Cure for Prickly Pear Stickers

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Hallelujah! Last night, our friend Oscar (genius man!) told us how to deal with the dreaded, pernicious, invisible prickly pear fruit stickers (glochids) which somehow end up embedded in my hands every time Erik brings one of those fruits in the house. The answer? Pumice stone. It’s so simple. Just rub the site with a pumice stone. I think it just shaves off the top part of the stickler, and then lower part works its way out eventually, I suppose. But the important part is that the top part isn’t moving anymore, which means no more pain.

I’ve tried it–it really works.

Happy, happy, happy!

ETA: A round-up of alternate suggestions from the comments: you can also try spreading white glue (PVA/Elmer’s) over the area and pulling up the “skin.” Other people do something similar with rubber cement. Or you can try duct tape. None of these worked as well for me as pumice, but everyone is different. 

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  1. Isn’t it excriciating to rub the pumice stone on the glochid? I have a pair of good, leather work gloves that I cannot use because I handled cactus with the gloves. I thought that would be the way to keep my hands safe. No, now I just keep getting glochids from inside the glove. I bought new gloves. Maybe I will try to turn the gloves wrong-side out and pumice the inside.

  2. You guys are on the cutting edge now that prickly pear juice is the now wonder diet drug. There was an infomercial on last night and it looks like prickly pear is the new acai berry…

  3. Anon:

    Thanks for the links! Actually, Erik does scorch them off. Supposedly. But he never quite gets all of them. And if there’s even one on the kitchen counter, it will make its way into my palm. This is an ongoing argument in our household. I don’t even eat the fruit (it just doesn’t strike me as being worth the effort–rather have a fig or a plum), so he gets all the pleasure, and I get all the prickles!

  4. El Gaucho:

    Really? I’d like to see that infomercial. I know the pads have long been considered medicinal in Mexico–they’re used to regulate blood sugar.

  5. I use tongs. Hold the fruit with tongs then use a knive to peel it’s skin and spines off. It isn’t 100% effective but good. There is also a spineless prickly pear but the fruit is not that big.

  6. It also works to dab a little white glue on the prickles. When the glue dries , peel off. The prickles come out with the glue.

  7. Considering that the acai berry has been proven to be a fraud it seems a little ironic that you mention it. Do you really believe in magic foods? One would think that after so many frauds you would catch on…

  8. @Arthur: Erik uses tongs, he uses flame, he uses gloves. But no matter what he does, when he brings the *supposedly* safe fruit in the house, glochids end up on the counter. They are sneaky.

    @Anon: I tried white glue, it didn’t work for me–or worked very rarely. But it was my only recourse until pumice.

  9. For just the juice…

    I went to a restaurant supply store in town and picked up the longest pair of metal tongs I could find. I use those (with leather gloves) to pick the fruits, place into a bucket. After collecting a bucket, I transfer them to another bucket (with the tongs) and spray them with a hoze to clean.

    Next, I put a few (with the tongs) into a the food processor with blade and grind them to a pulp, stickers and glochids and all. Pour the whole thing into a large strainer bin lined with cheesecloth.

    I do all of this outside on the patio, and avoid the stickers entirely. 🙂


  10. I got a bunch of prickles in my hands in moving my prickly pear around in my greenhouse. I live in Oregon and haven’t been brave enough to move it outside yet. I used duct tape to take out the zillion little prickles. Worked great!

  11. My daughter just picked up a prickley pear, and was in pain. I saw the glue idea, and grabbed the PVA glue & spread it over her hands, put the hair dryer on ‘cool’ to dry it quickly, and pealed off the ‘PVA skin’. It worked a treat!!!!

  12. Pingback: How to Remove Cactus Needles

  13. ThAnk you for posting this. It’s the only solution that I’ve seen that seems like it’ll stop the pain! You are a life saver :’)

  14. OK . . . . If I had read all these ideas before I ever started making prickly pear jelly, I would have hung up my canning pot years ago.

    Last year for example we went out with paper bags and picked the several hundred “pears” as usual. Be careful not to make the bags too heavy. We brought them home and shook the bags or rolled them to get the pears moving around. A lot of stickers are released into the paper bag (by the way, use gloves when dealing with the paper bags then throw the bags away as they will be full of the stickers) Dump the pears into a cleaning tub or pot and wash them shaking the again in the tub.

    When they are as clean from the desert dust etc, place them in a cooking pot and from there, cook them as your recipe suggests. The stickers are gone!! We have some friends who do nothing more than pick, wash and cook and the stickers seem to just melt away. I’ve had their jelly and no hint of stickers. I’m thinking of doing it this way myself this year!!

    If it works for you, no glue or blow torch needed.

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