Cactus fruit seeds

How to Eat Prickly Pear, A.k.a. Cactus Fruit, A.k.a. Tunas

Introduction: How to Eat Prickly Pear, A.k.a. Cactus Fruit, A.k.a. Tunas

Prickly pears are delicious on the inside but vicious on the outside. Here’s how to get past their prickly exterior and into their sweet, succulent soul.

You’ll need kitchen tongs, a sharp knife, a fork, a cutting board, a big bowl, a plate, and a food mill.

You’ll probably also want some tweezers or duct tape on hand to remove the inevitable hairy thorns that will get stuck in your skin despite your best efforts.

Step 1: Use Tongs to Get the Prickly Pears Off the Cactus

The cactus itself is dangerous with its sharp needle-like thorns. But the fruits are really nasty, looking so coy and friendly with fuzzy dots on them. Those fuzzy dots are actually zillions of hair-like thorns that will sneak into your skin like shards of glass. Trust me, you don’t want to touch them.

There are a few ways to get the fruits off the cactus. You could wear thick gardening gloves, but the problem with that is that your gloves will then be covered with insidious hair-thorns that will attack you next time you touch them. I opt to use kitchen tongs that keep me at a safe distance and can be washed clean without ever touching my skin.

Grab a prickly pear in the tongs and gently twist it off the cactus. Ripe ones are more red and will easily release from the tree. I gather a bunch of fruits in a large bowl and run the whole thing under water before the next step. 10 good size fruits will yield about a liter of juice.

Step 2: Carve the Prickly Pear

Using the tongs, place a prickly pear on your cutting board and cut off each end with a sharp knife. Then cut a seam about 1/4″ deep from end to end.

Be careful to use the tongs or fork the whole time – never touch the skin of a prickly pear!

Step 3: Peel the Skin

Using a fork to hold the fruit steady, gently peel the skin away from the fruit with the knife. If the fruit is really ripe, the skin will easily fall away with just some gentle nudging. Once the skin is peeled from both sides, you can safely grasp the fruit to pull it off the bottom without touching the skin. Place the fruit on a clean plate. Use your fork to move the discarded skin aside. Repeat with all your fruits.

Another reminder to not touch the skin. Seriously.

Step 4: Remove the Seeds

You probably think you’re home free now, right? Ha! Our demonic cactus fruits have another surprise in store to prevent you from enjoying their deliciousness. Packed within the fruit are zillions of hard little seeds. You can’t just eat around them – it’s like trying to suck through a mouth full of gravel. You’ll have to separate the seeds from the pulp.

There are a few ways to do this. The best way I’ve found is to use a simple food mill. This handy, old fashioned, mechanical device isn’t used much nowadays, except by people who make their own baby food. So, if you’ve had a baby, or if you’re just into antiquated equipment, dig out your food mill and put it to good use.

Chunk up your pile of cactus fruit and run it through the food mill. In no time flat, you’ll have a bowl full of delicious pulpy juice.

Step 5: Enjoy!

You’ve done it! You’ve successfully removed the cactus fruit from its prickly attack exterior and pried its sweet flesh away from the insidious seeds. Thorn-free and not at all seedy, you have something close to ambrosia. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor as a tasty juice, or as an ingredient in a delicious margarita, or to make into candy. Yum!

(And now you might want to do a search on how to remove cactus thorns. Because, despite your best efforts, you got some in your skin, didn’t you.)

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28 Comments

My grandma used to hold them with tings, and then burn the needles off over the flames of her gas stove.

I like the seeds in this fruit.. if someone doesn’t like seeds, in my opinion this fruit isn’t for them. It’s not worth all the trouble and steps above to eat cactus fruit! You gotta love it all or leave it all! It’s delicious.

The seeds are chock full of fiber and I enjoy the texture myself. The skin (minus the hair-like thorns called “glochids”) is actually edible too, usually used for its high pectin for making Prickly Pear Jelly. I’ve made modified versions of all these sweets. https://www.desertusa.com/lil/prickly-pear-sweets.html

Thanks for the information, and the good laugh! I’m doing research for a children’s book in which the protagonist tries a prickly pear for the first time, and this was very informative.

