It´s Chumbo time – Prickly Pears are here!

8 Aug

For anyone not in the know about prickly pears, or chumbos as they are called here, check out my chapter Swimming Pools and Prickly Pears…you´ll be enlightened.

We love prickly pears, such a delicious fruit with a super short season of about 6 weeks. Collecting them probably classifies as a dangerous sport, and the old men seem to be the experts as this.  Finding the ideal patch of prickly pears can be as closely guarded a secret as where to find truffles.

I guess they are an acquired taste, but if you do ever find them (ready prepared or not) I can highly recommend them.

Big Man and I count the days until the first sighting of prickly pears which are turning from green to a blush pink.  An early morning start is recommended, as the prickles are less “prickly” having been softened in the cool of the night.

A good brush in the dirt first with a plant that grows near the chumberos, called altabaca, then a hose down and another roughing up with a broom…and you´re ready to peel. 

Speedy peeling

Two people are needed for this part.  One to peel and the other to lift the chumbos off the skin and put them into a container.

Mind the prickles

What a relief when you get to the end of the bucket of chumbos as you can put the fruit in the fridge to chill nicely and then get your tweezers out to remove those pesky little spines which, inevitably, will have found their way into your fingers.

Nearly done...

Then you can either just gorge on them straight from the fridge or have a little tapas session with some jamon, cheese and cold melon….oh, and wine of course!


31 Responses to “It´s Chumbo time – Prickly Pears are here!”

  1. Mad Dog August 8, 2011 at 02:16 #

    Brilliant and I thought for a minute they were roast potatoes!

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:52 #

      Now you mention it….they do have a look about them!

  2. JamieAnne August 8, 2011 at 04:53 #

    Interesting and yummy.

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:53 #

      We love them…a bit weird looking to start with though!

  3. ChgoJohn August 8, 2011 at 06:04 #

    Baby steps, Chica, baby steps. You got me canning. It’s a little too early for me to tackle these prickly beauties, no matter how good the payoff. Maybe next year.

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:54 #

      Don´t blame you….I started eating them young in Italy, but even then I was a bit wary of them!

  4. chaiselongue1 August 8, 2011 at 08:11 #

    A great sequence of pictures! I’ve always found them a bit too sweet for my taste, but your suggestion of eating them with jamon sounds good as that would balance the sweetness.

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:55 #

      Thank you! Maybe you´re picking them when they´re really mature when they are almost painfully sweet? They are sugary though, I agree…the salty cheese and jamon works well with them.

  5. Tandy August 8, 2011 at 08:44 #

    I LOVE prickly pears – which have been renamed cactus pears here so that people buy them! I have to try them with some cured meat next time they are in season 🙂

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:57 #

      It was probably a good idea to rename them. “Prickly” Pears doesn´t really make you say “oooh…must have one of those!” They are gorgeous with salty foods…at least, we think so!

  6. thecompletecookbook August 8, 2011 at 10:56 #

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE prickly pears too! I am not brave enough to peel them without a knife and fork though – and for every 2 that get peeled for the fridge, one have to be eaten – just for quality control purposes of course. 😉
    Have a happy week.
    🙂 Mandy

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 14:59 #

      I am surprised at how many people know and love these. My friends in the UK look at me as though I was a bit bonkers… mind you, you don´t get prickly pears growing there, so they are rather alien to us Brits normally!

  7. fati's recipes August 8, 2011 at 12:00 #

    Oh my god, I LOVE these! They’re EVERYWHERE in summer up in Syria! I don’t remember what they’re called in Arabic, but they are sooo tasty! 😀 You have all these refrigerator stands at corners with wrapped plates of peeled prickly pears…. and boxes beside the fridges of unpeeled ones! 🙂

    YUMMMM… I love it when the juices drip down my chin as I devour every bite…MMMM!

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 15:02 #

      They sell them on the street in the town markets too but we like the challenge of climbing sheer rock faces and doing battle with the prickles 😉 Sounds like you enjoy them as much as we do!

  8. spicegirlfla August 8, 2011 at 15:49 #

    I love prickly pears! It’s been years since I’ve had one though. My dad would eat them and I remember it was a very short season. I had no idea of the process to pick and clean them! Obviously ours just came from the market! Great idea for tapas! I have to look for those in my area!

