Prickly Pear Fruit and Mexican Plums

Photo by: Andy Sams

It’s time to harvest and process the gorgeous magenta-colored fruits of the prickly pear cactus and the hot pink wild plums. Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t bother with the prickly pear tunas because it seems like a lot of work. Here’s a little secret: if you’re simply interested in using the fruits to make juice, don’t worry about removing the thorns and glochids before you process them. All you need to do is pick the fruits with tongs, throw them into your bucket or bag, and then dump them, thorns, skins and all, into a big pot on your stove. Add enough water to cover the fruits and bring to a boil. Simmer the fruit for 15 to 25 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Mash the fruit with a potato masher and then pour the mixture through a jelly bag. You’ll have some gorgeous prickly pear juice ready to sweeten (if desired) and use in a variety of dishes. To make things even easier, though possibly a bit more rustic, just toss the fruits into a blender or food processor with some water, pulse for a few seconds, and then pour through a jelly bag. Boiling the fruits before juicing them might help to release a bit more juice, but it isn’t necessary.

One of the easiest ways to use the Mexican plum is by pulping them, and then using the pulp to make breads, muffins, sauces, wines or anything else you can think of out of plum pulp. Simply wash the plums, throw them into a food mill or cone sieve and mash out the pulp. Once you’ve pushed as much of the pulp through as possible, there will still be some pulp stuck to the pits and skin. You can throw it all into a saucepan, add a little water and simmer for several minutes to make plum juice for plum jelly.

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5 responses to “Prickly Pear Fruit and Mexican Plums

  1. This is great! I walked by some prickly pears the other night and was wondering about how to prepare them.

  2. Seriously! That sounds so much easier than peeling the skin and thorns! So what happens to the thorns in the boiling process? Are they broken down or do they disintegrate and you don’t need to worry about them? Or do they strain out in the jelly bag? I don’t even know what a jelly bag is….guessing a fine mesh butter muslin or cheese cloth? Thanks. I was going to pick tuna this week and was still trying to figure out how to peel them…. Sincerely, Emily

    • The thorns will still be there, but they soften. And they’ll also strain out in a jelly bag. If a few small ones sneak through in the straining process, it’s ok to ingest them. In fact, this is how archaeologists discovered that our ancestors ate prickly pear cactus – they found the tiny thorns (also known as glochids) in the copralites (that’s petrified poop.) You should be able to buy a jelly bag where canning supplies are sold.

  3. Fantastic! Prickly Pears are one of the few cacti that we can grow up here, and despite knowing its edible, I’ve never really gone and looked for things to do with it!

  4. Thanks Amy! I am excited about this! Sincerely, Emily

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