The prickly pear is a cactus fruit. It is 2 to 4 inches long and shaped like an avocado. Its skin is coarse and thick, not unlike an avocado's and it ranges in color from yellow or orange to magenta or red. Tubercles with small prickly spines can be found on the prickly pear’s skin. This fruit’s flesh, which ranges in color also from yellow to dark red, is sweet and juicy with crunchy seeds throughout. It grows covered with needles like the rest of the cactus. When purchased at the grocery store, these should already have been removed. It's still wise to handle the fruit carefully because some of the smaller nearly-invisible needles can remain on the fruit. The needles can get stuck in bare hands where they create a tiny, aggravating points of pain.
The fruit is firm, with an inedible rind, a watery interior and large, hard black seeds. It has a mild flavor similar to watermelon. It can be eaten raw, or made into jellies and syrups. Prickly pear syrup is available throughout the southwestern United States, and is often used in margaritas. The prickly pear can be diced like pineapple and used as a topping on yogurt or cereal or blended into a smoothie.