When To Pick Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit

I’ve wanted to visit a real dude ranch ever since I watched Billy Crystal in the movie City Slickers. I also wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona after watching the comedy movie, but that will have to wait for another tale.

Dude Ranch Dream

My guy ranch fantasy came true last weekend at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, where I rode well-trained horses, ate gourmet cowboy food, and picked prickly pear cactus fruit. Prickly pear season begins in late summer, so I thought I’d provide some advice on foraging the vibrant fruit, which can be used in sweets, cocktails, and even BBQ sauces.

Harvesting prickly pear fruit at Tanque Verde Ranch

We utilized long, kitchen-style utility tongs made of stainless steel at Tanque Verde Ranch. We were able to reach across the prickly pear plant and away from the dangerous needles thanks to the tongs. I looked for the fruit, sometimes known as tuna, which had no green left and was a deep, dark magenta color. The prickly pears are tasty and prepared for harvest because of their color. The following inquiries came from the harvest of prickly pears’ newcomers:

What is prickly pear?

The common term for a cactus that is indigenous to the Americas is “prickly pear.” The cactus bloom gives rise to the palatable fruit. Because prickly pears typically have sharp spines, which are a characteristic of cactus plants, care must be given when harvesting them.

Is a prickly pear a fruit?

Yes, the prickly pear cactus produces prickly pear as a fruit. Although they are unrelated to the Middle Eastern and Western Asian fruit, they are known as “spiny figs” on the island of Malta and as “figs” in other parts of the world. The Tanque Verde Ranch is covered in prickly pear cactus, but the fruit is more colorful there since it is closer to the front lawn and other structures. Because they receive more water, that is.

How to Harvest Prickly Pear Fruit

The fruit, which is the size of a small kiwi fruit, grows on the prickly pear’s tallest paddles (also known as nopales). Although the white spots on the prickly pear appear to be fungus, they are actually the remains of a little beetle that burrows into the paddles of the green cactus. The tunneling insects are used to produce a natural color that is used to textiles, medications, and other products. Crimson and scarlet hues result from the insect dye. We had to be careful not to touch the fruit, not only to prevent the irritating cactus spikes, but also to avoid getting deep reddish purple stains on our fingers. Even though the tiny spines that cover the fruit and paddles are very uncomfortable, if any chance to get caught in your fingers, arms, or legs during harvesting, they will gradually work their way out of your skin. Of course, wearing long pants and sleeves would shield you from the discomfort. When going outside to gather prickly pear fruit, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for snakes and pack drink, a hat, and sunscreen.

Twisting tuna with tongs

The method for harvesting prickly pears? By gently twisting the tuna with the tongs to break the ripe fruit off the paddle, we were able to harvest it. We meandered around the ranch in the Sonoran Desert, picking one fruit at a time into the metal buckets we carried. Here is a list of the supplies you will need to gather prickly pear fruit.

Full buckets

Our buckets were heavy and full after approximately an hour, and we were prepared to leave the sun. The other prickly pear foragers and I met up again just before noon to assist Executive Sous Chef Janet Hoogasian in preparing the uncooked fruit pods in one of the ranch’s commercial kitchens. She’ll demonstrate how to properly prepare a prickly pear.

Prickly Pear Margaritas

“The chef explained, “We have to gather a lot of prickly pears since we’re famous here at the ranch for our Prickly Pear Margaritas. ” According to her, 35 pods are required to make one-third of a cup. You only need one to two ounces of prickly pear juice to give a margarita or other beverage its brilliant hue. 1/3 cup of juice from 35 pods

For the remainder of the year, Chef Janet makes the juice and sauces and freezes them. Although sugarsagave, honey, or cane sugar are sometimes added to sweeten the wild food that is rich in vitamin B, iron, amino acids, and magnesium, prickly pears have a somewhat sweet and fruity taste on their own.

How to Prepare Prickly Pear Fruit

We started by putting the prickly pear pods into a sizable colander and used the sink’s sprayer to wash all the bugs away. After that, we repeatedly spun the bulky quantity of fruit to remove the little spikes under the water faucet. The fruit in the colander rubbing against one another helps remove the prickly microfibers. Since some of the spikes were still present after this procedure, we had to put on leather gloves in addition to the standard food service disposal gloves in order to handle the fruit.

How to Cut a Prickly Pear

We clipped the pods’ tips off on the cutting board before making a quick cut into the thick skin to create a slit that ran from end to end. That made it possible for us to use the edge of the knife to peel off the thick skin. We have to exercise caution when removing the luscious pulp because the internal flesh is slick. It takes a lot of meticulous knife work to break down the fruit in this way, but the end product is a ranch-style sauce or juice that is free of additives and preservatives. “Chef Janet, a member of the Tucson Gastronomic Union, grinned and said, “You know precisely what went into it: work, effort, and love.

