I was intrigued with Hank’s instructions on how to make syrup or sorbet from the fruits of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), which grow here and in many parts of the Americas. My friends had some growing in their yard (and I’m watching some on a nearby street for ripeness) so I decided to give it a shot. Hank describes these as “little flavor grenades” that taste like “a combination of bubble gum, watermelon, and strawberries.” Love it. (The fruits are known as tuna in Spanish, and the cactus paddles are called nopales.)
The trickiest part is getting around the tiny, hairlike spines called glochids. I learned the hard way that they adhere beautifully to the edge of a paper bag, so wear gloves at all times when dealing with them. (He says that melted wax will remove the tiny spines.) I burned off the glochids over my stove (you could also do this on a grill) which has the added advantage of softening the skin, making them even easier to peel. Watch the video.
vegan, gluten-free, low-sodium, reduced-sugar diets
Prickly Pear Syrup
1/2 C. (125 ml) of filtered juice (see below)
1/2 C. (125 ml) of agave syrup or organic cane sugar
I used the magenta fruits for the syrup. Stir together in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook down until reduced. You will get a thinner syrup using agave, but it will still be a gorgeous magenta color and taste wonderful. Store in the refrigerator and use within six months. It is supposed to make a great margarita, blending beautifully with its close cousin, tequila.