Terrol Johnson, Tristan Reader, Co-founders of Tohono O'odham Community Action


    Prickly Pear Fruit

I:ibhai (prickly pear cactus fruit) make a great source of fresh food in the Sonoran Desert. Once cleaned of its spines, the juicy ripe fruit can be peeled and eaten raw right from the cactus plant. The fruit is also processed into juice and syrup.


Scientists have discovered that the gooey substance in the plant helps slow down digestion and the absorption of sugars which helps blood sugars from going too high.  Prickly pear fruit is very high in fiber and low in calories - 100g of raw fruit has 88 calories and 10.9 g fiber


I:ibhai Sitol – Prickly Pear Syrup

Delicious on pancakes, fresh fruit or swirled into plain yogurt, this deep fuchsia colored syrup is light and not too sweet.


8-12 Prickly pears, cleaned, preferably the deep purple late summer pears



Put the prickly pears into a large pot and crush them with a potato masher.  Add water, which should reach just to the tops of the fruit, not higher. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover the pot.  Simmer for about 15 to 30 minutes, or until the fruit is soft.  Let cool slightly, then crush the soft pears in the cooking liquid. Strain, pressing on the pulp.  Place the strained liquid back into the pot.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened - this will take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on the type of prickly pears you are using.  The syrup will be thin, like maple syrup.


Makes about 1 cup


Prickly Pear Fruit Salsa

Adapted from Natalie McGee, owner, Arizona Cactus Ranch


This lovely salsa takes advantage of the subtle flavor of the prickly pear. Although Natalie always cooks it, we loved it uncooked as well.


1 cup fresh prickly pear pulp, chopped

1/2 cup diced, canned  green chiles

1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced

2 tsp fresh Lemon juice

1 tsp Onion, diced

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tsp Cider vinegar

2 tsp Jalapenos, diced

1/4 tsp Dried cilantro or 1 tsp fresh chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp Garlic powder

1/8 tsp Dried oregano

1/4 tsp Ground cumin

1/4 tsp Sea salt

1/4 tsp Mild red chile powder, or to taste


Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Can be used immediately or frozen. Makes one cup.

Terrol Johnson, Tristan Reader, Co-founders of Tohono O'odham Community Action