Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Cactus Pear Taste Test - Mystery Fruit

The Plaza Chronicles
As I took my stroll in The Plaza today, I observed these little purple and dark red and green things, in a box next to the oranges, mangoes, strawberries, plums, watermelons etc. I moved closer to the box to check them out. Oh, what is this?! Oh wow! I don’t think I’ve seen these before, or if I had, I never really paid much attention to them. Of course I had to buy it to try it. After all, I did promise to check out the various fruits, know to me and unknown, now, and let you know about it. So here goes!

Can you believe that this prickly plant with such beautiful flowers brings a very nice and delicious fruit? Well it does. First enjoy these pictures from Wikipedia and then I will tell you all about the product.

Cactus Plant with fruits

Cactus bloom

Bloom turns to fruit

Opuntia or Cactus fruit, is from the prickly cactus that looks like a paddle with spikes. The cactus grows in bunches of paddles with spikes and brings beautiful flowers that then turns into the fruit. The needles on the cactus and on the fruit can cause some damage although the ones on the fruit are not as long or hard. Fortunately when you buy them in the market the needles are usually gone or not as pronounced or dangerous and can be removed easily. Cactus pear is grown in the Northwest regions, Rockies, as well as Mexico. The fruit is also found in the Europe, Mediterranean countries as well as Italy, Australia and countries in the Middle East as the cactus grows well in that climate. There a few varieties and they are available from late spring into early fall and vary in color from green of course as they grow then to deep purple, wine or yellow orange color ready to eat.
This is a dynamite little plant that is used in several dishes; both parts are edible, the paddle and the pear.
The paddle like cactus or nopal, is used as a vegetable and can be cooked as a main or side dish. The fruit or the pear which has several names, I guess depending on where you are, is known as tuna, Indian fig or of course cactus pear. There are many cool dessert recipes that you can make with the fruit. Cactus pears are found to have many medicinal uses including treatment for diabetes, cholesterol, and support the immune system. It is also work as an antioxidant. It is also used in cosmetics, hair products, and for food coloring. This dynamo plant is often used as a fence to keep critters out, for example.

I bought a deep purple cactus pear.
I peeled it to reveal a real deep purple inside. I cut it into wedges and bit into a piece. It was slightly sweet, soft smooth with lots of little seeds. At first it reminded me of tapioca pudding, not the taste or color, but the consistency or texture. It also reminded me of pomegranate, again not the taste or the appearance, well maybe the color, but the seeds. It has lots of little seeds covered with a layer of pulp. The taste wasn’t otherwise distinct to me. It was easy to peel and to get at the meat of it. I enjoyed it but I didn’t find it memorable. The deep purple is said to be the sweetest variety, but this one wasn’t very sweet,but ok.

There are many cactus fruit recipes available for deserts and wines, jams and vegetable stew and other dishes.

Have you have cactus pears before?
What is your favorite one?
Do you have a favorite cactus fruit dish or recipe?
Please share with us your thoughts, ideas and recipes. any or all of the above that you have on cactus pear.

I think this had been the craziest and interesting mystery fruit yet on my excursion for The Plaza Chronicles.

Appreciation to for creating the nutritional value chart above.

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