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Special Ingredient: Prickly Pear

For a bright, fruity flavor that’s special to Mexico and the American Southwest, consider the humble prickly pear. (Just watch out for those spines.)

Joe Stange Jul 10, 2023 - 7 min read

Special Ingredient: Prickly Pear Primary Image

To the uninitiated, eating a cactus sounds a bit dicey—until you taste the prickly pear. The flavors are bright yet familiar—something like a tart strawberry combined with sweet watermelon, all with a hint of bubblegum.

It’s no wonder that Mexican cooking has infinite uses for it—soups, salads, side dishes, jams and jellies, candies, drinks, and more. Not surprisingly—because, why else are we here?—several breweries are putting those vivid flavors to work.

Some background: Nopal is its Mexican-Spanish name, derived from its name in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Other common names include tuna fruit, cactus fruit, and Indian fig. The Latin genus is Opuntia, named for the ancient Greek city of Opus—because, according to Theophrastus, the city had an edible plant there that could be cultivated by planting its leaves.

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