How to eat prickly pears

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

How do I eat a prickly pear, John?

Also known as cactus fruit or cactus pear, this fruit is often readily available to foragers in the urban landscape - perhaps in your neighbour's backyard, local community garden or scattered throughout bushland. But they're not called prickly for nothing, and peeling a prickly pear isn't quite as straightforward as other fruits.

Gloves are essential to avoid the tiny spines on the fruit's skin attaching to you. If you buy them from your local supermarket or farmers' market, most of the spines might have been rubbed away already, which makes them a little easier to handle. The best way to remove the prickles is by rubbing them off the skin with a vegetable brush or toothbrush. To peel the fruit, use a fork and a sharp knife to slice off both ends of the fruit, make a slit lengthways through the tough skin to the flesh, and use two forks to pull the skin away.

Eating the fruit raw is only worthwhile when it's perfectly ripe - it has a flavour similar to passionfruit and lots of seeds. Cooking the fruit is a safer bet, perhaps as a jam, or in a cordial or sorbet. It'll be a most spectacular magenta, and all the effort will be worthwhile.


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