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 regretted 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 plant or herb, please research it fully. 
You are responsible for your own health. 

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