There is nothing better than adventuring out and harvesting wild foods! Surprisingly our Sonoran Desert is filled with lots of possibilities! These Prickly Pear Cactus fruit, also called “tunas”, are such a treat from the desert! They produce the most nutritious, beautiful pink juice. Which of course is just calling to be made into a cocktail or a super nutritious smoothie!
I’ve done some research and I think I have found the easiest way with minimal cactus pokes to harvest + preserve the juice!
In early May the native prickly pear cactus are filled with the most beautiful blooms! Such a gorgeous time of year! These blooms are what will be the fruit in summer!
In early to mid August the fruit turn bright red and are ripe for the picking! But they are filled with all those spines, not only long spines on the prickly pear cactus itself, but tiny hairy pokeys on the fruit!
Its time to suit up with leather boots and gloves, coveralls if you have them, and a long pair of tongs! One cactus will have a ton of fruit to harvest but our wildlife eat this fruit too, so it is recommended to not harvest all from one cactus but a little from each! Also, there may be restrictions on where you can harvest these as well, so be sure to check first.
We are surrounded by native desert and these cactus grow all over on the wild side of our property.
Using your tongs you will pick each fruit and it should come off pretty easy from the cactus because it is so ripe. You really are looking for the brightest red / hot pink ones to harvest. We used several colanders to toss them into so they would be ready to rinse easily. You could also fill a five gallon bucket.
Really watch your every step as these cactus are unforgiving and getting poked hurts. So just take your time and do this early in the morning before it gets so hot! AND of course watch out for rattlesnakes!!!
Dang our desert is harsh and beautiful all at the same time!
Now that we have our harvest it is time to rinse them thoroughly with water, then let them dry in the sun for just a bit. I just rinsed them with the hose outside.
Meanwhile you can get your juicing station ready, I got mine ready on the patio in the shade. Wear clothes you dont mind getting stained.
You will need:
- your colander full of freshly harvested and rinsed prickly pear fruit
- your tongs
- bowl with spout
- old clean piece of a T shirt (you will throw this away when done)
- ice cube trays
- large spoon
Start by filling up the blender 2/3 full of fruit using tongs the entire time to handle the fruit. Blend the fruit, if it wont blend right away just push the fruit down with your tongs to help it get started.
Now you have cactus fruit pulp. Pour this pulp into your strainer with the the old T shirt folded into it. I folded it once so it had two layers.
Using the back of a large spoon press the pulp so that the juice starts to strain through the strainer and into your bowl.
You now have that beautiful pink super nutritious juice!! You can pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. After they freeze, I then transfer all the cubes to a zip lock freezer bag and date it and store in the freezer.
Depending on how much you harvested you may go through a few pieces of the T shirt. Just toss the pulp, T shirt and all into the garbage. Grab a new piece of T shirt and repeat the process. So of course you can compost this pulp but it literally has tiny spines in it, so up to you!
We will use these cubes daily in our smoothies and use a cube or two to make amazing cocktails!
There are so many delicious cocktail recipes out there using prickly pear juice! I will give you a couple exact recipes we have used below but it really can be so simple. The Prickly Pear juice is very earthy tasting, so it needs some sort of sweetner and then of course an alcohol to make it a cocktail.
Generally I’ll take TWO Prickly Pear fruit ice cubes and let them sit in a glass for just a bit to melt. Then I’ll put in a shot of Caribbean Rum. Fill the glass with ice and then top off with something sweet like Pineapple Juice or Pomegranate Italian Soda. Give it a stir and its the perfect summery cocktail!
Prickly Pear Rum Cocktail
- Drop 2 Prickly Pear Ice Cubes into a glass, let melt
- Add a shot of Carribean Rum
- Fill glass with ice cubes
- Fill up glass with Pineapple Juice or Pomegranate Italian Soda
- Give it a stir
- Garnish with lime and mint sprigs
So easy and so dang refreshing on a hot desert summer night!
Prickly Pear Margarita
- Wet the edge of a glass with lime and dip into a plate of course salt, salting the rim
- In a cocktail shaker pour 2 ounces Tequila, 2 ounces Triple Sec, 2 ounces Prickly Pear Juice and 1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
- Fill shaker with ice and give it a good shake
- Strain into salted glasses with ice and garnish with a lime wedge
Cheers to summer and hanging with our farm friends!! Enjoy!