The fruit was de-skinned, placed in a sizable saucepan, to which we added a little water, and simmered it. Chef Janet used a strainer ladle to remove cactus spikes that floated to the surface and adhered to the pot’s sides as the boiling mixture soon gave out a plum-like perfume. Prickly pear juice is a key component in margaritas and is also used in the Tanque Verde Ranch’s BBQ sauce. “Because of the prickly pear’s mild flavor, the chef said you can create all different flavor profiles with it. On that particular day, she flavored the fruit that would be the evening’s dessert with honey, a cinnamon stick, and cloves. ” It can be used to make shaved ice, a glaze for pork chops, or a dessert’s icing to give it that amazing hue. Since prickly pears have a relatively mild flavor, you can enhance it by adding additional ingredients. Chef Janet cooked the fruit pulp for a while before sieving it and adding it back to the pot. She repeatedly sieved to get rid of the prickly pear seeds and needles. The reduction was finally run through cheesecloth by the chef. She stored what she didn’t use for the sweets for the evening in the freezer.

“Denise, a banquet bartender who has worked at the ranch for almost five years, joked, “We always believe we have enough, but every year that I’ve been here, we run out by January. After lunch, Denise and another mixologist led a class at the on-site Dog House Saloon on using prickly pear juice in cocktails. In addition to the ranch’s famous Prickly Pear Margarita, we also had a Prickly Pear Whiskey Sour, a Prickly Pear Cosmo, a Cosmo with prickly pear juice in place of the cranberry juice, and a Prickly Pear Mimosa.

Join the Harvest

Join in on the second harvest that takes place in August. The experience consists of:

  • accommodation and three substantial meals each day
  • menu specialties with prickly pears
  • Pick prickly pears.
  • Take part in and learn how to prepare and harvest prickly pears.
  • demos of prickly pear cooking
  • all visitors will receive prickly pear t-shirts
  • Children’s program under supervision (ages 4-11)
  • horseback instruction and trail riding
  • arranged breakfast rides and barbecues
  • Numerous other family-friendly activities include mountain biking, bingo, guided hikes, wildlife programs, and fishing.

How do you tell when a prickly pear is ready to be eaten?

When cactus pears turn a dark, almost magenta-colored red, they are mature. Birds picking at the fruit and fruit falling to the ground are two additional indicators of optimum ripeness in addition to the straightforward color test. Picking a pear that has green flesh at the cut indicates that the fruit is not yet ripe. You should pay close attention to the glochids since they can come off the fruit during harvest, lodge in your skin, and cause discomfort, irritation, and occasionally allergic responses. Put on leather gloves and use metal tongs to harvest the fruit to be on the safe side.

Prickly pears — do they ripen after picking?

After being picked, prickly pears don’t typically ripen very much. It is therefore advisable to wait and only harvest them when they are obviously ripe. Prickly pears that are fully mature will no longer have prickles, making it quite simple to identify them.

When is the prickly pear cactus ready for harvest?

Whatever name you give it—prickly pear, cactus fruit, tuna (Spanish), figure de Barbary (French)—this tasty plant has a lot to offer and is ready for harvesting! In the Northern Hemisphere, prickly pears are at their peak from late summer to early winter, from September to December.

How do you tell when the fruit of a cactus is ripe?

Although cactus fruits are typically harvested from July through October, depending on where they are grown, it is common to find them in American grocery shops as late as December. Additionally, because they have been frozen, they occasionally show up in stores outside of their season.

The most prevalent cactus pears in the United States are red and green, but Mexico also has a wide range of different types and hues.

You should check for a few characteristics to identify ripe cactus fruit, including strong skin and a lack of deterioration indicators like bruising, soft patches, or mold.

When ripe, red cactus fruit, also known as tunas rojas, should have little to no green on the skin and should be a deep red color.

Unlike the red kind, green cactus fruit, also known as tunas verdes, won’t undergo significant color change as they develop. The fruit inside is either white or an extremely light shade of green, and the fruit’s exterior color can fluctuate from a very light shade of green to a medium shade as it ripens. The skin can occasionally become a little yellow or palid as they begin to overripen and perish.

How are prickly pear fruits picked and consumed?

There are a few different schools of thought regarding how to harvest prickly pear fruit. The majority of foragers just twist the fruits off with a pair of tongs or something comparable. Fruit that is ripe should easily twist off.

