How to Eat Prickly Pear?
Here's The Right Way to Enjoy Cactus Fruit!

Are you confused whether you can eat prickly pear or cactus fruit? Don’t worry! Read ahead to learn more about this delicious fruit!

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Jimena Bolívar

April 15, 2021


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Introduction

Not everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy cactus fruit or prickly pear fruit in their lives. However, those that do wish to eat it in the safest way possible!

vicious prickly pear on the pads of cactus

It would be best if you were careful before consuming any fruit produced by the desert plant.

To eat a cactus fruit or prickly pear, first, you need to choose a red or purple ripe prickly pear. Proceed to get rid of all spines on the surface and cutting it open with a knife. Then peel off the skin, take the fruit’s flesh out. Eat it as it is, or use it in a cool recipe.

What is a prickly pear cactus fruit?

Cactus fruit is like a lobster; it is ferocious on the outside but rich and fleshy on the inside!

Ripe prickly pear with thick spines

Prickly Pear cactus fruit is named so because it is a pear-shaped fruit. It grows on the edges of the cactus pads (also called nopales). The color of the prickly pear ranges between yellow and green or red and purple. In general, the color indicates the ripeness of the fruit.

The fruit boasts a thick skin tucked with many thorn-like spines. Be careful with the plant as its spines have the potential of hurting you when you least suspect it.

Here is some basic information about it:

Scientific Name Opuntia
Kingdom Plantae
Phylum Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Caryophyllales
Family Cactaceae
Genus Opuntia
Shape Pear-shaped
Common Names Prickly pear, cactus fruit, Cactus pear, tuna
Colors Red, orange, yellow, green

Where Does The Prickly Pear Fruit Get Its Name From?

Prickly pear is a pear-shaped fruit that has thorns on its surface. Since these thorns are prickly and the fruit resembles a pear, it gets the name Prickly Pear!

close up view of cactus fruit and its glochids

Are all cactus fruit edible?

Generally, all fruits produced by a cactus are edible. Some can be bitter, while others are sweet. Though the taste of these various fruits can differ, they are safe to eat.

The Prickly Pear fruit’s flesh has a meaty texture with edible crunchy seeds embedded within it. The fruit and its nopales are entirely edible.

Cactus fruit tastes like a cross between citrus bubble gum and watermelon. It has an inner texture similar to kiwi, but it tastes like papaya juice when you juice it. It truly has a magical flavor.

Beautiful peeled prickly pears

Fun fact

Prickly pear has been an integral food in Mexican cuisine for years. No wonder why Mexican food tastes heavenly!

How to eat the Prickly Pear Fruit?

If you eat the Prickly Pear Fruit without taking precautions, you may end up hurting yourself.

The safest way to eat a prickly pear fruit involves

Step 1: Get the Right Equipment

To eat cactus fruit, you need the right equipment. How else will you safely be able to extract the fruit’s flesh and feast on it? Here are a few things that you need to gather:

  • A sharp metallic knife to cut open the fruit
  • Thick gloves to cover your hands which you can buy from here or here
  • A cutting board
  • A pair of tongs if you’re harvesting the fruit directly

pro tip

If you don't have tongs, you can wrap 5 to 6 towels to make a thick base to pick your prickly pear from the plant.

Step 2: Identify the Digestible Cactus Fruit

Prickly pear fruit comes displays variation in color. It is interesting to note that the flavor also fluctuates with the color. Darker fruits like the ones that are purple tend to be sweeter. The most common prickly pear fruit color available in the market is dark green and dark purple.

3 different coloured prickly pears

If you’re harvesting prickly pear yourself, use a pair of tongs to separate it from the plant. Protect your hands by wearing thick gloves. Whatever you do, do not touch the fruit barehandedly!

Important note

Choosing the right prickly pear is crucial

You might find many prickly pears in the market, but not all of them will taste good. Choose wisely!

Step 3: Remove all the spines and glochids

The entire surface of cactus fruit is embellished with sharp needle-like thorns. The spots on the skin of prickly pear are called glochids. These hair-like spines can be your worst nightmare. If you consume glochids, they can trigger you and can irritate your skin. So it is important to get remove glochids from the fruit.

ripe prickly pears in the field

Usually, store-bought prickly pears are free from spines and glochids, but it is better to wear gloves while dealing with them just in case.

