Prickly Pears

Some version of the prickly pear cactus grows in most of the dry regions of our world.  In Mexico in particular, it is cultivated and harvested for the pads, the fruit, and even the parasitic insects that grow on it.  Many different cultures enjoy the fruit in various forms—as candies, as jams, as the basis for alcoholic drinks.

To eat the pads or fruit from cacti growing in the wild, a person must be extremely careful of the spines.  There are two kinds—the long stiff ones that are easily seen and the softer, more fuzzy-looking ones.  It is the lesser ones that can imbed themselves in a person’s skin and cause extreme irritation.  If one does not properly clean the pads and fruit, it is possible even to eat these fuzzy spines.