PRICKLY PEARS OF BELIZE
If you've never had a prickly pear before, you're in for a real treat. You can get about one cup of juice from one average sized prickly pear. For a very refreshing drink, mix equal parts of prickly pear juice and limeade.
This small, lightbulb-shaped fruit actually sits on top of the stem—the nopals—of the prickly pear cactus, a plant native to Belize. Depending on the variety, a ripe prickly pear will take on the color of the flower. Also depending on the variety, the flavor can evoke watermelon, citrus, or strawberry. Because it is a fruit of the cactus, be careful handling it, since not all the spines may have been removed. Prickly pears can be peeled and eaten raw but can also be used to make liqueur, syrup, jellies, preserves, and candy. You can also try drinking its juice as a preventative measure against hangovers. Prickly pear juice works wonders in cocktails and can be used in vinaigrettes for salads. I've used the juice to flavor cream cheese frosting for a lime flavored cupcake, and have seen others boil it down with a bit of orange and lemon juice to make a sauce for fruit salads and cheesecakes.
Many Belizean markets and farmers carry prickly pears. Be fore-warned though, while the ones in markets have been cleaned of the tiny hair-like thorns, the ones fresh off the cactus are covered with them, so be sure to handle them with heavy leather gloves and scrub them hard to ensure all the painful little barbs are off. Either way, handle them carefully or with gloves just in case.
HOW TO CUT A PRICKLY PEAR
1. Slice both ends of the prickly pear and discard them.
2. Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.
3. Slip your finger into the slice and grab a hold of the skin.
4. Begin to peel back the thick fleshy skin that's wrapped around the prickly pear. Discard the skin. You'll be left with the prickly pear itself. The flesh is studded with tons of little edible seeds, if you like them, feel free to just chop the prickly pear up and eat, seeds and all. I myself prefer just the juice. To extract the juice, place the "husked" prickly pears into a blender or food processor and pulse until liquefied. Place the juice into a fine mesh sieve and push out the juice into a pitcher or bowl. Discard the remaining pulp and seeds.
WELCOME TO BELIZE
My name is Lauren Maya Turley. I've lived in Belize now for the past 14 years, basically since I was born. Belize is my home.