Top 4 Ways to Preserve Prickly Pear


   09.06.22

As I’m writing this, it’s prickly pear season! Prickly pear comes in all types and colors, the ones here in TX are ripe when they’re a deep maroon-ish color. Like this:

Prickly pear is one of my all-time favorite wild edibles. They are typically found in the southwest of the US and Mexico.

They can be eaten raw right off the cactus. Though be warned, they have spikes all around the fruit, so before you go putting it in your mouth, burn off all of the spikes first. Whether it’s with a blow torch or a bic lighter, burning them is the most efficient method. If you have a fire going, you can also place them on a hot rock or grate and burn them off that way.

You can also try to cut them all off if you don’t have any fire, but that is far more time consuming – ask me how I know.

I usually don’t burn them right there on the cactus, so I’ll take some tongs and gently twist them off and place in a ziploc bag until I get home and I’ll burn them there.

They typically appear in late summer, early fall. You will see the flowers bloom first and from the flowers, come the fruit. The flowers are also edible, but with every flower you pick, is one less fruit. So keep the flowers on so you can enjoy the delicious fruit!

The fruit is edible raw, and there are dozens of little seeds inside which are also edible, though you may want to scoop or spit them out because it’s A LOT of tiny seeds and they can be annoying to consume.

They resemble most fruits as in, when picked, they are perishable and need to be consumed pretty quickly therein after. Not to worry, though, there are options to preserve them.

Here are 4 ways to preserve prickly pear

Jelly or syrup

You’d make prickly pear jelly just about anything other way you’d make other types of jelly.

Cut up the prickly pear fruit

Place the prickly pears in a pot and add water to just above your prickly pears.

Boil it down for about 10 minutes, mashing it all down with a potato masher

Strain out all the skin and seeds so you have just the juice

Add in the sugar and pectin, bring to a rolling boil, boil for 1 minute

Transfer to jars

Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes

You now have jelly or syrup, whichever you’d prefer. It’s basically the same process for either one. In fact, you may end up with syrup instead of jelly, but either is ok by me!

Fruit leather

Turning prickly pear into fruit leather is so yummy and a great way to extend its life for about 6-12 months. You can keep this fruit leather on the counter and nibble on it whenever you desire.

You’d follow the same process as the jelly recipe above, except you wouldn’t add any water and no pectin, and you can add honey instead of sugar or no added sugars at all.

You will want to mash and strain the seeds and skin, though.

Then place on a sheet of parchment paper and place in your dehydrator on the fruit setting. Or in your oven on the absolute lowest setting possible. Dehydrate until it’s no longer sticky to the touch. Check every few hours.

Wine

I honestly have never done this but I’ve always wanted to. There are lots of recipes online, I don’t feel comfortable sharing a recipe that I have never done before.

However, I’m sharing the idea because wine is an excellent way to preserve fruits.

Freezing

This is the easiest method by far. After you’ve burned off the spikes on the outside, simply place them whole in a freezer safe container and place in the freezer. No other processing is needed. It’s just like fruit so when you take it out, it may not be suitable to eat raw without it being a little mushy. But you could then can it, make it into wine, dehydrate, add to smoothies, etc.

How else will you be preserving prickly pear?

They grow in abundance and they’re such an amazing wild edible resource. They’re truly something to look forward to! Enjoy!

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Morgan writes for OutdoorHub while also being the founder of Rogue Preparedness where she helps people get prepared for emergencies and disasters, as well as thrive any circumstances.





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