These past few weeks I’ve found myself making Aguas Frescas (Mexican Fresh Fruit Drinks) a lot more often, a sign that summer has arrived. The possibilities for making Aguas Frescas are endless, especially if you live in a big multicultural city like we do. The international and ethnic markets here are overflowing with all sorts of tropical fruits. I know that it’s not the case with everyone, but here even at the flea market you can find vendors with wooden crates full of fruit, and to my surprise they also sell prickly pears. While I was picking the fruit, a woman approached me and asked me how we eat them.
I told her that the easiest way to eat them is to just peel them and eat them as you would an apple or banana, but I was buying them to make a prickly pear drink. The recipe is really easy, and she was amazed when I gave her the instructions to make it herself.
Mexico is not the only country were prickly pears grow, but we do have a large share of them growing all over the central states of Mexico. They are sold at markets and as street food, peeled and ready to eat as a snack. The peel has some fine needles, and the pulp is juicy and sweet with lots of seeds (that are edible). The green prickly pear that grows in the central states of San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Puebla, and Estado de Mexico is more common that the red prickly pear. They come in many varieties and colors, some in different tones of yellow and some with less seeds, like the Queen Green Prickly Pear, which has more pulp than seeds. Prickly Pears are used to make different types of drinks and even desserts. The seeds are used in some regions to make salsa, after they’ve been sun-dried.
Here is the recipe:
Renders about 8 cups
- 6 Prickly Pears (tunas)
- 6 cups of filtered water
- 1/2 cup of sugar*
- 2 cups ice cubes
- Adjust the sugar to your taste.
- First of all, handle the prickly pears with care, since the tiny thorns sometimes are not easy to see. If you’re not familiar working with them, use gloves as a precaution.
2. Make a slit along the side and, with your finger, pull the skin and peel. Proceed to peel the rest of the prickly pears.
3. Place the peeled prickly pears in your blender with 2 cups of the filtered water.
4. Puree for a few seconds, the fruit pulp is so soft that it doesn’t need a long time to puree. The seeds will remain intact.
5. Pour the mixture onto a pitcher using a strainer. Discard the seeds. Add sugar, ice cubes, and the rest of the filtered water to the pitcher and mix. Add more sugar if needed, according to your taste.