Monday, September 30, 2013

Have you ever had a cactus pear?

When I was a kid, my mother would buy a cactus pear about once a year. I'm guessing that's because they weren't available any other time. But now that I think of it, I'm kind of surprised they were available at all.

I mean, back then mom shopped at a little neighborhood grocery store where the produce cooler was probably no more than six or eight feet long. Lettuce was iceberg. Potatoes were white or red. Beets were purple and peppers were green.

I remember just a few things about those cactus pears. First, they had nasty sticky spines that were waiting to snag you. And second, the color inside was a deep magenta.

So when my buddies at Frieda's Specialty Produce offered me some cactus pears, I was pretty excited to see them again. Because although they're not quite as rare as they were when I was kid, they're still not an everyday item.

And it's been a long time since I've had them.

Preparing a cactus pear isn't difficult. But you still have to watch out for those spines. They're tiny little things that are more annoying than painful. But having a little forest of them stuck in your thumb isn't a great thing.

Check out this video - it's a great description of how to prepare the fruit.

And, if you do manage to get the little spines in your skin, there's a simple, painless way to remove them. Just drizzle a thin layer of Elmer's glue on the affected area, and wait for it to dry completely. Then peel off the glue. The teeny little spines will come right out.

But what about the fruit?

Well, I didn't remember what it tasted like, so I was kind of excited to try it. The flavor resembles watermelon, and it had a similar texture. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, And then I looked over at my juicer. Aha!

I ran the fruit through the juicer and got a juice with a nice body and a bright color. As a bonus, juicing got rid of the plentiful black seeds.

And then what?

To the juice of three cactus pears, I added a tiny pinch of salt, a generous three-fingered pinch of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. All by itself, it was a refreshing juice, but it was also a great cocktail mixer with vodka or with tequila.

As a garnish, I used a wedge of lemon.

But look a little closer at that lemon - it's PINK. Along with the cactus pears, there were some variegated pink lemons. The outsides were pink, green, yellow, and they has some stripes. When cut, the lemons smelled a little like grapefruit, but the flavor was very lemony.

Thanks to Frieda's, where every box is the Chopped version of a CSA.