Cactus Fruit and Fruit Liquor

From the Journal: 11/10/2011 (Catalina Island)

The Prickly-Pear cacti are blooming. Their Easter-yellow flowers exploding next to deviously sharp spines and the as-of-yet-untasted fruits. I’ve been told they’re somewhat like kiwi’s but I haven’t had the chutzpah to sink my teeth into one yet. I’m somewhat suspicious that – despite all evidence to the contrary – their delicious looking insides are in fact just as hideously prickly as their satanic outsides. I wonder if anyone’s made liquor out of them yet, someone must have, right?

Right on both counts, purportedly at least. I rarely have internet access while on project, so all these little questions, things that I would normally look up on my own, pile up unnoticed. According to the internet at least, the fruits of the Prickly-Pear cactus are as edible as they look (and aren’t full of spines, you’ll have to forgive my paranoia, I pulled a few too many spines out of my body to be trusting) and have been made into liquor by Mexican natives for a long time. Of course I’m now three-thousand miles away and probably won’t get a chance to try one for myself for awhile. I might have more luck finding a bottle.

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Posted on December 6, 2011, in Catalina Island and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I once lived on a property that had these creatures living there. A New Zealand friend told me how to deal with them. Using long tongs, and long long long bladed knife, remove ripe fruit from the parent. In kitchen, rotate fruit over gas flame to burn off spines, then scrub under running water to remove any reluctant ones. Place fruit in heavy bottomed jam pan, with very slight amount of water, and cook slowly until soft…….. Add sugar and cook out.
    Delicious sauce/jam, colour of cranberries. Of course, cranberries would be better but you use what you’ve got!

    Apart from all that, they are a dreadful environmental disaster Downunder. They make good bedfellows with rabbits.

  2. Sounds like a simple enough cooking process, better than processing the toxins out of Cycad Seeds. I’d heard that the spines on the paddles themselves had a history of burning off (leaving the plant defenseless against the voracious appetites of the island’s Mule Deer and Bison) on the occasions when wildfires raged across the island. I’ll put cactus jam on my (admittedly long) list of things to eat someday.

    I actually spent some time in Australia, in and around Brisbane, a few years back. I saw a few Prickly Pears but on the whole it looked like the population was being managed decently (with more than a little help from the Cactoblastus bug… thing).

  3. I’ve eaten cactus fruit before and found that, while the flavor was surprisingly decent for a wild food, the rock hard little seeds made the experience like sucking a very thin layer of sweet flesh off of a mouthful of pebbles.

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