How to Peel Prickly Pears: El Karmouss El Hindi

  • 01 of 07

    What Are Prickly Pears?

    Prickly Pears

    Christine Benlafquih

    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, Southwest United States, Mexico, North Africa, and 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.

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  • 02 of 07

    Cut off the Ends of the Prickly Pear

    Cut Off the Ends of the Prickly Pear
    Christine Benlafquih

    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, towel, or even gardener's glove to steady the fruit while you work with it. We didn't bother doing that here so that you could see the fruit better in the photos. (And yes, we paid the price for it and spent some time with tweezers afterward to pull out the spines from my fingers!)

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  • 03 of 07

    Cut Lengthwise Through the Prickly Pear's Skin

    Cut Lengthwise Through the Prickly Pear's Skin
    Christine Benlafquih

    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.

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  • 04 of 07

    Pry Open the Prickly Pear's Skin

    Pry Open the Prickly Pear's Skin

    Christine Benlafquih

    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.

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  • 05 of 07

    The Fruit of a Prickly Pear

    The Exposed Fruit of the Prickly Pear

    Christine Benlafquih

    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.

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  • 06 of 07

    Interior and Seeds of a Prickly Pear

    The Interior and Seeds of a Prickly Pear

    Christine Benlafquih

    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. Although it takes a lot of work, prickly pear jelly is a flavorful way of enjoying this fruit.

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  • 07 of 07

    Storing Prickly Pear Fruit

    Bowl of peeled prickly pear fruit.

    Christine Benlafquih

    Unpeeled prickly pears will keep for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator. Peeled prickly pears also keep well. The day we took these photos, we peeled about 20 prickly pears in roughly 10 minutes—it's that quick and easy! We covered the bowl of peeled cactus fruit with plastic, and the fruit stayed very fresh in the fridge for several days.