Tag Archives: Prickly Pears

IL MIO FRUTTIVENDOLO, my fruit and vegetable stall at The Queen Victoria Market


Carmel and Gus are my greengrocers. They are my fruttivendoli (plural as there are two of them). Frutti+ vendelo= fruit+ seller = fruttivendolo. Below are the grapes I bought from them.


I have been shopping at their stall in The Queen Victoria Market throughout the thirteen years that I have been residing in Melbourne. Before that I lived close to the Adelaide Market.


As you can see in the photos the range and quality of the vegetables and fruit is vast and I am able to purchase some produce that is not available anywhere else in the market. I love  Fichi d’India (prickly pears).


My Fruttivendolo is open on Thursday to Saturday.


Here are some of the dishes I have prepared with their produce:

Fichi d’india (prickly pears in a salad with pumpkin, purslane, labneh and black tahini).

Entry with Fici d%22india & pumpkin #2

Fig tart. I cannot resist figs. A layer of short sweet pastry, mascarpone and fresh figs with a drizzle of orange and dates whipped together with a little Cointreau .


Salad of watercress, black grapes, beetroot etc.


Prickly pears have prickles and need to be handled carefully. For how to peel prickly pears, see:

Prickly Pears Fichi D’india and A Paste Called Mostarda


Mascarpone and Its Many Uses. How to Make It at Home




PRICKLY PEARS Fichi d’India and a paste called Mostarda

I first wrote about prickly pears in a post dated Apr 15, 2009. The photo above was taken in the market of Siracusa (Syracuse).

This is an update of the post and I have added a recipe for a paste made with prickly pears (Mostarda di fichi D’india): March 5, 20015  .

Whenever I purchase fichi d’india (literally figs of India), I find myself telling others about the delights of eating prickly pears, but most importantly how to handle and peel them; I should set myself up at the Queen Victoria Market and give advice to the customers.

The fruit can be yellow, purple or red and ripens in late summer and in autumn. Use tongs when selecting your own fruit (store /stall holders should have those available) or wrap your hand in plastic or a paper bag because the fruit is covered with small, almost hair like spines that penetrate the skin, and stay there.

Sicilians love them and those of you who have travelled to Sicily would have seen them growing all over the countryside, eaten them after the meal in restaurants (as the cleansing fruit) and seen them for sale from the back of trucks on roadsides and in markets. They also grow in Calabria and in Puglia (all in the South of Italy).

Mareblu photos-10

Once peeled, eat the fruit raw. They are full of seeds (edible) and many non Sicilians may not like them but they really are worth trying. My aged Sicilian aunty who lives in Ragusa always warns me not to eat too many – apparently the seeds can group together and form a lump in the bowel causing constipation.


The photograph should be self explanatory, but just in case here is what to do:

Place the prickly pears in a bowl of water to clean – this also helps to remove some of the spines. My father used to soak them in water overnight but I do not think that this is necessary.

Remove the fruit with tongs.

Place on a plate. Use a fork to hold the fruit while peeling.

Use a sharp knife and cut off each end of the fruit.

Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.

Peel back the thick fleshy skin with the use of the fork and knife that’s wrapped around the prickly pear. Discard the skin.


Mostarda di Fichi D’india

Like quinces prickly pears can be made into a  paste (called mostarda) See: Mostarda and Cotognata– Sweets shaped in molds / moulds (spelling depending where you come from(. The Sicilian molds  are ceramic shapes, called Formelle.


Peel the prickly pears and crush them with a fork. Place them into a saucepan.

Heat them over moderate heat until they boil – the prickly pears will be more liquid. Strain the mixture through a colander (with small holes) to remove the seeds.

Cool the mixture.

Add some vanilla, sugar, some Marsala, grated orange peel, ground cloves and ground cinnamon (all to your taste). Some also add  a few almonds to the mixture.

Add 100 g of cornflour per litre of juice – do this slowly, a little bit of flour at a time and make sure that there are no lumps. You may need a whisk or a blender.

Cook on low heat, stirring often until the mixture thickens into a thick paste to the consistency of a thick custard or polenta. Pour into moulds. Leave overnight.

Take them out of their moulds, place them on a wire rack and dry in the sun for 2-3 days. Turn them over often and bring indoors overnight.

Store them in a dry cardboard box with a few bay leaves (fresh or dry). The surface of the mostarda will become covered with a light and fine white coating of sugar – this means that they are now dry and can be stored in a  well sealed ceramic or tin container.

The photo below was taken in Siracusa in a shop called Il Mago Delle Spezie. Because of their dark colour these are likely to be mostrada made with grape must (vino cotto).



Weekend Herb Blogging.

On this site bloggers can post information about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower – I submitted my information about prickly pears to the host for the week: The Cabinet of Prof Kitty.

CASABA (or CASSAVA) Melon and FICHI D’INDIA (Prickly pears)

In the photo is a casaba (or cassava) rock melon and I have bought it for the last two years from just one stall at the Queen Victoria Market. I am not sure of its correct name, but if it is casaba it could get its name from Kasaba, Turkey. It is very sweet and juicy and in comparison to rock melon it is rather large in size. The only other place that I have seen this type of melon is in the Willanga Farmers Market in South Australia; this is not to say that it is not sold elsewhere.

Maria and her husband Giuseppe are the stall holders. They are from Calabria and they tell me that this type of melon is also found in Calabria but they do not know what this variety is called. I have never seen it anywhere in Italy, but one needs to be in the right place at the right time.

Giuseppe tells me that the rock melons he sells are grown on the Hay Plains; the grower has an Italian surname.

Cassava rock melon is not to be confused with cassava – the taro, a tuber. Apparently there is also a cassava melon which is more like a watermelon and is the size and shape of a soccer ball; this variety has  a dark green skin.

I like to eat freshly cut slices of any rock melon; I have always loved to present it with sprigs of mint – both for decoration and to munch with it.

Some people make sorbet out of rock melon puree, lemon juice and some sugar syrup (I like it with honey) – recipes for this are not difficult to find and this too can be presented with mint.



From Giuseppe and Maria I also buy my Fichi d’India (prickly pears) which are now in season.

I particularly enjoy this late summer produce.