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Green Cactus pears are small to medium in size, averaging 5-10 centimeters in length, and are oblong in shape similar to an avocado. The fruits form from yellow, pink, red, or purple flowers that grow on nopales or green cactus pads, and the thick skin of the fruit is light green and covered in rough bumps and spines known as glochids. These sharp spines are tiny, hair-like, difficult to see, and are found in the areoles of the skin. Inside the fruit, the yellow flesh is moist with many hard, edible brown-black seeds. The seeds are too tough to chew fully and can be swallowed whole or discarded completely. When ripe, Green Cactus pears are juicy and aromatic offering a sweet flavor with nuances of pear and watermelon.
Care needs to be taken when handling Green Cactus pears. Even if purchased from a grocery store, Green Cactus pears may still have some tiny, hair-like spines attached to the surface that can cause discomfort and irritation. The fruits should be held with tongs or rubber gloves to prevent penetration of the prickly fibers into fingers. They should also be rinsed and scrubbed in cool water or burned over a fire to remove the spines. The flesh of the pear can be sliced and used fresh in fruit and green salads or as a topping for yogurt and cereal. The pears can also be pressed through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds to make a puree. Once pureed, the juice can be used as a base for sorbets, smoothies, cocktails, salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. Green Cactus pears can also be slow-cooked to make preserves, jams, and jellies.
Prickly pears can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for 2 to 3 days. Firm prickly pears will ripen and soften at room temperature in a few days.