|Chumbera (Photo: Vicente Palacín)|
You've seen them everywhere, those pinky yellow fruits at the top of rows of cacti along the side of the road, or dividing one field from another. They are the chumbos, sometimes called prickly pears; delicious to eat, but very difficult to pick and prepare to eat. The chumbo grows on a chumbera (as an higo, fig, grows on an higuera - Spanish conversation classes starting next week, people!) Below is a how-to item that will interest our more daring readers:>>>
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In the old days, chumbos were picked with a long cane, at the end of which was a fork like attachment (also, sometimes made with the cane itself). This tried & true method is probably the safest and indeed is still used locally. Less experienced pickers will use tongs but these do not guarantee enough distance from dangerous cactus prickling. Even less experienced pickers such as Prospero years ago will use the hands, without gloves or anything. This happens only once.
There are several recipes using chumbos:
- Sorbet (from Murcia) Ingredients: 2 kilos of chumbos, peeled; 1/2 litre of almíbar syrup (recipe below); 1/2 litre of water; 2 egg whites. Crush the fruit in a colander using the back of a wooden spoon, keeping the juice and some pulp of the fruit. Mix thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients until consistency is thick. Freeze. (Recipe for syrup: 1 litre water; 700 grammes sugar; peel of 1 lemon; 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Boil for 20 minutes - Bob's your uncle.)
- Marmalade (great with cheese!) Ingredients:1 kilo chumbos, peeled; 400 gms. sugar; 1/2 lemon. Place pulp (see method above) in a pot, add sugar and lemon. Cook for about 30 minutes, stir often with wooden spoon. When consistency is right (fairly thick) place in jar (to keep it for some time, baine marie the jar with marmalade for 20 minutes).
- Salad : Chumbos can be used instead or with almost any other fruit, but are combined deliciously with the usual lettuce (or any other leaf, really), avocado, apple, cheese, pomegranate (granada), walnuts and pine nuts. And a vinaigrette dressing: 3 soup spoon olive oil; 1 s/sp sherry vinegar; 2 s/sp lemon juice; 1 s/sp toasted sesame seed; 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint. Emulsify the dressing well and spread over the salad.