01 of 07
What Are Prickly Pears?
Prickly pears – also called cactus fruit, cactus figs, Indian figs, barbary figs, and tunas – are the fruit of the Opuntia cactus plant. They're most commonly found in the Mediterranean, in the Southwest United States, in Mexico, in North Africa and in parts of South Africa.
In Morocco, prickly pears are called el karmouss el hindi (Indian figs). They can be purchased whole as shown in the photo, but you'll also see vendors peeling and selling el karmouss el hindi from carts in the... street. Passers-by will stop to purchase the peeled fruit to eat it on the spot.
Prickly pears get their name because of the tiny hair-like prickers – or spines – which cover the fruit. Because of the spines they need to be handled carefully, but other than that they're actually quite easy to peel.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
Cut Off the Ends of the Prickly Pear
Start the peeling process by cutting off the ends of the prickly pear.
They're hard to see, but those tiny hair-like spines really are there and they'll easily find their way into your skin. To protect your hands and fingers, it's best to use a fork, a towel, or even a gardener's glove to steady the fruit while you work with it. I didn't bother doing that here so that you could see the fruit better in the photos. (And yes, I paid the price for it and spent some time with... tweezers afterward to pull out the spines from my fingers!)Continue to 3 of 7 below.
03 of 07
Cut Lengthwise Through the Prickly Pear's Skin
Now make a single slit lengthwise through the prickly pear's skin. Cut just deep enough to reach the fruit, but try not to cut into the fruit itself.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
04 of 07
Pry Open the Prickly Pear's Skin
Gently pry open the prickly pear's skin – it will easily separate from the fruit. You can use your fingers, but to avoid those spines you might want to use the tip of your knife instead.
Note the yellow-orange color of this particular prickly pear fruit. Other varieties might be quite red or even green in color.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
The Fruit of a Prickly Pear
Continue peeling the skin off the prickly pear. It should separate in one intact piece, leaving the prickly pear fruit ready to eat.
This particular prickly pear is quite round in shape. Usually they're a bit more oblong.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06 of 07
Interior and Seeds of a Prickly Pear
This photo shows the interior of a prickly pear fruit. The seeds are edible, but discard them if you prefer.
You can eat the prickly pear whole, cut up, or even pureed and strained as a juice.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
Storing Prickly Pear Fruit
Unpeeled prickly pears will keep for five to seven days in the refrigerator. Peeled prickly pears also keep well. The day I took these photos, I peeled about 20 prickly pears in roughly 10 minutes – it's that quick and easy! I covered the bowl of peeled cactus fruit with plastic, and the fruit stayed very fresh in the fridge for several days.