Friday, September 19, 2008

The Non-felonius Cactophagy Expedition

I'm catching up a bit with this post, but thought it was still important to share. Mostly because it was so fun and resulted in something delicious.

A few weeks ago my architecture friend C invited N and I to "hunt" for Prickly Pear with which we would make a feast of all things bright pink. (Making food that was bright pink was not quite the intention, but it was an interesting consequence of cooking with this Sonoran desert fruit.)

The prickly pear adventures began in the Colonia Solana neighborhood, a higher-end neighborhood in Tucson that has fortunately left much of the native vegetation in tact. We were initially skeptical of searching for prickly pear in a neighborhood, especially one like this, but fortunately no one asked us what we were doing. We kept it on the down low and stuck to some of the alleys where, lucky for us, there was prickly pear galore.

After accumulating two paper bags full of fruit we thought, "this is probably enough." Well, let me tell you, this fruit goes a long was more than enough. What proceeded was a 6 hour adventure in scrubbing, peeling, chopping, juicing, and baking. It left us with pink hands and lots of glochids, but the results were completely worth it. Here are some pictures of the process and the results.

Prickly Pear Butter
Prickly Pear Cobbler

If you would like the recipe for the cobbler, which was soooo good, here it is. It doesn't give a time to bake it or anything, but we just watched for the crust to turn brown.

3-1/2 cups of prickly pear pulp
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 stick of margarine or butter
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar (for crust)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Place the pulp, cup of sugar, and water in a saucepan and boil (with stirring) until the sugar is completely dissolved ... then remove from heat and set aside. (This will be the filling.)

To prepare the crust, begin by putting the margarine (or butter) in a large baking casserole and placing the casserole— in turn—in the oven as it preheats to 350°. Then, in a clean bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and vanilla together and pour the resulting mixture—which should have the consistency of pancake batter—into the hot casserole, atop the melted margarine (DO NOT STIR). Then—in the center of (and on top of) the crust mixture—pour the filling. (Here again, DO NOT STIR.)

Now slide the whole works into the 350° oven. During the baking period, the batter for the crust will actually rise over and completely cover the pie's filling. ('s true.) The pie is done when the crust is completely brown.



  1. The handful of times I tried prickly pear cookery, I was disappointed. In fact, the only time the tunas tasted great was once atop Thumb Butte, without any water -- my LH speared a couple with one of his knives, peeled them & we were refreshed.

  2. Granny J: I have eaten a few straight from the cactus and had mixed feelings on their taste. This time everything we made seemed to turn out pretty good. The cobbler was by far the best. We actually added coconut to the recipe as well and that tasted good!