Sunday, August 10, 2008
Harvesting Prickly Pear
Lately the prickly pear cacti in Tucson have been looking rather overloaded with fuscia-colored, delicious-looking fruits. These are the 'pears' that give the cactus it's name. They live up to their name, and while they might look tasty and a little fuzzy, they are quite prickly and will really get into your fingers if you're not careful.
We went out this evening, just before sunset, buckets in hand to get our hands (actually, our tongs) on some of these lovely fruits. Chris did the majority of the picking, and I did the documenting you see here.
We filled two small buckets, and could have done more if we'd had more buckets, or any idea what to do with such a large number of prickly pears.
While others may have more refined harvesting methods, ours is pretty low-tech. We just head out from the road into a patch of prickly pear. Watch out for snakes and jumping cholla, of course. Use kitchen tongs, and pluck the darkest purple pears off. The ripe ones almost fall off when you touch them.
It's important you dress to blend in with the prickly pears.
Chris read an article that said you should take the high ones from the middle of the plant, leaving the ones on the edges for desert foragers like coyotes and javelina. We did.
The sunset was incredible.
When we got home we used a strainer and sprayed the pears down with a hose to rinse the dirt and spider webs off. We were told that if you freeze them, the cells burst and you can strain them and the juice comes right out. We're trying this technique with half of them.