I enjoyed this delightful fruit without getting a single needle. I couldn’t get around the seeds though but it really wasn’t that bad. So tasty. Thank-you.

wow taste like a banana

American South-Eastern Sicilians eat the fruit seeds and all: It is a Delicacy!

They use no tricks either. Tongs to pick the fruit, then carefully place the thumb, index and middle finger tips between the dots of pale or ‘thorns’. Cut the ends of the fruit and slice the skin down the middle between the dots. With the (blunt) edge of the knife hold down on side of the skin and roll the fruit out of the skin in opposite direction discarding the skin again being attentive of the dots of thorns which are very annoying and painful. The fruit can then be handled safely and sliced and eaten at room temperature or refrigerated. Do not try to chew the seeds, however, they are like little stones. If you chew one or two it does not matter but try to simply swallow them eating the fruit. I use my tongue more than my teeth. They are very mild, but very delicious and very addictive.

A favorite of old Sicily brought to the Mediterranean by Christopher Columbus in 1492 where they are now ubiquitous; hence, also called ‘Figs of (west) India’ or Figu d’Ini, or Figu Pale (‘Thorny Figs’ or literally ‘Figs with Spears’). By the way, the markets today usually have neutralized the thorns—but be careful anyway especially if you grow your own! ctt Sunday, 4 September 2016

How to Grow Prickly Pear Cactus From Seeds

The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) thrives in hot, dry desert areas, growing 3 to 20 feet tall, depending on the variety and growing conditions. It spreads to cover 3 to 15 feet. The leaves and fruit are edible once the spines are removed. Leaf pads are eaten as a vegetable. Fruit are eaten raw and used to make juice, jelly and candy.

Depending on the species, prickly pear cactus is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 9, advises Missouri Botanical Garden. Growing prickly pear from cactus seeds can be a slow process, but once established, prickly pear cactus are easy to care for and tolerate drought for two or three weeks.

1. Harvest Cactus Seeds

Harvest prickly pear cactus seeds from the ripe fruit of a prickly pear cactus. Prickly pear cactus earn their name. Wear gloves and handle the plants carefully; the spines are sharp and cause painful irritation, advises North Carolina State Cooperative Extension.

Wash the seeds to remove all pulp, and dry them on a paper towel in a warm place for a week or two until completely dry. Opuntia seeds need to ripen for a year or more before germination, notes North Carolina State Cooperative Extension. Store seeds in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place until ready to plant the following spring.

2. Prepare Planting Soil

Fill small pots or a seed tray with cactus soil. Break up any lumps in soil. Water the soil thoroughly and allow to drain.

3. Scratch the Cactus Seeds

Sow the seeds in the late spring when night temperatures consistently reach above 45 degrees. Rub the prickly pear cactus seeds against a piece of sandpaper to scratch the seed coat. Scratched seeds germinate faster and more reliably than untreated seeds.

4. Sow Opuntia Seeds

Plant one seed per pot or plant seeds 1 inch apart in seed trays. Press the seed into the soil and cover with a fine layer of soil, barely 1/8 inch thick.

5. Enclose or Cover Planted Seeds

Mist the soil surface with a fine spray of water. Cover the tray with the plastic lid or put individual pots in plastic bags, advises Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Cut a small hole in the plastic to create a vent.

6. Check Moisture and Temperature

Place the pots or tray in a sunny window or under artificial lights. Check the soil daily for moisture and temperature. Ideal soil and air temperatures for prickly pear cactus is 70 degrees. If heat builds up under the plastic, move the container or open the vent further to release excess heat. Water the soil as needed with a fine mist, keeping the soil moist but not wet.

7. Monitor Seedlings

Inspect the seedlings daily. Cactus that turn yellow need more light. Brown or red cactus are receiving too much light.

8. Transplant Prickly Pears

Transplant the seedlings into larger pots or outside once the roots are well-developed. Place the transplants in full sun spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. Keep the soil moist for the first two weeks or until the plant has adjusted to its new location. Increase the time between watering once the cactus are established, allowing the soil to dry out slightly.

9. Fertilize Transplanted Cacti

Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to encourage pad growth. If you prefer to encourage flowers and fruit, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 0-10-10.