How to Tell if a Cactus Pear Is Ripe

Whether buying it from the supermarket or growing it yourself, prickly pears are best enjoyed. They are a great source of nutrients like iron and vitamin C. You want to look for signs of ripeness for the best experience when picking fruit.

A ripe prickly pear is usually a deep red, magenta color. However, there’s more to picking a ripe cactus pear than its color.

Color

If you see a red Prickly Pear fruit in the supermarket, you can be sure it’s ripe. However, like red, green, and yellow apples, there are other colors of prickly pear.

You can find green and pale yellow prickly pears that are perfectly ripe. These varieties of cactus pear are slightly different in flavor; all are delicious.

That’s why you cannot rely simply on the color of the fruit to tell if it is indeed ripe. However, if the pear is a deeply saturated color, it’s most likely on the ripe side.

1. Red Cactus Pear

With a red cactus pear, you have it easy. When the entire fruit is a rich red-purple color, it’s ripe. The redder, the better. If the fruit is still green in some parts, you can buy it in advance and wait for it to ripen over time.

2. Green Cactus Pear

The green cactus pear doesn’t change color at all. It’s just as green when it’s unripe as it’s ripe. That’s why you cannot rely on the color to tell if a green cactus pear is ripe.

3. Yellow Cactus Pear

For the yellow cactus pear fruit, you want a uniform shade of pale yellow all over the fruit. If parts of it are still green, it’s not ripe yet.

Firmness

Along with the color, you can tell if a cactus fruit is ripe by checking its firmness. The ripe fruit is really firm. This is one of the only indicators that a green cactus pear is ripe.

Checking the firmness with red and yellow cactus pears is a great secondary test.

If you have two cactus pears that look the same color, the firmer one would be riper and sweeter. If you are checking on your cactus plant in the garden, wear protective leather gloves, so you don’t get pricked.

The Glochids Fall off.

This applies more to people who grow their prickly pear fruit. Suppose you see the glochids, the short spines of the prickly pear fruits, falling off. That’s a sign that the fruit is ripe.

Nature made it easier for us to pick the fruit once it became ripe. These spines fall off since they aren’t like other cactus spines. They are shorter and meant to come off easily to irritate people reaching for the fruit.

The Fruit Falls Off

One way to ensure the fruit is ripe is to wait for it to fall off the cactus plant. Most fruit naturally falls off the host plant when they are ripe to put within reach of ground animals. The ripe fruit attracts animals that ingest it and spreads the seeds far and wide. Prickly pear is no exception to this rule.

However, the fruit may be on its way to being too ripe. Cactus pear keeps well in the fridge. However, if you waited for it to fall off, you should eat it sooner rather than later.

Birds

If your Prickly Pear cactus attracts many birds or you see them pecking at the fruit, you can be sure it’s ripe. Birds are better at telling if the fruit is ripe. Grab a pair of leather gloves and metal tongs and pick it up before the birds finish it!

Signs a Cactus Pear is Too Ripe

Cactus Pears remain ripe for about a week. After that, they start becoming squishy and unpleasant. The last thing you want is a cactus pear past its prime.

Here’s how you can tell if a cactus pear is too ripe:

1. Too Soft

They are too soft, while unripe cactus fruit is a bit soft, and an overripe cactus fruit is squishy.

2. Smell

Cactus fruit smells sweet, and the green ones smell like olives. However, when they are too ripe, they smell a bit funky.

3. Mold

If you see discoloration on the skin of a cactus fruit, it’s most likely mold. If a cactus fruit is moldy, it has been on the supermarket shelf too long or was improperly stored.

4. Bruises

Cactus pears are firm. However, when they are overripe, they easily bruise. If you see bruises on the cactus pear, it’s likely overripe.

5. Wrinkled Skin

Perfectly ripe cactus pear has smooth skin. If you see wrinkles near the ends of the cactus pear, it’s most likely overripe.

How to Ripen Cactus Pear at Home?

Maybe you couldn’t find any ripe cactus pears, or there’s a great deal on Cactus Pears, and you want to stock up.

Either way, if you have your hands on some unripe cactus pear you want to ripen faster, we have you covered.

Here are some ways to speed up the cactus pear ripening process.

1. Store with Bananas

If you want to ripen fruit faster, you can store it with bananas. The stem and skin of a banana release ethene gas. Commercial fruit producers use this gas to ripen fruit faster.

Just make sure that the bananas still have their stem attached. You can place them together in a paper bag outside or a Tupperware container in the fridge. It will ripen faster outside and slightly slower in the fridge.

2. Hands-Off Method

The hands-off method is super easy. However, it requires a fair amount of patience. You just need to leave them at room temperature on the kitchen counter for four to seven days.

If you don’t mind the wait, the cactus pears will make a fabulous addition to your decorative fruit plate. You can put it on display on the dining table or the coffee table too.

3. Wrap in Plastic

You can wrap the fruit in a cling wrap and leave it on the counter. The plastic wrap will increase the temperature of the fruit, speeding up the ripening process.

It may not make much difference, but it may get your fruit ready a day or two faster.

Prickly Pear Cactus 'Party Favor' (O. utahensis hyb) Cold Hardy Live Cutting (pad)

Conclusion

You can depend on a cactus pear’s color, firmness, and smell to know if it’s ripe. Look for ones with rich uniform coloration and enjoy them as juice, in a fruit cup, or use them to spice up a cocktail.