The moment we walked in the entrance at the kite festival, we found ourselves in a sprawling food court, peppered with everything from Gujarati farsan and winter delicacies to ice cream and cakes. It was at one of these stalls that I spotted these prickly, pretty pinkish-red fruits displayed in a basket. I was drawn in, and absolutely had to go and find out what these were. Soon enough, I gathered that these were the fruits of the wild cactus – called ‘Findla‘ in Gujarati, often referred to as ‘Cactus Pear’ or ‘Prickly Pear’ – and… they are very much edible!
The people manning the stall – from an Ahmedabad-based firm called Royal Gabat – told us of vast quantities of cactus growing wild in the arid rural areas in Gujarat. Cactus plants are also widely used by farmers to fence off their land. Flowers and prickly fruits grow on these cactus plants throughout the year, fruits that tribals and people from the villages have been consuming for ages now. Only recently, though, has research been done on the health benefits that these fruits hold, the staff at the stall told us. And, apparently, the fruits do possess nutritional benefits by the truckloads.
Cactus Pear aka Prickly Pear or Findla has anti-cancer properties, helps manage diabetes and high cholesterol, aids in weight management, promotes good dental health, helps relieve arthritis and muscle strain, boosts the immune system, and aids the production of iron in the body. These fruits – and the health benefits one can gain from them – are not very popular in the urban areas, and that was just what Royal Gabat had set out to rectify. The firm produces a variety of food products using the Prickly Pear – from syrups and jams to a ready-to-drink juice. The fruits have a lovely sourish taste to them, which lends itself beautifully to juices and jams. A lot of care needs to be exercised in handling the Prickly Pear, however, as their surface is full of thorns.
For a princely sum of INR 20, the husband and I sampled a glass of the ready-to-drink findla sherbet – juice made from the Prickly Pear, with rock sugar instead of the regular refined sugar. It tasted absolutely delicious, sweet and tangy and cool and refreshing. I am so glad I got to taste this beauty and discover this wonderful fruit!
Since our luggage was already threatening to exceed the permissible in-flight weight limits, we restrained ourselves from picking up any of the Prickly Pear goodies from the stall. 😦 We don’t use much bottled, packaged stuff, anyway.
I think I would love to experiment with the fresh fruits in my kitchen, whenever I can get hold of them. They would make some awesome desserts, me thinks. Any leads on where I can find Prickly Pears or Cactus Pears in Bangalore?
Check out this Wikipedia link for more info about the Prickly Pear!