To remove the glochids yourself, take a blow torch and burn away all the spines.

pro tip

Get rid of glochids

Never eat a fruit with glochids. Instead attempt to remove it by using either a pair of tweezers, glue or duct tape.

If you happen to see glochids on your store-brought fruit, no need to panic. Just remove the glochids with a pair of tweezers. If that doesn’t seem like an appealing idea, there are a few other things you can do too. Another easy way to do this task is to cover the glochids with Elmer’s Glue-All or white glue and cover it with a gauze. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes and then peel it off. Otherwise use duct tape, as it will also do the same job of extracting glochids

Step 4: Cut the Fruit And Feast On the Pulp

Here comes the final step. Now its time to reap the fruit of your efforts!

  • Place your prickly pear on the cutting board
  • Grab your knife and cut both ends of the fruit.
  • Now, make a slight cut within the skin at the center of the fruit.
  • With the help of your hands, peel off the skin.
  • Go ahead and eat the beautiful and incredibly delicious pulp.

prickly pear cut in halves

What Other Ways Are There To Consume Prickly Pear Fruit?

If you don’t feel like eating raw prickly pear and want to cook or create something fancy with your fruit, then here are a few amazing recipes you can try out!

Prickly pear juice

Prickly pear juice is an incredible summer drink that you can consume to ward off heat. It is similar to papaya juice in taste.

Ingredients:

  • Half cup of prickly pear pulp
  • One cup of water
  • A handful of ice cubes

Recipe:

  1. Pour prickly pear pulp and water in the blender.
  2. Blend until it has a uniform consistency.
  3. Take a mesh or strainer and strain the juice.
  4. Pour the drink in a glass, add ice cubes and enjoy the beverage!

Prickly pear syrup

Who doesn’t love a generous drizzle of syrup on pancakes? Here is a simple recipe to make prickly pear syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g of prickly pear pulp
  • One cup of sugar
  • Half a lemon
  • Water as required

Recipe:

  1. In a pan, add prickly pear pulp and sugar.
  2. Add enough water to submerge the pulp and sugar.
  3. Cook it for a while then add the juice of half a lemon.
  4. Cover the pan and let the mixture simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Turn off the gas and let the syrup cool down.
  6. Move the syrup to a container so you can use it later.

Your tasty prickly pear syrup is ready. Feel free to pour it on your deserts and pancakes!

If you don’t want to get into hassle of cooking prickly pear syrup, you can buy it online. I recommend this trusted Prickly Pear Syrup

Prickly Pear Syrup

Cheris's prickly pear syrup is made from 100% natural ingredient. It has no added preservatives or sugars. It goes super good with pancakes

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I also recommend the Max herb organic Nopal cactus juice because it can help you if you are diabetic.

Max herb organic Nopal cactus juice

This is what my grandfather used for years to fight diabetes. It contains more than 99% pure juice. Loaded with antioxidants, you get a pretty decent amount in a reasonable price

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You can also get the Shadow River Gourmet Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly. It’s a perfect treat that the kids will love.

Shadow River Gourmet Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly Made From Real Cactus Fruit Juice, 8 oz Jar

This jelly is my personal favorite. I take a spoon full daily with bread slice. It has no preservatives and extra sugars. totally recommended!

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Health Benefits of Cactus fruit or prickly pear

Prickly pear offers tremendous health benefits

  1. Prickly pear has a high level of antioxidants.
  2. Cactus fruit is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. It a great snack option if you’re vegan.
  3. Being low in calories, cactus fruit promotes weight loss. A medium-sized prickly pear contains only 40 calories.
  4. Cactus fruits are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium. Thus, they promote good heart and liver health.
  5. A mild dose of prickly pear can also help cure a hangover

Conclusion

Making a cactus fruit edible is as not hard as it seems. Just carefully pick one prickly pear. Remove the spines. Make a cut. Peel off the skin. Take out the flesh. You can either eat it or make so many creative recipes out of it. Make prickly pear a part of your diet. It is highly tasty yet nutritious.

If you are interested in learning more about cacti, I recommend you read our post which speaks about how often cactus flowers bloom:

How often does a Cactus produce flowers? A complete and helpful guide!

Are you a cactus lover who wants to know how often your cactus will bloom and produce flowers? Read ahead to learn the truth!

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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