It tastes like watermelon. The ripe fruit of the prickly pear cactus, that is. Once you navigate past the long nasty spikes on the pads, avoid the insidiously small painful needles on the fruit, then find your way around seemly hundreds of seeds to, finally, the red pulp, it tastes like watermelon. I imagine one gets better at handling the fruit over time, but I got stuck more than once. Tongs, I am told, are your friend. If you are interested in watching the process, check out this on-line video.
It was during a recent trek to the desert that this Midwest gal discovered that the fruit of the prickly pear cactus is edible. With stinging nettle under my belt (previous post), why not cactus? Well, I made it to the pulp but not without a few choice words. The thought of cleaning enough fruit to actually make anything made my skin hurt, so instead I bought a jar of prickly pear jelly and enjoyed the fruit of another's labor.
The cactus, Opuntia, is called nopal in the Mexican culture and the fruit is known as the tuna. The paddles, or nopales, are edible and sold in marketplaces with their spines removed. I have enjoyed nopales as a side dish and even a taco filling, but consuming the fruit was a new experience.
This is an illustration blog, so I am including a sketch. I used the juice of the fruit to add a pop of color. The prickly pear cactus depicted was often used as a refuge by the lizard my dog adopted as a playmate. Luckily no dog noses were pierced on this trip.