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Ingredient of the Week: Prickly Pear

What is it?

When I envision "tuna," it's not usually in the form of a cactus. But, if you hit up a largely Hispanic grocery store, you'll learn that "tuna" is Spanish for "prickly pears." While they're quite unpleasant to bare skin with their protective spines, this cactus fruit yields mild, sweet and refreshing juice.

Prickly pears are the fruit of the nopalito cactus, whose paddle-shaped stems are also eaten in the form of nopales. These cacti are found throughout the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico.

What is it used for?

Prickly pears are most commonly used for their juice and the pulp in the center of the fruit. To get to this prized, heavily protected pulp, you must first peel the outer layer of skin (after you've carefully removed all the spines). Here's a great illustration of one technique, courtesy of SimplyRecipes.com.

The pulp is then used for juice to add to salad dressings, cocktails, or just to drink alone. It can also be made into jelly and marmalades.

Where can I buy it in Houston?

Any Hispanic market in town - just make sure you're looking for "tuna." This was found at Foodarama.

Recipe:

Prickly Pear Syrup: Courtesy of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

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