Table of content A-Z


prickly pear


Synonyms: Indian fig, cactus pear

botanical name: Opuntia ficus-indica



The home of the prickly pear is probably Mexico and tropical regions of the Americas. Today, Mexico is still the main area of cultivation. In addition, prickly pears are grown in all dry areas of the tropics and subtropics. In the 16th century, Spanish sailors brought the cactus species to the Mediterranean area, where it still exists, frequently as wild varieties.



Prickly pears are available almost year round in Germany.


The peak season for prickly pears in Europe is during the months of September to November, with deliveries mainly from Italy, Spain and Israel. The prickly pears sold from December to April are mostly cultivated in South Africa or Central America, where they can be harvested the entire year.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Prickly pears are 4-10 cm in size and oval. The skin is yellow, reddish or brown. There are wart-like protrusions on the skin with small spines. The pulp is yellow or red, very juicy and full of many small, black seeds. Prickly pears have a sweet-sour taste and are very refreshing.



Prickly pears are rich in fibre and vitamin C.


100 g edible parts contain:


Prickly pear, fresh

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fibre (g)


Vitamin A (RE) (µg)


Vitamin B1 (µg)


Vitamin B2 (µg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Calcium (mg)


Phosphorus (mg)


Iron (mg)



Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

It is important that the prickly pear be picked carefully. It must be either gently twisted off or cut off while retaining a piece of the shoot. Prickly pears should not be harvested too early, as they do not increase in sweetness once they have been picked.


Yellow, reddish or brown skin is an indication of ripeness. Green fruits are unripe.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

The spines present a great problem for eating prickly pears. Although they are removed mechanically prior to being marketed, some almost invisible spines can remain in the skin. Therefore, before eating prickly pears, you should carefully brush them off under cold running water while wearing gloves or holding them in a cloth. It is best to always wear rubber gloves when handling prickly pears.


To get to the pulp you cut the fruit in half lengthwise and spoon it out. Alternatively, you can cut off the ends of the fruit, incise the skin with a knife and then gradually peel the skin off.


The seeds are edible.


Prickly pears taste best when they are first well-chilled, and the pulp is then sprinkled with lemon or lime juice. Sugar, cinnamon, powdered ginger or cream all go well with this fruit.


The pulp of the prickly pear is good not only with fruit salads, but also in savoury salads with poultry or ham. In addition, desserts, jams or syrup can be made from the prickly pear pulp.



– After one eats prickly pears, the urine can turn red. This is completely harmless, however, and lasts only briefly.

– Some people notice a slight burning on their tongue and oral mucosa when they eat prickly pears. Tiny oxalate crystals are responsible for this. With regard to health, this is totally harmless.





  This article was written by




  With the website the Fritz Terfloth Foundation of Münster offers consumers independent and competent information about plant foods and their health effects. All texts are subject to German copyright law. Information about the conditions for use of the texts by third parties can be found here.