  9. Aimee@clevermuffin August 8, 2011 at 16:05 #

    I’ve never heard of these before, I can’t believe how many fruit and veg there are that I didn’t know about before starting to read food blog…. I thought I was well versed in my fruit and veg! Another one to add to the list to try.

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 17:39 #

      It´s so great, isn´t it, when you find something completely new…I guess it happens less and less as we get older. I see you are in London but originally from Melbourne. Spent a few wonderful days in Melbourne a couple of years ago and loved it. London was home, so I miss it too. Do come back again soon!

  10. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide August 8, 2011 at 17:39 #

    Too cool. When we lived in San Diego someone had planted a jumping cholla next to our door. Thing was always shooting prickers at me and since it was a rental I couldn’t pull it out. Why couldn’t we have had one of these.

    • chicaandaluza August 8, 2011 at 23:58 #

      Ok, so I had to look up what a jumping cholla was – ooh, nasty! At least those horrible chumbos prickles are protecting something delicious…

  11. thefooddoctor August 9, 2011 at 11:18 #

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE arabic they are called saber which means patience…a very fitting name 🙂
    My mum and dad peel them does the peeling and mum picks them up
    They are right up there with figs, peaches and watermelon on my favorite summer fruits

    • chicaandaluza August 9, 2011 at 13:56 #

      Sounds like your mum and dad do it like me and Big Man! They are pretty wonderful summer fruits, aren´t they?! Love the arabic name, how appropriate.

  12. ambrosiana August 12, 2011 at 11:52 #

    I love these! In Italy there are called fichi d’india! We are now getting some, specially from Sicily! And yes, the season is way too short! Unfortunately!

    • chicaandaluza August 12, 2011 at 15:41 #

      I remember that now. When we used to go to Calabria for the summer my Papá and Zia Santa used to go out int he evenings for a walk and come back with a bucket full of them…that´s when I first got hooked!

  13. Michi August 13, 2011 at 16:32 #

    Mmmmmmmm, I love prickly pears!! D-Man introduced me to them when we went hiking near the Alhambra years ago. Once you get past the pricks, they ARE delicious!! Don’t you just love edible things that grow right in nature’s backyard?

    • chicaandaluza August 13, 2011 at 21:29 #

      I love it too – we´re lucky that we have lots of lovely neighbours who share their chumbo bounty with us 🙂

  14. rosesen August 15, 2011 at 22:11 #

    Oh, I love them too. Here in Canada they are not available too often, but when they are around, I love getting a case of them!

    • chicaandaluza August 16, 2011 at 09:35 #

      We picked two buckets full last night (still picking the spines out with tweezers!). Wish I could send you some!

  15. Lauren August 18, 2011 at 05:13 #

    OMG higos chumbos (what my MIL calls them) are amazing!!! We buy them from the men peeling them on the street corners in summer. Delicious!

    • chicaandaluza August 18, 2011 at 09:38 #

      I think they call them that here when they give them their “full” name – we love them and fortunately we´re able to pick loads this year…delicious 🙂

  16. MySpanishAdventures July 20, 2012 at 17:27 #

    After our first stay at La Casa and realizing that the whole field behind us was filled with prickly pears, we came back to Texas and bought some from the market to experiment and try them out. I’m not sure if the one we bought was similar to the Spanish ones, but it was not too flavorful. I did read that there are redder fleshed ones and green fleshed ones. This one was green fleshed. It was a little like the bland taste of a watermelon near the rind 😦 Are the ones in Spain more flavorful? And how do you deal with all the seeds?? I read something about some people just eating it seeds and all, but the seeds were bitter. Did I just have an “off” chumbo experience? They might be near ripe in the next week or two when we are in Spain so I wanted to get your opinion!

    • Chica Andaluza July 20, 2012 at 17:35 #

      Sounds like you had a bad experience! In Spain they are usually not ready until at least mid August. Look for the pink/red ones. An yes, the seeds are eaten but not crunched, so no bitterness. They say if you eat too many it can … err…. block you up (the seeds!) but I can´t say I have ever had a problem! Do hope you find some good ones. Sometimes in the markets they sell them ready peeled or at least ready de-prickled 🙂

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