Process Prickly Pear Fruit – Painlessly!

Follow my simple method for processing prickly pear painlessly! Prickly pear – Opuntia – fruit are ripening now and the fruits are easy to enjoy – while avoiding millions of painful glochids if you work smarter not harder.

Three Simple Steps

There are three simple steps to processing your prickly pear fruit. One – harvest. Two – break down cell walls. Three – filter the juice.

Well, I guess there is a fourth step – ENJOY! Some of the many ways to enjoy your prickly pear fruit will be in upcoming posts.

Do not even try to peel your prickly pear fruit. Painful waste of time!

Step 1. Harvest Prickly Pear Fruits

Get a nice long set of barbecue tongs and a bucket. LONG tongs because you may have to reach some distance if the prickly pear clump is big.

Tug GENTLY on the fruit. If it is ripe it will come off. If it is not ripe, ripping it off the plant just adds a sour fruit to your mix. It may be fully ripe when yellow. These taste fine too.

Some species of prickly pear fruits are yellow when ripe.

Bucket Selection

I like a metal pail because plastic buckets pick up glochids. If it is a plastic bucket – plan on never using it for anything else because the little glochids will get everywhere. I use a nice metal bucket than can simply be rinsed out (into the compost heap where the glochids break down).


Be wary of getting glochids in your skin, but fruit is fruit, and you can use the glochid covered ones too. More about glochids and glochid removal is under Savor Safely – (soon).

Once the bucket is full, rinse the fruit to remove dust and any bird droppings or the like. You may find some bugs – but they can get poured off.

Harvest ready for a rinse before the nest step. Photo courtesy Julez Buell.

Step 2. Break Down Cell Walls to Release Juices.

There are three ways to break down cell walls. Do not worry about glochids at this stage. The next step – the filter process – gets rid of them.

Break One -Freezing breaks down cell walls

Freeze the fruits overnight. Or for several weeks! It won’t hurt the results. Skins may get freezer burn but no worries, no change in taste. You will still have to boil or blend the fruits, but freezing helps if you want to make big batches all at once and only get the kitchen dirty once. Freezing is also nice because it’s hot in August and I don’t want to heat the kitchen too much.

After freezing. Kindy wrinkly but ready for easy turning into juice! These could be mashed with a potato masher.

Break Two. Heat breaks down cell walls.

In a nice big cooking pot, add about an inch or so of water and steam the whole fruits. Use a potato masher to release the juices. Since it is August, you can do this outdoors over a gas barbecue grill and keep the house cool.


Break Three. Mechanical action breaks cell walls.

A nice blender will do. I do have a Vitamixer and use it a great deal. You can freeze or cook the fruits first – or just dump them into the blender to chop them up.
Note – If you are thinking of getting a Vitamixer, get the “dry top” as well. The dry top is very useful for grinding mesquite beans into mesquite meal. More about harvesting mesquite here.

Step 3. Filter the Prickly Pear Juice.

Your nicely broken down fruits now includes seeds, glochids, bits of skin, and JUICE! Since we want the juice and not the seeds and glochids, filtering is necessary. Lucky for us in this process, the glochids always sink to the bottom. Be patient – they will sink!

Filter the juice through a nice mesh strainer. Any glochids that get through sink to the bottom of the juice and you just pour off the top part.

Decide how pure you want your juice.

For a nice clear jelly you will need to filter your macerated fruit through jelly cloth (or an old cotton pillowcase). This will generally catch all the glochids, but you may have to pour off the good top layer, and filter the rest through a coffee filter. Caution – due to glochids you will never be able to use this cloth for anything else.


For a less clear juice – say for making drinks, or jam, or syrup, a nice metal mesh sieve will do. Whenever I see an inexpensive one at a yard sale or thrift store, I do buy it. I have four now, and having more than one filter “station” speeds the process.

Once the bits go thru whatever filter you are using, pour off the good top layer of juice. If you wish you can also filter the bottom of the juice through a coffee filter.

Pulp, seeds, and the used and clogged-up filters go into that nice metal harvest bucket, temporarily repurposed as a “waste” bucket.

Learn from my mistake. Use that nice metal pail for your glochid rich “waste” material. Not that plastic bucket.


No waste in my kitchen! That bucket of left-over bits go into the compost. The javelina stare longingly thru the fence at the compost while the birds have a heyday picking thru the goldmine of prickly pear seeds and left over pulp. (And birds leave tidy fertilizer packets behind.)

For a more sustainable approach, you can take this bucket of prickly pear bits back to where you harvested and feed the plants and animals there.

coming soon – how to make this tasty prickly pear wine!

Here’s The Cookbook!

savor-honey-bookMay we suggest our dandy little cookbook?   Using Honey in New and Savory Ways offers 36 pages of tips for using honey in your cooking, as well as in all manner of dishes. A steal at only $6!

We hope you will help support some local Southwest folks!
From the review:
“Honey is for more than desserts and this book can help! Using honey in cooking savory dishes helps engage all your taste buds and adds a layer of added flavor to everyday dishes – plus holiday fare.”

Beekeeper?  We offer volume discounts – because if you sell honey in local markets you might want to offer some of these books as well.

Legal Note

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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