Prickly Pear (Tunas) Harvest


It’s that time of year when the prickly pears are swollen and ripe and begging to be picked. I feel a but pretentious calling them tunas when we have the name prickly pear in English, but I don’t care for prickly pear. My life is full of many of these little dramas.


I singed the outsides of the pears with a flame, cut them in half and then scooped out the insides into a copper pot. The spent skins went to the chickens.


I cooked them for about an hour and then put them through a food mill before cooking them for another 2 hours. The reduction it makes is glorious and sweet. It tastes familiar and tropical and yet it’s like nothing else.  I made popsicles for the kids and a tequila drink for me.


At the farmers market, I bought one of those dreamy St Benoit plain yogurts and mixed in some of the prickly pear reduction. Sometimes you just get inspired and reach great heights.

I love the taste, the sustainability aspect and of course the fact that they’re indigenous, but apparently new research shows that you can actually lower your cholesterol by eating a prickly pear. I don’t think we should think of them as exotic much longer.

6 Comments on Prickly Pear (Tunas) Harvest

  1. Now see, I never would have known that it’s the time for harvesting tunas. Thank you for telling. Now my kids and I can have a hunt through the neighborhood.

  2. Be sure and use heavy gloves and tongs to harvest. In Mexico, they roll them in sand to get rid of the stickers. I’ve always burned them off. Kids love eating cactus (I think it’s like eating a dinosaur or something) and it’s neat to show them they can get something sweet without spending any money!

  3. Wow! I was blown away by the rich color they are inside. I had no idea. I wonder how hard they are to grow? Do you have them on your land, Steven?

  4. They’re a weed! It takes a bit to get them established but once they are, they’re easy to please. Southern exposure on a hill with good drainage and not much else. Let me know if you’re coming to the market and I’ll bring you a paddle to plant for yourself. I think this variety is called “Fiche d’India” or figs from India, which is wrong but charming!

  5. Thanks! I always see these both growing on the side of the road and occasionally in the market, and I never knew what to do with them. Now I do!

  6. Steve, I wonder if you have grown the Xoconostle tuna, since you’ve written about using in in cooking. We have the common’tuna’ in leading stores in San Jose, Ca. but thought it would be as easy to grow as the ‘India Fig’/pear cactus tunas we always see everywhere in the Bay Area. ~Robert

    “Xoconostle (pronounced choko-nose-leh), Opuntia matudaeis, the fruit from the Nopal cactus, is originally from Mexico. It looks very similar to a pear cactus …” Wikipedia.

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