If you live in the Southwest, or have the opportunity to visit, get out and about this time of year (late September, early October) when the Prickly Pear cactus fruit are ripe. I had the pleasure of being in Albuquerque recently and found these in the foothills at the base of the Sandia Mountains.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to use gloves when picking, the fruit has tiny, hairlike needles that can hardly be seen, but they sure are felt! These require tweezers and magnifiers to remove from the skin. Look for the darkest of the fruit, a deep purple for ripeness. We took them home and, still using gloves, peeled them.
REMEMBER – USE GLOVES!!! The fruit should be soft, so don’t squeeze too hard in order not to lose juice while cutting out the hard, core end.
While peeling, hold the fruit gently, removing the skin using your personal technique for peeling apples or similar.
Next, slice the fruit or you can quarter it, depending on the size. There are seeds inside that should be removed because they are hard, and have a tendency to stick in teeth. (They are edible, no real taste and not easy to chew). Try different methods of seed removal that work best for you. We ended up using a pickle spear/fork.
Now the fun begins! Take about a cup of the fruit pulp (we used about 6 large fruit), put it in the blender and add 10 ounces of margarita mix (or your own margarita recipe). This will taste wonderful with or without alcohol!!
The taste is mild, not sweet. Sort of hard to describe. The texture is similar to mango fruit. I plan to look into what all vitamins are in these, but it is my understanding that the Native Americans could go for days eating these and nothing else. We put our extra fruit in the freezer and when we thaw it out and try it, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
November 10, 2012. Defrosted the prickly pear fruit and made another batch of margaritas. It separates sort of like tomatoes when frozen. The pulp lost it’s taste because the juice separated, and was somewhat watered down. Still, the margaritas were tasty! And the color was even deeper.