Prickly Pear Cactus
Around the resort and nearby roads can be seen examples
of large Opuntia cactus plants which in autumn produce fruits the sizeand shape
of lemons. Commonly known as "prickly pear" cactus this is an introduced plant
from the North American continent.
It is said to have been brought to
Spain by Christopher Columbus from where it spread around other parts of the
Well-known from westerns filmed in the American deserts it
is easily recognised by its large flat pads which act as water storage as well
as for photosynthasis.
In the the greener parts of the Agios Georgios
countryside the plants can grow well into sturdy "bushes" and of course are
well adapted to easily survive the hot dry Corfu summers.
Cactus "pears" the size of
The fruit of opuntias is edible, and often sold in the
markets or streets in Corfu town. However see WARNING below. It is often used to make candies and
jelly. Other names are Indian Fig, barbary pear, cactus pear, Indian pear, tuna
It is full of small seeds which can be eaten without any
problem. The prickly pear is low in calories, is fairly high in proteins and is
high in vitamin C. It can be served with other fruit (banana, cantaloupe, kiwi)
or eaten plain with a little lemon juice squeezed on it (and served very cold).
In some very high classed Parisian restaurants the fruit of the prickly pear is
blended with sugar and lemon, then strained to filter out the pits and frozen.
It is served as a dessert with a little rum or vodka to customers with refined
palates who seek out rare tastes.
DO NOT just grab hold of one of these inviting
They are covered in tiny spine-like hairs which are barbed
and attach themselves to bare skin and are very difficult to remove because
they cannot easily be seen. They cause intense irritation (personally vouched
They are usually picked when wearing gloves and handled very
Some people suggest that scrubbing the prickly pear with
a hard brush and then rinsing it with warm water is a good way to avoid getting
the sharp hairs in your fingers and hands. A good way to enjoy the prickly pear
though, is to hold the fruit down with a fork. Using a sharp knife, cut off
both ends of the fruit and make incisions lengthwise down the fruit thus making
it easy to peel the fruit with your fingers.
If buying the fruit in the Corfu shops or markets CHECK
that the hairs have already been removed. One foreign visitor who was
attracted by the strange juicy-looking fruits on display by a street trader
asked if they were edible. When told "yes" he promptly picked one up and bit it
causing him terrible irritation inside his mouth !!