June 17, 2013

Plains Prickly Pear

"A weed is simply a plant that you don't know what to do with."
Author Unknown

As a child I spent my summers at my grandparents' house. They had one acre in a horsey suburb of Los Angeles, which they lovingly called their "ranchette". I spent my days on the back of my horse, but there were plenty of other things to do as well. 





I read a lot of books on hot summer afternoons. My younger brother and I went lizard hunting in the vacant lots that we called "the desert". We'd walk down the street to the corner store to buy candy. Once we took a pony in the house while our grandparents weren't home. Yes, we did. I know now how lucky we were that the pony didn't decide to relieve herself indoors on the carpeting. That would have been fun to explain. My grandmother would have rolled her eyes, said tsk, tsk, and cleaned it up, but my grandfather had a temper and we probably would have gotten a well-deserved beating for it.





One afternoon my grandmother took me on a hike through "the desert" in search of prickly pear fruit so she could make jelly. I don't remember much about that afternoon other than the huge piece of cactus with really long spines that got stuck in my foot, because I was wisely wearing flip-flops to hike through "the desert". 





Anyway, we have plains prickly pear cactus (Opuntia Polyacantha) here on Oak Hill. We used to have more, but over the years it has disappeared little by little. Do goats eat cactus? Maybe they just stepped on that clump next to the fenceline so many times that they killed it. The only clump I know of now is the one growing next to the Dragon Rock.





I rarely see cactus bloom, but this year, surely due to all the rain, it is blooming profusely along the roadsides.  There will be an abundance of prickly pear fruits this summer, and I might have to make some prickly pear jelly.


A "hand" of cactus
I found references that "old-timers" used this cactus in many ways, including eating the "cactus raspberries", eating the leaf pads, and using the sudsy juice of the cactus as shampoo. The juice is also used to cool sunburns and soothe insect bites.



Remember, before using this or any herb, please research it fully. 
You are responsible for your own health. 



This post has been shared at the following:
Homestead Barn Hop
Backyard Farming Connection
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways
The HomeAcre Hop
From the Farm Blog Hop
 Please visit my Blog Hops page for the links


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7 comments:

Autism United said...

In all the years of travel that my husband and I have done we have never come across a prickly pear. Seen lots of cactus along the way, we mustn't time it right.
Lovely pictures by the way, nice job.

Our Neck of the Woods said...

I've always been intrigued by culinary uses for cacti. I've never cooked with any myself, so I'd have to be extra careful in the handling!

Oak Hill Homestead said...

Thank you, Autism United. I'm glad you stopped by.

Oak Hill Homestead said...

Tammi, prickly pear jelly is the only thing I've tasted made with cacti, but I've seen the pads in the produce section of the grocery store, with spines removed. That memory of the cactus spines in my foot is a vivid one - I'd have to be very careful too!

Backyard Chicken Lady said...

Living in Arizona you would think I would have made Prickly Pear Jelly more than a few times...but I have not made it once!?! I plan to change that next spring when they are in bloom. I am getting all my canning supplies gathered this summer and getting back into the swing of things. Thanks for the inspiration...I am going to definitely do Cactus Jelly next year :-)

Oh, I am stopping by from the Backyard Farming Connection Blog Hop...but already follow your blog ;-)

Oak Hill Homestead said...

I hope you'll share how your jelly turns out and how you like it. I can't remember how my grandmother's tasted, but I do remember seeing the pretty jars and having it smeared on my toast. (I hope I wasn't a picky kid who said "I'm not going to eat THAT" because it wasn't Welch's Grape.)

Carol J. Alexander said...

It's amazing that something so prickly could produce such amazing flowers. Thank you for linking to the HomeAcre Hop. I hope to see you back this week: http://everythinghomewithcarol.com/the-self-sufficient-homeacre-hop-5/