When I first arrived in Tenerife I was intrigued to learn that the fruits of the cactus that are to be found in every nook and cranny on the island are edible. So was my husband who leapt out of the car to pick a few from a roadside plant.
Unfortunately no-one had warned him about the fine prickly hairs that cover the pears. As soon as he had grabbed a couple he yelped and chucked them into the back seat of the car where they rolled about concealing their almost invisible spikes in the seat covers.
With two young nephews visiting the island it could all have ended in tears but not to worry because my bum saved the day by picking up all the prickly devils on the back of my jeans. For all the tiny size of them, the spines on prickly pears are persistent, painful and hard to see. It took some time with a flashlight and a pair of tweezers before my tender derriere was free of the damn things.
Hard as times are, hopefully we won’t all end up out there vying with the cabras and conejos for the best of the free forage but that doesn’t mean you should let a few pesky prickles stand between you and a roadside snack. There are ways to harvest prickly pears without the added excitement of having to extract spines from your nether regions.
First rule is to pick them wearing gloves, or at least with a plastic bag barrier between your skin and the cactus spikes. Then you get them home safely without throwing them on to the back seat of the car by carrying them in the plastic bag.
Once home, fold a couple of layers of kitchen paper to form two pads and pass the pears from pad to pad. The spines break off in the paper which you can then chuck in the bin. Even so, remember these tiny spines are very hard to see so don’t touch the unpeeled pear with your bare hands.
Now you can slice the skin off top and bottom, then run a knife up the pear’s centre, peeling it off. The peeled fruit is now ready to enjoy however you want to eat it. Some people prefer the juice and use it in cocktails or to make candy, while others like them as they are, seeds and all. Try crushing them with ice and a little water for a refreshing afternoon drink. It’s even better with a splash (or a great big splosh) of vodka.