Hey gang. This Veggie Love segment is dedicated to a new find that has got me coming back for more. My new love is cactus pear, a Mexico and Latin American staple that is, quite literally, the fruit from the cactus plant. Its skin is scary and prickly, but the inside is sweet, earthy, and the most fabulous color pink. Pair this diamond in the rough with its insane nutritional quality and we have ourselves a supermarket superstar.
Cactus pear only recently began reaching the consumers in the 1980s, when health scientists became aware of their medicinal qualities–one researcher even called them magical. Perhaps we have the next “superfood” on our hands?
To start off, cactus pear is known for its extremely high antioxidant count–limiting free radicals in the arteries and throughout the body, and preventing tumor growth and cancer cell production. Some studies have even found that this fruit shrinks tumors! The healthy oxidized state the pear promotes is also great for your skin–making you look younger, longer.
Cactus pear can also reduce blood sugar levels; meaning it can not only prevent, but treat diabetes. It’s great source of fiber also helps absorb and remove unneeded cholesterol. With traditional vitamins and minerals, cactus pear is high in calcium which strengthens bones and teeth. Its high Vitamin C content prevents cell damage, helps wounds to heal, fights infections, and aids in the absorption of iron. The fruit is also high in magnesium and taurine, nutrients important to brain and heart health.
Are you sold?
Handle with care. While most commercial cactus pears have had their spikes removed, you can still get a prickly splinter (which I found out the hard way). You might even want to use gloves. To remove the outer skin, cut on a tilt about a centimeter deep into the fruit and move knife in a circle around the fruit, then cut in half. You may even be able to peel the skin like an orange after the initial cut. The center of the fruit is loaded with tiny seeds which are edible, but hard. The flesh in-between the skin and the seeds is the best part and can be easily chopped once the seeds are scooped out. Just be careful of your clothing; the deep magenta color can be more dangerous than a red beet.
Cactus pears can be used in all sorts of ways: chopped on top of salads, made into jams, thrown into smoothies, or eaten plain. One you are familiar with the taste (a balance of light sweetness and earthiness), you can experiment. So far my favorite way to use them is in a delicious Cactus Pear Smoothie. Its sweet, chocolaty, and the color of bubble gum. I genuinely described this smoothie as “bomb-alicious.” Give it a try:
Ingredients: Flesh from 1 cactus pear; 1 frozen banana; 1/2 Tbs raw cacao powder or nibs; 2/3 cup coconut water; 1/3 cup filtered water.
Blend all ingredients together and drink up!
Note: I ran my whole cactus pear with seeds through the Vitamix before making the smoothie and then strained the liquid to remove the seeds. This way, you use a little more of the fruit. If you’re short on time, just use the flesh.
I hope you enjoy this wonderful smoothie and all the benefits cactus pear has to offer.
Here’s to feeling great about what you eat and sharing the veggie love.
–Kenzie, signing in for Raw Girl