Prickly pear prickly pear - one of the main dishes of the cuisine of Mexico and Central America for thousands of years. In some states, this dish is considered exotic, a gourmet dish and a healthy addition to the main food. This plant is divided into three different parts: a cactus pad (Mexican cactus), which is considered as a vegetable, flower petals that are added to salads, and a pear, is considered a fruit. They grow all over the southwest of America, in South America and up to Canada. The ones you find in a store or market are certainly grown on a farm.
Should I try a cactus?
How are the fruits of prickly pears? In this plant, the fruits as well as the stems are edible. They can be eaten not only for the sake of taste, but also as a medicine. Moreover, the juice of this succulent is used externally in the treatment of skin diseases.
The fact that Mexicans eat cacti seems strange to most of us. Do we need to try these dishes? The main difficulty is the availability of the product. We grow prickly pears on window sills, but getting a treat is not so simple. In addition, homemade cacti are stuffed with chemical fertilizers, we can get rid of pests with insecticides ...
No, let the pets please the eye. Another thing is that these outlandish products, if you try, can be found on sale. They can be light green, yellow, orange or red. Depending on the type of prickly pear, they differ in taste.
Some varieties resemble strawberry, some resemble a pear flavor, while others resemble the taste of kiwi and even persimmon. They are covered with dense skin, on the surface of which there are thorns with fluff. Taste is good, but the benefits of eating them are much more impressive.
The benefits of cactus berries
The useful properties of the queen of cacti have long been beyond doubt. A curiosity is recommended for people with obesity - the plant extract is part of slimming drugs. Berries have a beneficial effect on the stomach and intestines. They contribute to the production of insulin, therefore they are advised to people with diabetes.
The pulp of fruits tones, quenches thirst. The broth is even able to lower the heat.
You can make jam, jam, liquors, marmalades, candied fruits and all kinds of sauces from the fruits and stems of prickly pears. Stalks of a plant no more than 1 cm thick are suitable for food. You can also add them to salads.
Stems, unlike fruits, are considered vegetables. They can be baked, stewed and boiled - this is an option to surprise guests! And how to store these berries? In freezing, part of the beneficial substances will disappear, but in the dried form, there will be more benefits.
How to touch an overseas berry
Do not take any parts of the edible cactus with your bare hands, as the thorns are very sharp. In addition, on the surface of the plant there are very small glochidia (remember what they are called!) - these are the same thorns, but not visible to the eye.
These tricky spines are also covered with a delicate fluff. If they enter the esophagus, they dig into the mucous membrane, and it is impossible to remove them without the help of a doctor. Worse, in this case, the inflammatory process immediately begins.
You need to get rid of thorns and glochidia in rubber gloves. You can clean the stems and fruits of prickly pear from thorns and glochidia in three ways:
- Under a strong stream of water, followed by thorough wiping.
- Freezing with rubbing.
- Burning in open flame.
Process the fruits cleared of thorns before eating, it is not difficult. Holding the fruit with a fork, cut off the top and bottom with a sharp knife and cut it lengthwise into two halves.
After that, the skin is easily separated from the pulp. You can eat the pulp with a spoon along with the seeds, since they contain many useful substances (seed oil is very valuable). In this case, you can not remove the skin.
Caution will not hurt
These exotic fruits are very tasty, but eat them in moderation. Otherwise, headache, nausea, constipation, and even hives may occur. It is better to eat more than one fruit per day. Also keep in mind that some people are generally not prone to eating this delicacy.
The fruits of prickly pear come on sale in cleared form of thorns, however, they can still remain glochidia. Therefore, be sure to rinse the berries bought in the store under a strong stream of water, and then wipe with a thick towel.
In addition to direct eating, the product can be used as a complement to various dishes and desserts. And what else can you cook from the fruits of prickly pears? If you fry them in a sweet fruit sauce, you will get a wonderful treat. The pulp can be added to any fruit salads and cook great jam from it.
It is also interesting that the fruits of prickly pear cactus are in perfect harmony with meat dishes. Try adding them to your favorite dish or using them as an ingredient in the cooking process.
Prickly pears are common throughout the Americas, including the West Indies. In Mexico, which is the main growing area of the genus, almost half of the species of prickly pear is concentrated. According to the Aztec legend, Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) was founded on the place where the prickly pear grew, on which an eagle eating a snake was sitting. This scene from a legend is displayed on the coat of arms of Mexico. As introduced plants, some types of prickly pears have spread to tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
The use of some types of prickly pears in the economy can be traced back to the Paracas culture. Along with the use of shoots and fruits for food, one of the most important goals of growing prickly pears is to obtain carmine dye. In recent years, in a number of countries, prickly pears are bred for use in livestock feed. Some types of prickly pears were aggressive neophytes and spread so widely in areas new to them that it became necessary to use biological agents to combat them.