The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus figs, Indian fig or tuna, is edible, although it has to be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer is not properly removed, glochids can be ingested causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin.
Prickly Pear Cactus have been a staple food of Native Americans for many centuries. Some species of prickly pear cactus were introduced into North America from tropical America a number of centuries ago. The fruit of these cultivated prickly pear cactus is a common delicacy in Mexico and is sold in markets as “tuna.”
The prickly pear fruit normally ripens and is ready for harvest during the late summer and early fall months. Prickly pear fruit are often used to make candies, jellies, drinks and pie fillings.
During my year in Asia, it seemed like I was sampling a new fruit every other week. Everything was exotic and new, and I wanted to taste it all. Now that I’m back at home and frequenting supermarkets rather than wet markets, I strive to be just as adventurous. During a quick trip to a grocery store in Alhambra with Wandering Chopsticks, she recommended that I purchase some prickly pear cactus fruit to try. Even though they looked dull and unappealing, my curiosity got the best of me and I bought three.
I decided to eat the prickly pear cactus fruit in the same fashion as I do dragon fruit—sliced in half and scooped out with a spoon. The fruit’s flesh was a brilliant magenta, while the texture was coarse and full of round, edible seeds. Although its appearance was intriguing, the fruit’s actual taste was a disappointment—one-dimensionally sweet without a trace of tang.
It makes perfect sense that these fruits are generally transformed into candies, jellies, drinks and pie fillings rather than eaten raw. Without any added oomph, prickly pear cactus fruits are a bore.