Prickly Pear Salad

Cactus or Prickly Pears always remind me of our visit to Greece in 1982. I have a distinct memory of my yiayia Artanoula taking my sister and me on a short walk (and climb) to the field behind her home to pick some prickly pears.

In Greece they are called “fragosyka”, and in Kefalonia “barbarosyka” derived from Barbary fig, which is another name for this fruit. They are native to Mexico, where they are called “tunas”, and found their way to Greece via the Venetians, where they grow fervently!

My yiayia had a small kitchen knife and tin plate, and with her “bad legs” we climbed over the small wall that my grandfather had built to get into what used to be his garden, back when he was still alive. I never got to meet him. He was also named Dionisios (same as my other grandfather). They were all neighbors and grew up together.

This is the wall we climbed, built with stones
that her husband and sons carried.
That space in the center was the step into the field,
and where she used to sit and crack walnuts.
Seeing the wild flowers bloom there now
fills my heart.

When we finally got to the cactus, she wouldn’t let us touch it, but very carefully cut off the fruits that she wanted. Then we walked back to her house, and shared the prickly pears that afternoon. It was my first time ever tasting this! I had never even seen them before & that beautiful juicy flavor has remained with me forever associated with her memory.

Now that I live in Los Angeles, they are readily available just about everywhere. They grow wild and you can find them in many supermarkets. They truly give me that sense of home.

They are considered a low carb fruit at 6 net carbs per medium cactus pear. They truly are a lovely treat high in magnesium, calcium and potassium. A single cactus pear has 85% water content, so they are very hydrating.

Not only can you eat the fruit, but the cactus leaves are edible as well. I will be asking my Mexican friends how to best cook them and share them on this blog!

Yiayia Artanoula (my fathers mother)
with my sister and myself in 1982.

Ingredients:

1 prickly pear pealed and cut

1 radish

1 cucumber

1 shallot

Fresh mint

Dark leafy greens like baby spinach and arugula

Feta cheese (crumbled)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Drizzle of Olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

A sprinkle of black sesame seeds

Cactus or prickly pears.
You will find them in red, yellow, orange & green.

Directions:

Take your prickly pear and make a slit down the center of the peel, and pull the skin back. It will reveal the beautiful fruit and seeds. The seeds are edible and full of fiber. So eat them! Cut it up. Slice up your radish & cucumber. Chop up your shallot. Toss it all with your dark leafy greens & fresh mint. Crumble feta cheese over it.

For the dressing: In small bowl, drizzle olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper & black sesame seeds. Whisk them to emulsify. Pour over your salad and toss.

I served this salad with grilled flap steak. I loved the contrast in flavors.

Kali Oreksi!

My pappou Dionisios Stamatelatos in his garden. He went by the nickname “Tzitzikas” which means cicada in English. Greece is full of them and they sing their song all day. He also used it as his pseudonym as a published poet.
On their wedding day. Yiayia was a talented seamstress in her youth and she sewed her own wedding dress. They were very much in love. Till the day she passed, she could still recite the love poems that he wrote for her.
My father Gregory, with his mom in 1988.
He is the baby in the family.

4 thoughts on “Prickly Pear Salad

    1. Yes! I remember yiayia calling them balbosika. When I was googling the name, I couldn’t find that and eventually found barbarosika, which made sense that it would come from Barbary fig. I think that “balbosika” and “balavosika” are local dialect pronunciations. It’s so interesting linguistically! Thank you for commenting. 💗

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  1. Love your blog Dianna, it’s full of good info and comforting memories . Here in Greece, I also make the leaves into a salad but it’s a process. I first have to carefully pick the young ones and have to be scraped , chopped and boiled and then drained like spaghetti. They have a distinct flavor nothing like the fruit itself..

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