As an alternative, it has been asserted that using a little butane burner with a wand is the most effective approach. To remove the thorns and glochlids on the pear, use the tool. Harvesting prickly pear fruit with a burner reduces risk because the fruit is easier to handle because it is free of spikes.

Always leave some fruits out for birds and wildlife. Try not to overly pile the fruit in a basket or bag so that the bottom fruit doesn’t get damaged.

A green prickly pear is it edible?

Green cactus pears are rectangular in shape, similar to an avocado, and small to medium in size, measuring 5 to 10 cm on average. The fruits develop from yellow, pink, red, or purple flowers that bloom on nopales or green cactus pads. The thick, light-green skin of the fruit is coated in rough glochids, which are bumps and spines. The skin’s areoles contain very small, invisible, sharp spines that resemble hair. The fruit’s yellow flesh is juicy and filled with numerous tough, eatable brown-black seeds. The seeds can be swallowed whole or thrown away entirely because they are too hard to chew thoroughly. Green cactus pears have a sweet flavor with hints of pear and watermelon when they are fully mature, and they are juicy and aromatic.

How is a green prickly pear cactus ripened?

The prickly pear, which is a berry, is a cactus fruit. The prickly pear’s pulp is sweet and juicy, and it has a flavor and perfume that are reminiscent of some of the best tropical and subtropical fruits, including strawberry, watermelon, honeydew melon, fig, and banana.

Once the fruit’s tough, black seeds are removed, the prickly pear’s salmon- or pink-to-magenta-colored flesh can be cut into slices or cubes and eaten uncooked. The flesh can be pureed and used as a flavoring for beverages or added to yogurts, sorbets, or ice cream. The prickly pear is referred to as “cactus candy” in Mexico.

The prickly pear fruit is typically 2 to 4 inches long and shaped like an egg or a barrel; it is comparable in size to a small guava or kiwi fruit. The skin is thick and gritty and can be a mixture of all of these colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, or red. Blossoms of the same hue precede the color of the fruit and its flesh.

The prickly pear’s skin, which is essentially the rind of the fruit, is coated in hard spikes that need to be delicately removed. The cactus pears’ leaves, known as nopales, are edible as well. They too have prickly hairs or spines covering them.

Season. Late summer to early winter, or September to December in the northern hemisphere, is the peak season for prickly pears.

Select. Pick small, smooth, spotless, deeply colored prickly pears that are firm without being hard. When the fruit is ripe, it will give to light pressure. The skin has to be glossy. Avoid eating rotten or damaged fruit. Prickly pears have a week-long ripening period.

Store. For two to three days, prickly pears can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag. At room temperature, firm prickly pears will ripen and soften in a few days.

Prepare. When preparing the prickly pear for cooking, exercise caution and wear some heavy-duty leather gloves. Cutting off the ends of the pears, removing the spines with pliers, making a small slit down the length of the fruit, and using a sharp knife to peel back the inner and outer layers of the skin from top to bottom. The prickly pear may contain tiny, practically undetectable stinging hairs. The fruit can be cleaned of these hairs by running it over an open flame. Press the fruit through a sieve or food mill to get the seeds out. To avoid the seeds hardening while cooking, make sure to remove them before cooking.

Cook. Slices of prickly pears should be simmered with water and sugar for 15 minutes or until they are soft. After that, combine, filter, and refrigerate. To prepare a salad dressing, mix this pure with white wine vinegar or cider vinegar.

Serve. Serve prickly pears whole, cubed, thinly sliced, or with lemon or lime juice sprinkled on top in fruit cups, salads, or other dishes. The sieved flesh can be used as a flavour for sorbets and yogurts, as well as in punches and cocktails. Prickly pear pure can be used to make juice or jam, as well as a filling for tarts and cakes.

Couples of flavors. Banana, honeydew melon, lemon, lime, orange, tequila, and watermelon are among the foods that prickly pears enjoy most.

Nutrition. Calcium, vitamin C, sodium, magnesium, and potassium are all present in prickly pears in addition to other nutrients. Prickly pears have few calories.

Trivia and facts about prickly pears. The prickly pear is also known as the Indian fig, cactus pear, tuna pear, or tuna fig. The Barbary fig or pear is the name given to the prickly pear in Britain. The prickly pear is known as Sharon’s fruit in Israel. Prickly pears are referred to as tunas in Spain and as fichi d’india in Italy.

Native Americans have long consumed prickly pears, which are indigenous to the Americas’ tropical regions. A member of the Optunia cactus family, which has more than 300 species, is the prickly pear. The majority are from the southwest of the United States or northwest Mexico. The most popular types are “Cardona,” which has a sizable red fruit and blossom, and “Amarilla,” which is primarily yellow.