Friday, December 9, 2011

What the Heck is a Cactus Pear?

Cactus Pear
 These charming models are a pair of Cactus Pears (also referred to as prickly pears or tuna ). I had heard of Cactus Pear and seen it on ingredient lists but I had never encountered a Cactus Pear up close and personal in the raw form until today. I had to take a photo to share with you. What a beautiful fruit. Just look at the gorgeous color inside.

Chef Dale ordered these to make a sauce to accompany a chocolate lava cake he is baking for a dessert feature. He explained that these "pears" grow off the paddles of the cactus. His plan was to combine cactus pear with papaya for a dessert "drizzle".  As I admired this fruit, he explained that he would scoop out the flesh and strain the seeds. Just then another cook, Leo, asked us to hand him one. Leo pulled the skin off (without gloves....they don't call them prickly for nothing) and popped the whole thing in his mouth, seeds and all. So, I shrugged my shoulders and turned to Chef Dale who promptly skinned and cut me a piece which I popped in my mouth the same way, seeds and all. Yum! It tasted like a cross between a really ripe sweet watermelon and a pomegranate. Others have described it as a non acidic kiwi.  The seeds were edible but pretty hard...not as hard as watermelon seeds but I still think it was wise of Dale to remove the seeds for the dessert sauce.  

Leo & Dale Prepping Papaya.
Intrigued by this beautiful and sweet "fruit" I went online to check out more about the cactus pear. They call it "tuna" in Mexico. I read that it has been used for thousands of years in Mexico and around the world for medicinal purposes.  It is a rich source of mineral magnesium, taurine (an amino acid), vitamin C, calcium, potassium and antioxidants. This fruit is also low in calories and in sodium and no cholesterol or saturated fat. It's a good source of fiber similar to soluble fiber that has been shown to to "sop up" cholesterol. Research has been done using the prickly pear to help manage cholesterol levels. Other studies show it helps in treating diabetes, cancer and more! It even helps fight viral infections. All this from such a sweet and pretty looking food item.
Getting Ready to Join the Cactus Pear

I am always getting compliments on my fresh fruit salads at family gatherings. I'm thinking about adding the Cactus Pear to the bowl. What do you think? Have you tried Cactus Pear? Do you have a great recipe involving this wonder fruit? I'd love to hear about it. If you've never tasted one, now is your chance. Come to the Inn over the next couple days.

Fudge Lave Cake w/Cactus Pear Papaya Sauce

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