Yes, I said benefits. Prickly Pear Cactus is more than A) a strangely beautiful plant that grows only in our corner of the world, mostly in the Sonoran Desert, or; B) A nasty cactus that you warn others away from, but let’s face it…we each have to learn our own lessons!
But there really are benefits. The pad of the Prickly Pear Cactus, or “Nopale” provides a tasty vegetable substitute that I liken to a mild green pepper. A few years ago on a hike in the Baja of Mexico, I also learned that the Nopales are beneficial to those with diabetes and that they have proven to help manage the need for insulin. For more on this, check out this article I found online: http://www.ehow.com/about_5110575_benefits-nopal-cactus.html\
Prickly Pear Jelly is also a tasty byproduct of the plant. For years, Fountain Hills was blessed with a small gift shoppe and specialty food store known as The Desert Kettle, operated by our friends Reldon and Marilyn Schirch. Each year, Marilyn and her daughters would collect the red pear from the plant–you’d see them all over town, armed with heavy gloves and long tongs. The jelly was tasty and came in many forms…some spicy if she wanted to give you a real taste of the southwest! Below is an easy recipe and suggestions:
PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS FRUIT JELLY / Ingredients: Prickly Pear Cactus Juice, sugar, SureJel
Pick cactus fruit when fully ripe, use bacon tongs for this. Burn off the spines over a flame. Use tongs for this too. Cut fruits in half, put in pan with small amount of water and boil gently until fruits are soft. Put in a jelly bag and drain off the juice. Follow directions for grape jelly but use one cup less of the cactus juice than the recipe calls for. This recipe needs a little experimenting to get just right.
Posted by Dori Wittrig, Designated Broker, Sonoran Lifestyle Real Estate. For more information about the glorious area of Fountain Hills, Scottsdale Mountain and the McDowell Mountains, give her a call at 602-558-5901