Arsenal of modern utensils required!

More ripe tuna

Since the kids are grown and living 3000 miles away, I can now confess that planning, buying for and executing healthy meals for a family can be a real chore. Those packaged meals at TJ’s are so enticing, and so easy. But this weekend I looked at the prickly pear cactus tuna, so ripe and luscious in the front yard and thought, why not? Like the indigenous folks who came before, we would live off the land. Of course the Internet has numerous links to recipes for prickly pear margaritas and prickly pear jelly and also a step by step process for extracting the juice from the fruits. Wearing plastic covered gardening gloves I picked four of the knobby magenta fruits trying to avoid the bristles of spines (glochids) dotting the surface. Ouch. Those hair-like spines do penetrate a gardening glove. Following directions, I soaked the fruits in cold water, then attempted to scrub the spines off using a long-handled scrub brush. Soon both my hands were smarting from spines and red cactus juice had thoroughly splattered my shirt. Several spines actually pierced the shirt and lodged in my stomach! More from the Internet: “Cut the two ends off the fruit and slit the skin open lengthwise. The skin will easily peel off in one piece.” The ripe tuna split into several pieces and more red juice and gooey seeds squished everywhere, but eventually all four fruits were skinned. I went outside where the light was better and tweezered spines for awhile, then liquified the fruits in the blender and poured through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to filter out seeds. The resulting half a cup of pretty red juice smelled like straw and tasted sort of like a cucumber-watermelon. Delicious! (You have to wonder where the indigenous folks found gloves, brushes, blenders and sieves?)
I’m going to pick more yummy fruits, but I believe I can peel them using a knife and fork and skip the whole scrubbing process. Wait til the kids hear we are living off the land!

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5 responses to “Arsenal of modern utensils required!

  1. I tried the living off the land theory….for a short while….pomegranate jam, olives, orange juice, etc. I even had a chicken, Sunshine, (my biggest success). It was amazing how much time it took and what abysmal failures they were…..I grew a grand respect for all those who can succeed at it, and must admit, I fled to TJ’s for the chicken, feta, spnach, and orzo nicely packaged and microwaveable….I feel such shame!!!!!
    Keep up the good work and maybe I’ll be inspired to try again. And yes, nopales are most delicious.
    Megan

  2. I love it! I will have to look up the nutritional value. Sounds healthy, maybe it will be a cure for something!

  3. Hah! And I thought you might default back to TJ’s. Sounds like a good way to discover a new beverage to quench the intense Arizona thirst.

    • I picked a dozen more of the fruits this morning. While I was at it the recycle pick up driver went by and he had to stop and visit about the whole situation as well! He is Hispanic and says he eats the cactus pads, nopales with eggs and they are delicious!

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