This is probably a really dumb question but I am interested in picking the prickly pear next year when it is in season, and was wondering the best way to get all of the little stickers off of the pear. Also, what is the best way to use them for medicinal purposes.
The easiest way to remove the small fine stickers (called glochids) is to burn them off. The Spring 2005 issue of our magazine, Native Plants has a "How to" article describing the process. We recommend using a kitchen propane torch, the kind you use for making Creme Brulee, for the glochids and using a paring knife to remove the larger thorns. It would also be possible to remove the glochids using the flame on your gas cooking top. Spear the prickly pear fruit (called a tuna) on a barbecue fork and rotate it over the flame until the glochids have burned off. (From painful personal experience I can tell you this doesn't work over a candle. The flame is not hot enough to successfully burn off all the glochids.)
An article from Gourmet Sleuth describes a method for removing the spines from the the tunas and the nopalitos (the cactus pads) that doesn't involve flames. Their method is to peel them—very carefully, of course. This page also talks about the medicinal uses which include lowering LDL cholesterol levels. On the Native American Ethnobotany web page of the University of Michigan you can enter "Opuntia" as the search term and find references to other medicinal and culinary uses for the various parts of the prickly pear cactus.
More Medicinal Plants Questions
Plants good for repelling bugs in Austin, TX April 18, 2007 - I need help on what type of plants or herbs are good for keeping bugs away from the house and also something that would be good for in the house for bugs? view the full question and answer
Availability of ruda plants (Ruta graveolens) in Alabama September 10, 2008 - I want to know is ruda plants available in alabama? If so where can I find it. view the full question and answer
Food and medicinal value of Parsley Hawthorn March 01, 2013 - I have found several sites that talk about how the parsley hawthorn is edible and how the hawthorn berry in general is really great for the heart, but I did not find any mention of this on your info a... view the full question and answer
Identifying a plant similar to sarsaparilla September 04, 2011 - I am trying to identify a plant that looks very similar to sasparilla, but has a ring of blue berries at the end of a long stalk, and the plant itself is spreading, not an isolated herb like sasparill... view the full question and answer
Information on medicinal plant uses by Dakota Indians November 29, 2006 - I would like to know what the plants were that were used for medicinal purposes by the plains Indians in the Dakotas. Is there a place/site that I can go to to research the data? view the full question and answer