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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Great Way to use Prickly Pears and Be Healthy, too!

Prickly pear cactus represent about a dozen species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae). In the Texas Hill Country, we see many of these species along road sides, in country landscapes, and is considered the local signature in any pasture, farm, park or field. The cactus blooms in Spring and sets fruit in mid-late summer. We've had this cactus bearing fruit for the last six weeks. For the last three weeks, the color has become richer and darker.

Prickly pear, or tuna, can be juiced and made into several different drink recipes. Today, herbhusband decided he couldn't resist the beckoning call of the deep purple prickly pear any longer - he was determined to make a Prickly Pear Margarita! So... off we went into the back portion of the property where we harvested the beautiful fruit.

Pictured here is the cactus earlier this Spring and also the set fruit earlier today.

Prickly pear is said to keep blood sugar stable, making it an ideal plant friend for people with diabetes. It is also rich in Vitamin C and a good source of carbohydrates - but one must be extremely careful when handling and juicing the fruit to be sure all the spines and tiny pricky hairs are removed. Prickly Pear Nectar is made when you juice the pulp from the fruit and strain out the seeds.

We successfully removed all the tiny spines on the fruit by singeing the outside with a propane torch while holding the fruit with a skewer. Once the outer skin was gently torched, all the harmful tiny spines were gone.

Enjoy this delicious recipe we created today and start taking advantage of the native fruit:

Hill Country Prickly Pear Margaritas
(makes 2 margaritas)

- 8 Prickly Pears
- 4 small limes
- 2 shots tequila
- 1 tablespoon honey

Carefully harvest 8 Prickly Pears using tongs. Place harvested Prickly Pears into a bowl. Being careful not to touch the fruit, insert a skewer where the fruit once attached to the cactus pad. Using a propane torch, gently torch all sides of the fruit (holding the torch about 6 inches away - singeing the tiny hairs/spines). (This just takes a brief moment - you do not have to burn the pear to singe the hairs/spines).

On a cutting board, slice the fruit length wise. Squeeze the pulp out into a muslin or cheese cloth. Over a bowl, squeeze the fruit through the cloth straining the pulp - juicing all the liquid into a bowl. Once you've sqeezed all the juice - discard any remaining pulp and tiny seeds.

Pour the juice into a tumbler. Juice 4 small limes. (We have a lime tree growing on our back porch so we were in luck, there). Add the lime juice to the prickly pear juice. Add two shots of your favorite tequila. Stir in 1 tablespoon honey. Pour over two margaita glasses filled with ice and ENJOY! ;)

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