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Prickly Pear Tuna Harvestiing

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 7:07 PM

It's that time, when the monsoons bless us with much anticipated moisture, a brake from the intense direct sun and the ripening of the luscious prickly pear fruit (tunas). The very early mornings on the desert in July is the time to walk about and harvest its bounty- just ask the quail. I first seek a sustainable stand of prickly pear and look for the tunas that are a deep mangenta. The glokins (those tiny prickers on the fruits that mysteriously get under your skin and pester you for a long time) are easily brushed off by using a branch of the desert broom. If you are not equipped with the natural broom, you can remove most of the glokins by gently rolling the tunas across gravel with a house broom.

Harvesting is easy with kitchen tongs, being careful not to puncture the skins. To finish the de-prickering, I put the tunas in a dedicated bucket, almost cover with water and agitate like a washing machine action. This action rubs the tunas against each other, knocking the rest of the glokins off and washes them as well.

I drain the water off then into the juicer they go. Out comes the most striking magenta liquid ever placed on this earth! An alternative to using a juicer is to halve the tuna, scoop out the meat and seeds, process in a blender, then strain the seeds through a fine sieve. Both methods accomplish acceptable resutls. Also I have heard of some people adding the whole tunas to a pot with a small amount of water and simmering and smashing down as they soften. Then straining through a sieve. Now you have the juice from which to make all kinds of yummy treats: syrups for pancakes, margaritas, martinis, and all kinds of drink concoctions, jelly, fruit roll ups, ice cream and ices. I freeze some of the juice in ice cube trays, then save in a freezer bag to add one each day throughout the year to my water or iced tea for its flavor and its medicinal aspect of blood sugar regulation.


**Important: juice the tunas the same day that you harvest them. They can begin fermentation rather quickly. Likewise, once juiced prepare your jellies or syrups to can or your roll-ups to dehydrate the same day. If you need to wait until another day to prepare your goodies, refridgerate the juice for 1-3 days or freeze to prepare later in the season


makes 4 half-pint jelly jars

2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 pkg. pectin

3 cups sugar

1 tbsp. butter

Mix cactus juice, lemon juice and pectin in large pan.  Bring to boiling.  Add sugar all at once with butter.  Bring to rolling boil and cook 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, skim, pur into joars, seal and water bath for 5 minutes

Categories: Edible Desert