I enjoy eating Prickly Pear Cactus pads, but I can't figure out how to harvest and prepare them without filling my fingers with tiny hairs. I have asked around and looked online and found sites such as this, among which, the common theme seems to be to burn the spines off.

I do not really have fire available to me very much, so does anyone know any other good ways to get out the flesh of the pad without getting pricked?

Please note: This question is about Prickly Pear Fruits I am asking about the Pads.

  • Doesn't help if you're harvesting them but it's sometimes possible to buy them precleaned. – Cascabel May 25 '16 at 19:50

At grocery stores in our area they prepare cactus pads for sale in-house. I haven't sat and watched them for hours but it seems that the process involves a pair of gloves and a knife. The gloves are generally the cloth gloves with rubberized palms/fingers and the knife is a chef's knife.

This image shows the process I usually see them following, though they're using a much larger knife in the store... admittedly, they do it on a daily basis, so it might be good to start with a smaller knife:

enter image description here
click for source

This image is from what looks like a nice guide on preparing cactus pads.

The steps are pretty simple:

VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Use kitchen tongs to hold the nopales or, better yet, wear gloves to protect your hands from the thorns. Once you are familiar working with cactus paddles then you can try to clean them without gloves.

  1. Place the cactus paddle on your cutting board and, using a sharp knife, trim off the edge. Scrape the spines, thorns or eyes, running your knife from back to front until completely clean. Turn the cactus paddles and do the same on the other side.

Other sites seem to echo this process, so it seems pretty universal. One site even recommends replacing the knife with a spoon, which is less likely to dig into the cactus pad, particularly if it's convex.

  • I agree you can probably get away with a smaller knife. It is really important for it to be sharp, though. If it's dull it'll be more work (and there are a lot of little cuts to make!) and more prone to cutting/tearing out divots instead of cleanly taking off the part you want. – Cascabel May 25 '16 at 20:50

First, choose young tender paddles that have only green nubs -prickles not yet poking through.

  • 1
    The OP did ask about ways besides burning. – Cascabel May 28 '16 at 4:55
  • "I do not have fire available to me very much" pointed out that a lighter does suffice – Pat Sommer May 30 '16 at 4:57

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