Prickly pear cacti are found all over Wrightsville Beach (and other parts of NC for that matter). This fruit, which becomes ripe in the fall are perfect for chutneys, salsas and margaritas. Just fyi, if you don't happen to live where they grow, you can often find them in Whole Foods or speciality markets.
What to know when harvesting them:
- This fruit starts out as a yellow flower in the summer. This flower then becomes the fruit, first green in color, then pink, red and finally eggplant red.
- The more purple, the better. If you must harvest a red one, go with the darkest one, you can find.
- Be careful, they are prickly! Use tongs to pull off of the plant, putting into a basket or bowl.
- Once back in your kitchen, take a knife (still using tongs) and gently scrap off the prickly spines. This is not hard as they are not very stiff. You are now ready to make your syrup.
Prickly Pear Syrup
- 5-6 prickly pears, spines removed (store-bought should be spine-free, but if you harvest your own, follow these steps)
- 2 c water
- ¾ c granulated sugar
- Slice prickly pears in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Roughly chop the flesh. Add the prickly pears, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the fruit is soft and the liquid is reduced.
- Place a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and carefully pour the prickly pear and juice through the sieve. Press the pulp and seeds against the sieve with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all the juice. Throw away the pulp and seeds.
- Place the juice in a jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Use in sodas, teas, or margaritas.
Prickly Pear Lime Margarita
- 2½ oz tequila blanco
- 1½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
- 2 oz Prickly Pear Syrup
- Sea Love Cocktail Salt
- Wet the rim of a margarita glass with a cut lime and dip into cocktail salt.
- Fill glass with ice.
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix the tequila, lime juice, and Prickly Pear Syrup. Shake well and strain into the margarita glass.
- Cheers and enjoy!