Prickly Pear Jello


Prickly pear in bloom in my old garden in Mississippi

“Cactus grow from Alaska to Argentina, or chilly Canada to chilly Chili, and other parts of the world. People have been eating Nopalea/Opuntia for at least 9,000. It’s not too late to join them.” ~ Eat the Weeds

Prickly pears are ripening on their thorny thrones right now.  And, considering their widespread presence in North and South America, I thought I’d share a recent culinary experiment (for my infant, really).

Indeed, prickly pear jello would be a yummy treat for your little one…it would also be something divine for we adults.  Think:  after meal palette cleanser.

I got into gelatin palette cleansers after an experience at a local sushi place in San Francisco.  A mother and daughter of Japanese ancestry ran the place.  They served amazing sushi AND they served an unsweetened cube of gelatin (typically infused with mint) after each meal.  I loved the simplicity of it.

I’ve been brainstorming wholesome treats for my little (got one? – share it below).  I picked up some prickly pear fruits…called tunas…while at the grocery store.  Indeed, the thorns were already taken off.  I intuitively cut them down the middle, scooped out the seedy, fuchsia flesh, and simmered it in some water.


(You can also gather the thorny ones from the wild and simply cook and mash them.  Check out this blog for more info.)

After pressing the liquid through a strainer and tasting it, I recalled my herbal jellos and decided that this would make a really light and tasty jello.  So, after a dash of coriander…I added the powdered gelatin and put it in the fridge to set.

The taste is so delicate and floral.  My little one loves it and I’m all about getting more gelatin (hello, easy to digest proteins!) in my tot.

A lot of recipes out there call for sugar.  In my opinion, it doesn’t need to be sweetened.  Like I said, the taste is delicate and mildly sweet.  You would miss the interesting flavor if you pounded the recipe with sugar.

And, of course there’s more to say about the Opuntia genus (Prickly Pear cactus).  The pads are a regular part of the Mexican diet and are a great food for pre-diabetics and diabetics.  As well, the pads are first aid all-stars in their wound-healing abilities!  And, the flowers as a tea or infusion impart deep medicine for the heart.

I’ll leave it at that for now…

prickly pear jello

Prickly pear gelatin, chilled and ready to eat

Prickly Pear (Tuna) Jello

2 1/2 cups of spring/filtered water
3 tablespoons powdered gelatin
dash of coriander
4 ripe prickly pears (tunas)

Cut the tunas down the middle, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seedy flesh.  Place it all in a pan with the water.  Simmer for about 10 min.  Press through strainer into some corning ware or dish of your choice.  Add the dash (or dashes) of coriander.  Sprinkle the gelatin…a teaspoon at a time…on the top of the fluid and stir in, fully, each time.  Cover and place in fridge for at least 4 hours.  Serve chilled.


Another recent gelatin experiment (above)…locally harvested pindo palm fruit and store-bought dragon fruit (another cool cactus; this one is from Nicaragua).  The pindo palm fruit gave the sweeter, earthier flavored dragon fruit a needed sour-sweet twist.

You can find pindo palm planted as a common ornamental in coastal CA, Florida, and other coastal Southeast areas.

Another favorite gelatin, is using local pomegranate juice (12 oz) from the farmer’s market.  You can use the ratio of liquid to gelatin, above.  Stir in more gelatin if you want your gelatin to be more firm like gummy bears.  As well, with pomegranate juice…no sweetener is needed.  It is perfect by itself.

4 thoughts on “Prickly Pear Jello

    • That makes sense… Yes, the pads root so easily…it makes sense why this particular plant is so widespread! It is such a beautiful and useful plant.

      I was reading…in an ethnobotany book on the CA Chumash…that a pigment was made from a syrup of the prickly pear fruit and pine resin… That particular pigment was used to paint some of the art/decoration in the Mission just down the street from where I live now in CA.

      Like many tribes/peoples that lived where prickly pear grew, the Chumash had a deep relationship with this plant and used it for pigment, medicine, and food.

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