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Step 1: Pick your Pears

Step one: find a fruiting cactus. Bring tongs.

This can be significantly easier than you might think. When I was a teenager living in Colorado, my friends and I would come across wild prickly pear cacti, bearing tiny fruits about the size of a super ball. Like many wild fruits (ever tried wild strawberries? They will BLOW YOUR MIND) the flavor is concentrated and intense, but it's completely impractical to collect enough to make anything with them.

Nowadays, I live in the muggy southeast instead of the arid southwest, and prickly pear cacti are weirdly easy to find. Around here (and, apparently, in much of the US), prickly pear cacti are a common landscaping plant. As summer wanes into fall, these enormous cacti (sometimes standing 5-6 feet tall) will become covered in yellow flowers, which will turn into plum-sized fruits.

To pick the fruits, grip them with the tongs, and gently twist the fruits off the cactus.

Why tongs, you ask? Well, do you see those little fuzzy spots on the fruit? The ones that look like they might be soft as a newborn baby's hair? Those are called glochids, and they are really bundles of hundreds of tiny fiberglass-like spines. While you're busy worrying about the long, scary spines on the pads of the cactus (known as "nopales," they are also edible!), the little hairy spines will detach and embed themselves into your skin. It's likely that you won't notice that this has happened until you brush the protruding end of one of these evil little spines into something, and it feels like you are having a tiny hole drilled into your skin. By a laser. A laser that is ON FIRE.

These spines can be dislodged from the fruit really easily - be very sure that you stand with your back to the wind while you pick these, as I cannot even imagine how horrible it would be to end up with a glochid in the eye.

If the fruit "gives" a little, and twists off easily, it's probably ripe. I'll be honest here: I have no idea when prickly pear fruit season is. I've read it's supposed to be in the late fall, but I collected these fruits in late November (they were delicious). So, late fall to early winter?

Put your fruits into a paper bag or other impenetrable container. Plastic bags will not stop the glochids from sticking you.
<p>I was innocently opening the cheese drawer in my fridge, when I noticed a whole container of these fell onto the floor. Not knowing what they were (my fiancee had brought them home), I just tossed them back into the container and back into the fridge. Went to wash my hands, and noticed I had dozens of little white &quot;glochids&quot; all in my hands. They're not super painful, but super annoying!!! They are so small it is difficult to pull them out. </p><p>You definitely want to wear gloves or do something to contain these &quot;glochids&quot; while harvesting this fruit!!!</p>
<p>Thanks for the great instructions. I made these tonight and found that I had torched the pears so long (scared of the stickers) that I didn't need to dig out the insides. I just cut off the ends through the whole thing into the blender. </p>
<p>I have to try this</p>
<p>These cacti are more nutritious and taste better than I'd ever have thought. Made a video recently on how to pick and eat them off the plant. Hope this helps. Enjoy!</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/E_5aUbfyjQA" width="500"></iframe></p>
Thank you for the video! <br>I enjoyed the comment from the Indian lady regarding her grandmother boiling the pears and skimming off the seeds and fiber. A great way for a good start for jelly!<br>These plants are easy to start and require little or no attention. I cut the paddles off at the join. Then let them set aside for a week or so till a good &quot;scab&quot; forms on the cut end. Prepare the soil with a small amount of potting soil and mostly sand in a well draining pot. I use a bit of rooting hormone on the moistened scabbed end. Set the padds about an inch in the soil and water. The bigger pads require some support until well rooted. I use a chop stick on each side of each one. Water a couple of times in the first month. They are slow growers but worth the wait!<br>That's it!<br> Thanks again to everyone for your posts.<br>
can you also eat the whole fruit like for example pears or apples?
<p>Chew the skins to a pulp and discard that or swallow it. Swallowing the small seeds is easy, but they're too hard to chew. The seeds can be made into a flour.</p>
I wouldn't recommend it. The skin is tough, and has a terrible texture.
Always good to see others using native fruits like these. I really like adding cactus apple juice to mesquite for jelly and wine making. Great 'ible!
Thanks! I wish we had mesquite out here, that sounds fantastic.
My method of removing the glochids is to swish them between two 5-gallon buckets, half full of water. Dump them from one bucket to the other, repeatedly, till all the glochids are floating on the water's surface. Dump the water, refresh, repeat till glochids are not present. A little pea gravel helps the agitation process. I made prickly pear jam last summer.<br>I love the idea of freezing the juice in ice cube trays.<br>Thanks for the 'ible!
That's a great idea! Flame-polishing them is fun, but not exactly efficient...
I live in Colorado, and what i always thought to be prickly pear is green. is it the same thing?
Yes! The color of the pear can vary depending on the specific cultivar of the cactus. I have no idea how to tell if the green ones are ripe, though.
Very interesting! I've never used them. What would you compare their flavor to? They remind me of beets when I see them. Cool. Thanks for sharing!
It's sort of hard to describe - a little like melon, a little like kiwi, a little like cucumber. It's much less tart than a kiwi.<br><br>For me, the color is almost as much of a draw as the flavor. Both the color and the flavor work pretty well in a margarita!
Hmmmm...a prickly margarita, very cool!
Awesome! I've always wanted to try these.
Thanks! I'd highly recommend them!

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