My guide to eating prickly pears

Right now, every fence along every south Italian road is ripe with spiky cactus fruits. Here’s is my guide to eating prickly pears.

The fichi d’India are everywhere heavy with fruit in varying colours and degrees of ripeness – and even the supermarket sells prickly pear in an unspiked, ready-to-peel version.

Fortunately, hungry neighbours had nicked most of the cactus fruits from my piece of land, and I wish they’d taken them all. That way I wouldn’t have had to fight the almost invisible hairy spikes. It was no problem to get the fruit off the cactus without getting skewered, as long as you used a special fico d’India plucking contraption combined with thick work gloves and buckets of water. I also manage to peel the prickly pears without mishaps, but the spikes clung to the table, the plates, knife and dishcloth for days and ended up in fingers when least expected.

Nor was eating the fruit an undivided pleasure. Fichi d’India contain quite a lot of stony seeds and after two fruits you feel as if you could dance a pizzica and beat the rhythm without using a tambourine. Those seeds really make me rattle.

So after an attempt at making prickly pear juice, I decided the fruits looked much prettier on the plant than on my table.

How do you like eating prickly pears?

Eating prickly pears

More on eating prickly pears and other home grown produce

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Pruning olive trees

Indian figs from Mexico

Fresh fava beans wrapped up in cotton wool

Holy pomegranates

14 replies
  1. Michconnors
    Michconnors says:

    I am not a fan – they just taste watered down to me, and definitely aren’t worth all the work. It’s really dangerous. My father in law (88 years old) can peel them bare-handed!

  2. Marlys
    Marlys says:

    I love prickly pears so much so that I don’t mind the occasional “thorn” in my fingers. A perfect desert fruit, they are so juicy and sweet. I mean desert like in a very hot place not as an after meal sweet, mind.

    • admin
      admin says:

      It came as a surprise to me as well until I realized that it makes perfect sense. The farmers in this part of Italy simply do not grow anything that cannot be eaten or used for other practical purposes.

  3. Ele
    Ele says:

    I only tried prickly pear jam when I went to Malta. It was great culture shock to discover one can eat..a cactus 🙂 Well, it’s not a cactus, of course, but it looks like its close cousin.

  4. TRISH
    TRISH says:

    My Father made the most wonderful Prickly Pear wine and I love to eat the fruit so very delicious and down in the desert where I have acreage it grows everywhere and it is the most beautiful magenta color it makes a wonderful natural dye for clothes and makes your lips a lovely shade 🙂


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