Doesn't look very inviting, does it? But, actually, it is a delicious fruit called the "fico d'India" in Italian, which translates literally as an "Indian fig." You want to be *very* careful when you harvest them since they are covered with tiny needle-sharp thorns that just love to work their way under your skin and drive you crazy! To pick them, you need a pair of very thick gloves or a special tool with a long handle and sort of metal tube at the end...or both!
For a description of how to gather and prepare prickly pears, take a look at this link. It's in Italian, but the photos are self-explanatory.
On a side note, my younger son was with me when I took this shot and he warned me, "Be careful, mommy, don't get too close, these plants *shoot* their thorns at you!" At which I scoffed, "I don't think so!" But, who's got a painful thorn stuck in her forefinger as she types? The mysteries of nature and children! ;-)
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