The Story of the Prickly Pear
Prickly pears grow on cactus plants. They were imported into Australia from Mexico in the early 1900’s, mainly to establish a cochineal (or: red dye) industry. The red dye was used to give the English soldiers’ long coats its characteristic red colour. Prickly pear plants cochineal insects that can be harvested for the red dye they develop from eating prickly pear berries. As with many of these hare-brained schemes, the project was an abject failure: not only did no such red dye industry get off the ground, the plant quickly infested 25 million hectares of QLD and NSW – before someone thought of importing a moth called Cactoblastis cactorum from South America, whose larvae eat prickly pear. It was introduced in 1925 and almost wiped out the prickly pear population.
Remnants remained, especially around Sydney – and they produce beautifully-tasting fruit that’s rich in protein, potassium and calcium. Both the fruit and cactus pads were used by the ancient Aztecs as a medicinal food to aid in respiratory complaints, treat cuts and bruises, cure diarrhea and aid digestion, and for use as a skin tonic and moisturiser. It also contains high concentrations of antioxidants. But above all, they have an amazing flavour!
BUT they need to be handled with care. They’re not called Prickly Pear for nothing: the skin contains very fine hairs that will attach to your skin and become incredibly itchy.
Handle the fruit with washing-up gloves. To remove hairs try these methods:
1. stab with a fork and scrub with an old toothbrush OR
2. use a skewer to hold it and burn hairs off over stove or grill. OR
3. rub the fruit under running water – and then peel the pear using a potato peeler.
Great introduction from local farmer – VIDEO
Health Benefits are amazing.They are high in fibre so hydrate when eating and eat in moderation. It is helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of diabetes and boost the immune system. It tastes a cross between watermelon and melon.
Eat by cutting in half and scoop out flesh.
2 Prickly pear
1 -2 bananas
2 cups of milk or soy
2 tbs Greek Yoghurt
Twist of lime juice
Honey to taste
Peel then cut in half. Place in sieve with a bowl underneath. Then push through sieve with a fork. Collect juice. Put into a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend.