Aguate and aguatarse

Aguate and aguatarse; two words that are probably as foreign to you, as the delicious fruit in which you can find or get them, yet you can hear those words on a daily basis in Mexico.
You'll find them in conversations from vendors to their clients, mothers to their children or friends to friends.
Mexicans use these words in discussions regarding tunas.

But, first things first. What is a tuna

A tuna (pronounced as the fish in English) is the fruit of the cactus plant. It is very sweet, and it comes in different colours; I am partial to green ones, but find them all worth tasting. 
It is an unusual fruit (and being from the cactus family) it is covered with... You guessed it, ¡aguates!

Aguates, sometimes spelt ahuates, are those tiny sneaky hair-like spines that can be found on the skin of the tuna (also found in some corn plants and the sugar cane plant).

Aguatarse is the action of getting those almost invisible spines (aguates) in your skin.

In your travels through Mexico you may hear: 

Me aguaté la mano pelando tunas ayer - I got spines all over my hand peeling prickly pears yesterday.

A vendor at the market may give you this piece of advice: 
Tenga cuidado con los aguates, use guantes o un tenedor para pelarlas - Be careful with the spines, use gloves or a fork to peel them.

A very common question after handling prickly pears:
¿Cómo me saco un aguate? - How can I get rid of a spine from a prickly pear?
When we were kids, my parents used to tell us to rub our finger (where the spine was) on our hair to get rid of it (I have to say that it was not always successful. Sometimes we had to use the tried tested and true tweezers and a magnifying glass combo). Some people have told me that they use regular white glue.They cover the area where the spine is and let it dry. When they take it off the spine peels off with it. (I have never tried this approach but sounds interesting).

I sincerely hope that all this talk about spines doesn't deter you from tasting a tuna as it would be a shame. There are many ways of getting around those pesky little needles. My advice to you would be to try to keep your hands off the fruit until you finish peeling it - better yet, find an experienced "tuna peeler" to help you out. Just in case, here is the method I follow:

1. Use a fork to hold it in place.
2. Cut the ends.
3.Make an incision lengthwise (just on the skin).
4.Use the fork to peel the skin away (from the centre to the side) to reveal the fruit.
5. Enjoy!


Deborah G.