Cactus Pear & Berry Smoothie (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

For those of you who do not know, I'm from the desert. Coyotes, roadrunners, cacti, yucca, tumbleweeds, and a whole lot of dirt. Sunsets, starry night skies, and rocky mountains. I didn't appreciate any of these things growing up, but when Rhode Island has me homesick, buying a new potted cactus is the only thing that can make me feel at home.

When in the specialty produce section at my local grocery store, I found a cactus pear. For just fifty cents, how could I not see what's inside? Originally, I was going to slice the fruit and eat it in it's raw form. However, I wasn't aware of the extreme abundance of seeds on the inside. I even made a point in googling the question, "Is it ok to eat cactus pear seeds?" I didn't want to find myself in the emergency room because I ignorantly consumed a mysterious fruit. I was relieved to find out that the most harm those seeds can cause is a chipped tooth. 

Eating the fruit by itself was not going to work out, it was way too difficult to navigate around the seeds. I put the sliced cactus pear flesh into the blender and pureed it. Then, I strained the seeds out of the puree and made a smoothie with the liquid! 

Here's the run down on cactus pears. The botanical name is opuntia, which stems from the ancient greek city of Opus. Some culinarians call it an "indian fig" or a "prickly pear." The fruit can be found on prickly pear cacti in western United States and Mexico. If you ever come across a prickly pear cactus and decide to pluck the fruit, be very aware of the thorns (hence the term "prickly pear"). I guess the safe route would be to buy them in the store where the distributors do the honor of plucking the thorns out for you, but in all reality, a fresh cactus fruit probably tastes like desert-grown paradise. 

Cactus Pear & Berry Smoothie
Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients:
2 cactus pears
1 cup frozen berries
1 banana
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Method:
  1. Peel the cactus pear. Puree the pear and strain out the seeds. 
  2. Return the cactus pear puree to the blender and add the frozen berries, banana, and almond milk. Blend until smooth. 
  3. Pour the smoothie into a glass and top with chia seeds.


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Maira Gall