glochids by threshing them with weeds and then later at home washing them down with a strong stream of water. I made prickly pear pie with them, flavored with almonds.
    I agree with you that the syrup which I made from it (mine was orange and not magenta) was cloyingly sweet. Next time I will add lemon juice to it as you recommend. Thanks for the ideas.

  26. Swamp Thing

    Out here, prickly pears only grow on beach dunes…I’ve eaten them carefully with a knife, but with this knowledge in hand I look forward to doing something more useful with them!

    I’m in my 5th year of growing/preparing elderberries. Made wine in 2008 – very bitter! But as it turns out, a PERFECT marinade for any red meat or wild game.

  27. Jaesi

    Sounds like a good syrup recipe, but man that is a lot of pricklys to pick. I just wanted to add that with, what, fifty seeds in each pear, they are edible. You can grind them into flour, though not gluten-producing flour. But hey with pectin in the fruits and flour from the seeds, you can make cactus pie :)

  28. Prickly Pear Jelly – When Life Gives You Prickly Pears, Make Jelly! | Every Day Southwest

    […] lots of adventurous stuff out there in the bloogsphere! Hank of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook made prickly pear syrup that sounds amazing on a stack of pancakes. I found prickly pear snow cones over at Bluebonnets and […]

  29. Prickly Pears: Delicious and Worth the Effort | Plants As Art

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  30. Xesla Research Organisation » Blog Archive » Prickly Pear Syrup

    […] of hard ( edible … just ) seeds that you’re best to just discard. Hank Shaw, a friend, blogger, and published author suggests making Prickly Pear Syrup which showcases the flavour of the fruit […]

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  32. Jeanie Cameron-Tanuz

    was this stringy,slimey like okra for anyone else? ? ? great taste but off-putting with the stringy-ness. :/

  33. Rose

    I missed the ball on harvesting the fruit before a deep freeze – they are now a little shriveled. Since this recipe is for syrup and the consistency of the fruit isn’t part of the end product – do you think I could still use the frozen fruits to make syrup?

  34. Adrian

    I have tried your recipe and it works well. I have a plant in my yard that yields about 5 gals of juice per season. I make both prickly pear syrup and jelly. To the person who didn’t like the sliminess- I have only run into that one season. I had let the fruits stay on the plants an extra month before picking them, wondering how long they would stay on without dropping off. That year, they were slimy. I live in Georgia and it seems that the end of September is the best time to pick them. I have one or two that have just started turning purple. I have people from Mexico, Israel and Jordan that have stopped by to ask if they can buy some from me. I also sell the plants so that people can grow/harvest their own. I just cut off the palms and stick them in soil and they are rooted within a month. The palms grow back as fast as I can use them.
    I also gather the acorns from the huge oak tree I have, crush them and make flour… Acorn pancakes with prickly pear syrup…does it get any better than that?!

  35. Elaine F

    I’m a native Arizonan, and watched my Grandmother make prickly pear jelly growing up. I’ve been making it for years as well, and would like to offer my gathering and cooking techniques. First of all, heavy leather gloves and tongs are critical to gathering. I use plastic buckets or empty 20 lb dog food bags to gather them. Once picked, I’ved found the best way to remove the spines and many of the glochids is to torch them! I have a metal screen used for screening rocks; we put a single layer of pears on the screen, use a propane torch to burn off the spines, still using gloves. Once you’ve torched the whole group, roll them and continue torching until you’ve torched all sides of the pears. Don’t handle them without gloves though, because there are hidden pricklies still. I then pour them into a big pot, cover it with water and cook them at a low boil for about an hour, then use a potato masher to squash the fruit and bring out the juice. I handle about 20 lbs at a time, so smaller batches may take less time. Strain the juice to remove skins and seeds, and then simmer the juice uncovered until it has a nice rich flavor. Then you can use that juice to make syrup or jelly, and it’s fabulous!!!!

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