Prickly Pear  
(Cactus Pear, Tuna Amarilla, 
Tuna Blanca, Tuna Encarnada) 

Prickly pear is a cactus that some scientists believe to be one of the world’s first domesticated plants.  Cactus fruit seeds dated at 12,000 years old have been found in caves in Mexico.  Prickly pears grow in a variety of shades.  The color and sweetness of the fruit lend themselves to producing appealing beverages, jams and jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams and sorbets.  The juice has traditionally been used to make fermented drinks, and it is currently favoured in a resurgent cocktail industry as an ingredient in fruity margaritas and daiquiris.

Prickly pear is a highly nutritious food.  It has low levels of saturated fat and very low levels of cholesterol and sodium.  One 8-ounce serving has just 61 calories but supplies 21% of the RDA of dietary fiber, 35% of the RDA of vitamin C, and 32% of the RDA of magnesium. Prickly pear is also a good source of calcium and potassium, and the fruit is rich in antioxidants.

All of these nutrients have made prickly pear an attractive subject of scientific study.  Researchers at the University of Palermo reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that consuming prickly pear had a more positive and complete effect on the body’s redox balance than a comparable dose of vitamin C.  Studies at Tulane University, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that taking prickly pear fruit extract before drinking alcohol significantly reduced symptoms of a hangover (nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite.)  A study at the University of Arizona, funded in part by the American Heart Association, found that LDL (bad) cholesterol levels were reduced in guinea pigs fed a diet including prickly pear pectin. A meta-analysis of studies done on prickly pear and diabetes has strongly suggested that ingestion of the fruit has a true metabolic effect on persons with the disorder and reduces serum glucose levels. Italian research has also shown prickly pear to be protective against ulcers in rats.

Ruby Prickly Pear:
Our ruby red prickly pear has a beautiful, bright magenta color and a delicate, slightly sweet, cactus flavor.

Emerald Prickly Pear: 
The wonderful, sweet, fruit flavor of prickly pear is also available in earthy shades of emerald green and golden yellow.

Nopal juice is made from the pads, rather than the fruit, of the prickly pear cactus. See our Nopal page for more information.