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#710073 - 08/24/11 05:48 PM Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit
Jilly Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Highest Posting Power Known to Humanity

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 14392
Loc: Verde Valley, AZ
It's that time of year again for desert dwellers, when the prickly pear fruits are red and ripe.

Last year I made wine from the fruits, and this year I'd like to try drying the fruit in my dehydrator (or even just by leaving them out in the sun, sliced.

I know some people make juice, jam and fruit sauce from the fruits, and of course you can just pick them and eat them.

Prickly pear pads are also a food source, as a vegetable. In Mexico they are called Nopales and are a staple food source.

Anyone use prickly pear for food?

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#710081 - 08/24/11 06:25 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Jilly]
Sandy / Cocktails Editor Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 07/14/10
Posts: 566
Loc: Texas, USA

Margaritas! Extract the juice, sweeten it a bit if you'd like, and use it instead of lime in a batch of margaritas. They'll be pretty and pink.

I've been told the fruit is called tuna in Mexico. I love the look on people's faces when I offer then a tuna margarita!

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#710092 - 08/24/11 07:08 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Sandy / Cocktails Editor]
Deb - Animal Life Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 04/03/11
Posts: 732
Loc: Arizona
OMG I am overrun with prickly pear. I truly enjoy turning this into a tea. It's a completely unique experience with a multitude of health benefits.

Have to get to harvesting and drying ... gonna be a long day ... lol
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#710114 - 08/24/11 10:08 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Sandy / Cocktails Editor]
Jilly Offline
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Registered: 02/27/03
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Sandy, i like how you think. Great idea on the margaritas.

I did make some prickly pear fruit vodka last year. But I think your idea sounds sweeter. smile

Right, the fruit is called a tuna. heehee, that does sound bizarre, eh?

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#710115 - 08/24/11 10:10 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 14392
Loc: Verde Valley, AZ
Deb, how do you make a tea from that? Do you dry it first, then?

it might be fun to get together and have a harvesting/drying day together. let me know!

What do you guys do as a method of choice to get the spines off?

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#710121 - 08/24/11 10:51 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Jilly]
Sandy / Cocktails Editor Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 07/14/10
Posts: 566
Loc: Texas, USA

Here's what I've done about prickly pear spines but I'm very interested to see if any other methods surface. It's soooo hot here and we're having such a severe drought it seems the only plants thriving are the cactus! You've gotten me interested in harvesting some.

Use tongs to hold one 'leaf' at a time over a pot of boiling water to loosen the spines. Turn it so both flat sides get steamed a bit. Then hold the leaf flat on a counter and run the back (blunt) side of a knife blade from top to bottom to scrape off whatever doesn't fall off from the steam.

Do the scraping part over several layers of newspaper so clean up will be easy and you won't itch for days.

Once they're de-spined, slice them and cook 'em like green beans. That's what they taste like. They're good rolled up in a tortilla and they make awesome breakfast tacos when you cook them with scrambled eggs. Slice them thinner or chop them in small pieces for salads, stir fries, all kinds of things. They're really versatile. I'm anxious to hear what you think about them.




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#710126 - 08/24/11 11:11 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Sandy / Cocktails Editor]
Deb - Animal Life Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 04/03/11
Posts: 732
Loc: Arizona
Methods for despining fruit.

A. Drop fruit into a pot full of sand. With gloves rub spines off and rinse.

B. With tongs or gloves hold fruit and rub skin with pumice stone and rinse.

C. Burn the spines. I have not yet attempted this method for I believe it will change the taste of the fruit when dried for tea.

To despine nopals I've used gloves and needle-nose pliers or fire. I have not harvested them for a few years. I found the nopals to be less versatile than the tuna and far more problematic. Then again my gardening skills are wanting ... *sigh*

I found the nopals sticky and lacking in adding any flavor to a meal and did not enjoy the texture it brought to a dish. Am I cooking it incorrectly?

I had wanted to add them to my diet as Natives have said they hold healing powers for the body. I have great success with the tuna ... but, ugh ... the nopals - are no pals ... lol smile
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#710130 - 08/24/11 11:19 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Deb - Animal Life]
Sandy / Cocktails Editor Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 07/14/10
Posts: 566
Loc: Texas, USA

Nopals are no pals - how cute is that!

They are a bit sticky. I'd forgotten about that. Their stickiness reminds me of the feel of slicing open an aloe vera leaf. I like 'em, though. I usually steam, saute, or stir-fry them and add them to other ingredients in the same dish so the stickiness doesn't seem so apparent (I guess).

Love your ideas for de-spining, them, Deb, especially the pot full of sand. Sounds like a day at the beach instead of the desert! smile

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#710133 - 08/24/11 11:29 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Sandy / Cocktails Editor]
Deb - Animal Life Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Gecko

Registered: 04/03/11
Posts: 732
Loc: Arizona
LOL Sandy! Go figure - I live in the desert and have to go to a store to purchase sand! Ah, man I get a kick out of life!

I only use Aloe raw and on the skin. My skin doesn't mind being sticky and good thing too as it lives in the desert. But, my mouth ... oh that mouth of mine, I tell ya. I saute them in olive oil with onion, green/red pepper, and garlic.

Is there a dish you would suggest that might work for "hiding" the nopals? Do you ever dry them? Do you use them for anything other than meals?


Edited by Deb - Animal Life (08/24/11 11:30 PM)
_________________________
I look forward to reading your comments.

The evolution of humankind can be measured by how its animals are treated.

Deb Duxbury
Animal Life Editor

Animal Life Forum
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#710135 - 08/24/11 11:32 PM Re: Uses for prickly pear plants and fruit [Re: Sandy / Cocktails Editor]
Jilly Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Highest Posting Power Known to Humanity

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 14392
Loc: Verde Valley, AZ
The nopales are a bit mucilaginous. A little bit ewww. But i would think you could do these things -

- make fritters
- make as you would eggplant parmesian
- make like chicken cutlets
- add to other things in chopped up amounts - i know in mexico they add them to egg dishes. huevos rancheros,omeletes or frittatas.
- maybe they would work in stir-frys
- maybe cook them as one would do with okra? I know okra is even slimy-er.

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