Friday, September 7, 2007

Prickly pears / Figue de Barbarie / Chumbo


Last weekend, hubby and I bought a huge box, huge considering that it was only for the two of us, of Prickly pears, or as some may call them cactus pears, Indian figs or if you are like me, I call them Chumbo (its Spanish term).
We were so excited, like kids in front of a giant pile of candy we couldn’t wait to take a bite out of it. What do two people like us do with all these prickly pears? Well, like we always do. He peels them, I put them in the fridge until well chilled and then we pop them in our mouth, one after the other, laughing at how many chumbo we ate all in once.

I know you can make jellies, jams, and drinks out of it, but when you have such a beautiful and ripe fruit; there is not much you should do to enhance what it already has.
Prickly pears can be found in abundance in the west and Southwest of the untied states and as Far East as Nebraska and throughout much of Mexico. It also flourishes in Mediterranean regions, such as North Africa, South of France, south of Italy, southern Portugal, southern and eastern Spain, in the island of Malta, Turkey, Israel and else where in Bulgaria, South Africa, Australia and chili.

Like all cacti, prickly pears are about 90% water. The young stems (called nopal), fruits (called Tuna) seeds and flowers of the prickly pears are all edible. Most of the markets in the United States, Europe and Australia sell prickly pears cleaned from their spines, but if you can’t find them without their spines you’ll have to be very careful when peeling and removing the spines as they can remain embedded in the skin, causing significant discomfort, redness and sometimes infection. Wear protective gloves. Put the prickly pears in a bowl filled with water and try to scrub the spines gently using a scrubbing brush. Do not splatter.

The stems are commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), or “tacos de nopales” and the fruits are used in a popular alcoholic beverage: Tequila.
When collecting pads, choose the young glossy green ones. The older ones are fibrous and though. Prepare them by peeling them, dicing them and adding them to salads, soups and stews as a thickener or bake them.

The fruit, ripen in late summer is sweet, very refreshing and with a granular texture due to the tiny seeds inside. The fruit can be red, yellow/orange or pale green depending on the region. The seeds in India are dried and grind into pastry flour and the gel-like liquid of a prickly pear can be used as a conditioner. Now how versatile is that.



Anonymous said...

I touched one time these fruits when i was a little girl, and I still remember :))))
I didn't taste it, but I feel like I will eat some pretty soon, thanks to you ;)

Shayne said...

I just tried these about 3 weeks ago and I was surprised when I opened it up to find seeds. I did not know what to do with it so I got out the juicer and juiced it with some mango. the juice was so thick that you almost couldn't drink it with a straw.

now I know what to do I will have to try them again.

Anonymous said...

ah!le chumbo..dés que la saison arrive;et que nous devons nous arréter sur le bas coté de la route pour en acheter;je fais à chaque fois les mèmes recommandations à "un trés bon chauffeur" peur qu'il ne rentre dans le décor;en faisant une marche arrière!!!et qu'au lieu d'acheter quelques chumbos;on est repartis avec une caisse...déjà mixée!! souvenir trés

Rasa Malaysia said...

I think I stumbled upon your blog once and lost/forgot the URL. I am going to bookmark this and add to my blogroll. Love your pictures...all beautiful. :)

Lyra said...

I have never tried chumbo although I have read a lot about them and seen plenty growing during my travels. If I see some in the local supermarket I'll have to try them out.

There is a recipe for ice cream using them on, maybe you could try that next time if you don't eat them all!!

By the way, you are on my blogroll and I second Rasa Malaysia in saying that your photos are definitely beautiful-you capture some nice light with your camera!

Nora B. said...

Pretty photo! This is new to me. I hope that I can find some in Sydney.

Warda said...

- Ouuuch Marion,it must have been very painfull. And you are still "partante" to taste it! what a brave girl you are. Hope you will like it. Enjoy your weekend.

- Shayne, we always have it raw and we love it.Hope you will love it too. Let me know what do you think when you get the chance. Have a nice weekend.

- Mima, quelle aventures.Je ne savais pas qu'acheter le chumbo pouvait etre aussi dangereux.

- Rasa, welcome back and thanks a lot for your sweet words. Really appreciate it.Have a nice weekend.

- Lyra, chumbo ice cream sounds interesting indeed and very reffreshing, although I would have to wait until I buy an ice cream maker. Chumbo is such a great fruit during hot days. At first, you might find the seeds a bit bizzare to chew but they aren't that big. You will like it, if you enjoy the freshness of watermelons. Please, let me know if you try it and thank you very much for your nice compliments. Have a pleasant weekend.

Warda said...

- Hi nora, I am sure you will find them in late summer. They are best well chilled. Have a sweet weekend Nora.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Beautiful, mouthwatering photo! Here in the East Coast, what we find in the market labeled as "nopales" are cactus paddles, not prickly pears. They are just very rarely seen here, except occasionally in the fanciest gourmet grocers.

Wendy said...

The colours in that photo are astounding. I've never tried a prickly pear. It reminds me of Baloo from the Jungle Book though. :)

Anonymous said...

I like the refreshing flavors of prickly pear and can sometimes even manage not to get picked with the spines!

Warda said...

- Lydia, it's funny to think that in the East Coast, they are considered fancy when it other parts of the world they are considered weeds.

- Wendy, Thanks a lot. You made me laugh with Baloo, that's right,I completely forgot about his fondness for prickly pears.I should have add it to the post.

- Nikki, That's fantastic.

LILIBOX said...

tes figues de barbarie sont superbes !
Et j'adore cela .

Warda said...

- Merci Lili. C'est l'un de mes fruits preferes durant l'ete.

Shayne said...

I tried these today like you said and they were great. i got them for $.39 each and next week I am going to get a mess of them

Warda said...

- Shayne, that is just fantastic. I am glad you enjoyed them this time better than your smoothie experience. $.39! it's a bargain!
Have a nice weekend my dear.

Anonymous said...

We call these 'panini' in Hawaii. I suppose they came to be here via all the Mexican cowboys who used to tend the cattle here. They are everywhere.

I've heard the best way to get rid of the spines is to hold the fruit with long bbq tongs and sear them off with a kitchen blowtorch, outside. We do five gallon buckets-full at a time. Then peeling about 20, they are pushed through a wire mesh colandar to remove the seeds, then blended into a plain panini smoothie. SO WORTH all the work especially if you have help.