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April, 2008

Stop the Clock! with Cactus Pear

By Cheryl Forberg

Cactus plants have entered the mainstream as a deliciously edible form of antioxidants and health-promoting nutrients.

Prickly Pear Sorbet
Cactus plants have entered the mainstream as a deliciously edible form of antioxidants and health-promoting nutrients. The prickly pear cactus has numerous edible parts. The young shoots or nopales can be boiled and cooked like okra or eggplant. They’re also an excellent source of soluble fiber. The more mature "pads" or "leaves" are also known as thalli. When uncooked, they’re often served to livestock or poultry as a nutritious source of food.

But the most delectable part of this prickly plant is its vibrant fruit or prickly pears also known as "tunas" in Spanish. Once peeled, the pear flesh can be eaten raw or chilled. It can also be puréed and strained to use in jams or preserves, or fermented to use in a drink called “coloncha”. Though the research on this fruit is preliminary, it’s purported to have a very low glycemic index as well as a nice dose of soluble fiber. Combined with its relatively low calorie count (a four-ounce pear has about 45 calories and 4 grams of fiber), it also contains calcium, Vitamin C and a nice burst of antioxidants. This simple recipe is the perfect way to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit for dessert instead of gorging on a sugary high calorie indulgence.

Prickly Pear Sorbet
This refreshing sorbet is rich in color and light in texture. Flavor to taste with extra agave or lime juice if desired.

Note: Be sure to wear gloves while handling the whole pears as they may contain a residual thorn or two. Yield: Six servings

8 cactus pears (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Agave Nectar
1 teaspoon Melissa’s fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cut pears in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh with a spoon and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Purée cactus pear (prickly pear) in food processor or blender. Pass through food mill or fine strainer into a bowl to remove seeds. There should be about 2-1/2 cups of pear puree. Flavor puree with Melissa’s Organic Agave Nectar, fresh lime juice and vanilla extract. Chill the mixture thoroughly, and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.