Looking for something refreshing to cool off in this heat wave? We got exactly what you need. Shaped like a kiwi, but with a distinct deep purplish red hue and covered with pock marks where thorns used to reside, prickly pears or la tuna have always caught our eye as we cruised along the fruit section of the many multi-ethnic markets of Los Angeles. For too long it was just a curious afterthought, that is, until we tasted our first prickly pear aqua fresca, drink at a recent food event. Aqua fresca simply means fruit water and is a refreshingly simple fruit drink popular throughout Mexico. You can find infinite varieties as there are fruit and even vegetables get into the act too such as a cool cucumber aqua fresca.
We headed to our nearest latin market to recreate this at home. You may find both red and green varieties. We noticed the red variety has a more floral fragrance, however both are delicious. Our favorite are the red ones. The taste is difficult to describe, sort of like pink bubble gum. Arising from the opuntia cactus, these fruit can be found growing wild throughout the southwest. They are often used in drinks, candies and jellies.
We’ve yet to experiment because we use them all as drinks so quickly. If you’re not from the southwest, prickly pear syrups are available, albiet pricy. So if you’re living out in the west and have stopped and stared at these prickly pears in the latin markets, stop staring and grab a pound or two and make this now! Better yet if you see these growing wild, forage them but just be careful of the thorns or just buy your own prickly pear cactus like we did.
Prickly Pear Aqua Fresca
Prep Time: 10 min
2-3 prickly pears
6 cups water
1/4 cup of sugar
juice of 1 lime
Peel the prickly pears by slicing off about 1/4 from the top and bottom. Then cut a shallow slit through the rind and peel away. In a blender, add the prickly pear, water, sugar and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Strain seeds with a fine sieve. Adjust level of sweetness to taste or use any sugar alternatives as desired. Chill over ice and serve.