The fruits of the cactus are also known as prickly pears (or sometimes Indian figs) and come in a range of colours from green to yellow and the whole spectrum of pinks and reds. They too both have medicinal and culinary uses. Cactus fruit contains substantial amounts of ascorbic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids, fibres, amino acids and antioxidant compounds (phenols, flavonoids, betaxanthin and betacyanin). These phytonutrients have put forward to account for its hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic action and antioxidant health benefits. (El-Mostafa etal)
The fruit of some types of cactus pear contain 2 betalain pigments, the purple-red betanin and the yellow indicaxanthin, both with radical-scavenging and reducing properties.
Mineral Composition of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.)
fruit (mg/100g, dry matter).
The fruits are easy to peel, just watch out for the thorns. Simply cut the ends off the fruit, carefully cut the skin from one end to the other without going too deep and peel away. If you go too deep you will remove too much of the fruit when the skin is peeled away. The fruit can then be eaten as is or used in any recipe you desire.
The juice of the fruit can be drunk as a refreshing sweet/tart drink or it can be reduced to a syrup. The syrup can be used in sweet recipes or it can be mixed with herb/spices/chile to make a marinade. One drawback from eating too much of the fresh fruit is, paradoxically, constipation. The fruit contains many seeds and these can have the potential to block the bowel if too much fresh fruit is consumed.
Prickly Pear Juice
- 6-12 prickly pears, peeled
Place the peeled prickly pears into a blender. Strain the resulting juice through a fine mesh bag. This should make about 1 cup (8 ounces) of juice.
Prickly Pear Syrup
- 1 cup prickly pear juice
- ¼ cup filtered water
- ½ cup organic cane sugar
Put everything into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until it is reduce by ¼ and thickened.