We have several kinds of cactus in our yard. Couldn't tell you what kind they are but this is what they look like......
There are several varieties of cactus pear. The prickly pear cactus is a fruit AND a vegetable. The green pods are the napolito and the vegetable part, and the red to purple pears are the fruit, also known as tuna.
The pears have a melon-like aroma and a sweet but bland flavor. Popular in Mexico, Central and South America, the green pods are abundant year around but the pears are harvested in the later Summer months.
Cactus pear is fantastic raw, peeled and chilled by itself or made into a tasty salsa. You will find it used for its medicinal properties, but it can also be used to make juice, salads, jelly or even in a margarita!
Selecting and preparing the prickly pears should be done with care. If you are buying them, make sure they have been de-spined. If you are picking them yourself, wear thick gloves when handling and carefully scrape off the prickly spines. You will also need to trim the “eyes,” and remove any remaining prickers with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife. Another effective method of removing the thorns and spines is with a blowtorch which may sound extreme, but it is a quick and effective way of getting getting it done!
The fruit is edible raw, with a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, but with a more granular texture. The fruit is full of tiny seeds which can be chewed and eaten, swallowed whole, or spit out. It has been used to make juice, jelly and candy. You can peel and dice the pear much like a pineapple for cereal or toppings on ice cream and mixed in salads. Seeds can also be dried and ground into flour.
To cook, steam over boiling water for just a few minutes (if cooked too long they will lose their crunchy texture). Then slice and eat. Steamed cactus is delicious added to scrambled eggs and omelets, or diced fresh and added to tortillas. They taste especially good with Mexican recipes that include tomatoes, hot peppers and fresh corn.