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Cactus Pears, Cactus Fruit, Prickly Pears


Prickly pears, also known as cactus pears or cactus fruit, are well worth adding to your diet whenever you can find them. I have consistently found that prickly pears are well digested, support healthy bowel movements, and offer protection against sunburn, most likely because of their abundance in richly pigmented antioxidants (betalain, betanin, and indicaxanthin).

The challenge is in preparing them to eat, as prickly pears come naturally covered with sharp spines - called glochids - that can give you painful slivers.

How to Peel Prickly Pears


Start by using a sharp knife to cut off both ends of your prickly pears. Be careful not to handle the pears anymore than you have to, as their sharp little hairs can get embedded in your skin like wood splinters. To be ultra safe, you can always handle them with quality rubber gloves, or use a dark-colored dish cloth to hold them down as you cut.


After you've removed the ends, prop the pears up on their wider end and slice straight through the flesh to create two equal halves. You'll find that the flesh is coloured bright red, much like beets, which also happen to be abundant in betalain, betanin, and indicaxanthin, three of nature's most powerful antioxidants.


You'll see a number of dark seeds embedded within the flesh of prickly pears, which are fine to enjoy along with the sweet red flesh.

If you take a close look at each half, you'll see where the flesh of prickly pears meets the outer skin, which is about a third of an inch thick in most cases. With minimal effort, you can use your fingers to separate the flesh from the skin, and collect all the edible flesh in your serving bowl.


And there you have it, sweet prickly pears to gobble up and nourish your cells with from top to bottom.


Per ounce, prickly pears actually provide more antioxidants than red beets, so not to worry if you see a red hue to your urine and stools - you should actually do a little jig in knowing that all of those health-enhancing pigments have touched and enhanced your cells before leaving your body.

Enjoy the magic of prickly pears.


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Thank you so much for the pictoral. I have seen these in the grocery store but didn't know what they were. I will definitely give them a try!!

We eat prickly pears if and when we see them in the shop. If you are on or around the farms in South Africa at the ripening time of the year, you'll find people selling quantities of them out of bags or bowls. This is how we use them: Use a fork and a sharp knife. Holding the pear down with fork, cut each end off, then score from top to bottom of the pear down for about 5cm and peel the whole pear open in one operation. The sharp spines are very painful. Enjoy the fruit. Warning - if many are eaten on an empty stomach it may cause constipation.

The spines are deadly and should really be removed before any attempt to get at the flesh. The best way I have found is to shake them around, a few at a time, in a metal colander or large sieve and then rinse them in running water. Just like any other fruit they can also be made into a jam.

Perfect timing! My friend and I gathered a sack full of prickly pear fruit last night on our hike. We had planned on researching how to eat them today, and your article arrived in my mailbox this morning... Divine timing. Lol....
Thanks so much!

We have green ones that are sold here in the local latin market. I love them as I grew up eating them. Are there still health benefits, even for the lighter colored fruit? I was just wondering about the health benefits while enjoying them last week.

I imagine they offer a different range of antioxidants and are health-enhancing in their own way. Intake of a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is a good thing! :)

I've never tried it but I'm thinking if you held the pear in a pair of tongs and passed it briefly over/through a flame, or close to some glowing coals in a barbecue, to burn off the spines, that might be enough to make them finger-friendly.
If so, you could then try nibbling a small piece of the singed skin to see if it's also tongue friendly. I expect there would be a lot of goodies in the skin.