Prickly Pear

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

prickly pear also called Barbary pear, cactus pear, Indian pear, Indian fig, or tuna fig, is not a kind of pear or fig, but comes from any of numerous cacti of the genus Opuntia. These are all native to the drier regions between C. America and the great deserts of the USA, but some have become firmly established in the Old World, especially around the Mediterranean, in India, and in Australia.

Their fleshy, spiny leaves take the form of flattish discs or pads stacked one on another.

The best fruits are said to be those of O. megacantha, which is at present found only in Mexico and the southern USA. The main species in the Mediterranean is O. ficus-indica, of which there are several varieties producing different fruits.