All That You Need to Know about the Carambola

The prickly pear, also called “pear cactus” is the fruit of the cactus Opuntia ficus-indica , also known as the prickly pear (or “nopal”). Opuntia ficus-indica is one of the species of the Opuntia variety, native to Mexico and introduced to Mediterranean lands by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The opuntia ficus-indica or Carambola is an emblematic cactus of Mexico; it is notably present on the Mexican flag.

Prickly pear: description

The fruit of the prickly pear can have different shapes, depending on its variety, but also on its period of formation: the first fruits of the season will often be rounded, while the last will have a more elongated shape. Likewise, their color varies from red to orange, passing through purple or white. In all cases, once ripe, the prickly pear will have supple skin and will be bristling with small prickles, glochids.

Prickly Pear: Production

Originally from Mexico, the prickly pear is mainly produced in this country or in Peru, but also in the Mediterranean area: in Spain, in the warm regions of Italy (Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia) where it is called “fig of” India ”, or in the North of Africa where it is called“ Indian ”.

How to eat a prickly pear?

If the skin of the prickly pear is not difficult to separate from the flesh, it is especially the glochids which oblige it to be handled with caution. In producing countries in Latin America, it is customary for the fruit to be peeled by the seller at the time of purchase, but this is not the case in Europe where it is sold with the skin on for conservation purposes.

Thus, to remove the skin from the fruit: prick the fig with a fork, take a knife in the other hand to split it lengthwise. Remove the skin from the fruit with the knife or use a tablespoon to remove the fruit.

Prickly pear: consumption

The prickly pear is eaten in:

  • Fruit salad;
  • Smoothies;
  • Juice;
  • Jam ;
  • Accompaniment of meat dishes.

Note that the seeds are very hard and thick, which is why it is advisable to remove them before consumption to avoid any risk of intestinal obstruction.

Finally, prickly pear seed oil is considered one of the most expensive oils in the world, it is one of the richest in vitamin E, which makes it a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-radical in particular.

Prickly Pear: Benefits

In addition to the “classic” forms cited above, the prickly pear is available in capsules, extracts or powder, since it is a fruit known to have medicinal properties. The fruit has anti-inflammatory,  antispasmodic (involuntary muscle contractions), diuretic (improves the functioning of the urinary tract), anti-oxidant (slows down the aging of cells) and anti-radicle properties (it limits the action of ” the environment “such as pollution on the skin).