Cactus Recipes

How Should We Handle Our Cactus Pads? How do I remove a cactus spine? September 26 2016, 26 Comments

A customer asks "How should we handle our fresh cactus pads?"
I'd recommend using plastic dish-washing gloves when handling the fresh pads. They are mostly not very spiny... but there are very occasionally a real spine that grows as a 'bad actor'... and they also have some of the tiny 'glochids' that are fairly-much invisible. They are on the dark spots and usually only are a problem on the super tender bits of fingers... for me the webbing for instance... they can be hard to see they are so invisible.... if you first feel it a trick is to run your hands through your hair... the glochids have backwards-facing barbs to keep them in the skin.. the barbs still sticking above the skin often catch in the hair and pull the loosely lodged glochid out.
One could also use tweezers and a magnifying glass to show the nearly transparent and 'oh so tiny' glochids. But be careful because they can also break off at the skin surface, making them doubly hard to pull out.
For glochids and for bigger spines you might try 'drawing salve' from a pharmacy. It is made from shale oil, and you put the oily-smelling stuff as a dark tarry goo onto the skin over the affected area... then warp loosely with a gauzy material. Over about 12 hours the salve will cause the tissue to reject the barb, and it will work its way through the gauze to be trapped in it... ideally when you lift the gauze away the barbs will be in the gauze.
Once they are broken off below the skin-line they will work their way out in a few days as the body fights them as a foreign object... it might even fester a bit raising pressure, and enclosing the barb in a sheathing of 'goo' to dislodge it from the skin.... basically the 'captured' skin and tissue loosens from the active healthy tissue, this way it all shoots out soon as a plug with the glochid inside and then the hole will heal normally....
I harvest the pads with plastic gloves because I handle so many, and recommend others use gloves when handling the fresh pads until they have been wiped-down under running water.
How to remove a cactus spine