Prickly Pear Fruits (Opuntia ficus-indica)

(Click on title to see more photos) Three different varieties of Prickly Pear (aka Tunas) grown here in San Diego, an orange-ish one, a red-magenta one, and a yellow one.   All very drought tolerant and produce excellent for eating, nourishing and refreshing fruit, if you like Prickly Pear.  Ripens mainly during summer-autumn.   The yellow one is 'Quillota' from the Luther Burbank Farm, which I acquired by mail order.  The other two are from original plants in the BayPark neighborhood.  And, these all have little spines called 'glochids' on the fruit which need to be taken off before handling with bear hands as I'm showing.  Take off the spines by using suitably thick enough leather gloves or even lightly briefly flaming with a flame torch which makes the spines melt away without further damage to the fruit, or, use tongs and a hand bristle brush or hand broom.  

And be cautious that the fruits are fully colored per their variety, and very adequately ripe, before eating.  Or, if the fruits are nearly or practically ripe, but aren't as ripe as would be prime, let them sit for several days before consuming, which allows the enzymes to be less active.   Fruits which are basically enjoyably edible but not fully colored for their varietal type can have a sort of irritating effect on ones mouth and lips, soon after consuming, due to, apparently, enzymatic activity which is a litte too active.  The more ripe the fruit, the less enzymatic activity there is.   There's a month or so of prime ripe time for the fruits, in the nice in-between range of being nicely ripe, - neither under-ripe nor over-ripe.   If the variety is a reddish/purple or orange variety be sure the basal/stem end (pad end) of the fruit is no longer green and of the basically standard full color for the variety.   Some varieties are greenish to bit yellowish or very yellowish when ripe.   The fruits should twist off the plant fairly easily and have a modest soft 'give' with modest pressure.

I typically split the fruits in half with a knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, eating each scoop, one after the other.   Other options are to cut of the ends and separate the rind from the main flesh, but, the rind, inside the skin, not the skin, is also excellent in flavor, nearly the same as the main flesh, making for a good balance of flavor, like with figs and the rind/skin of figs.   A matter of good reasonable food value balance.

Btw, make sure all the tiny thorns are removed, otherwise they will sticker into your skin, or mouth.   Be careful.

Perfectly ripe green flesh variety in the picture below.   Beautiful mild and sweet flavor, faint bit of banana aroma.   Btw, yes, that's a fly on the right side of the cut fruit in my hand.  I didn't notice it when I took the picture.  

 

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