Who knew there was so much to learn about a simple little Prickly Pear Cactus? From its blooms, to its flowers, to its fruit, and to being on a harvesting team – Prickly Pears are one of the most deliciously fun times you can have in the desert. Prickly Pear Cactuses also serve heaps of benefits for the desert and human lifestyle. Here are the Top 5 things you need to know about the Prickly Pear.
5. What are Prickly Pear Cactus and Prickly Pear fruits?
Prickly Pear fruit comes from Prickly Pear Cacti. Most commonly found in deserts of the southwest. They range from less than a foot tall and can be over 7 feet. The cactus has flat, round paddles that continue to grow up and out, multiplying every year. Among the paddles are groups of fuzzy bumps with spikes, these are called glochids. From early spring to summer, atop the highest paddles on the cactus, grow little red bulbs. These bulbs blossom into beautiful flowers in the Spring and close again in the Summer. When the blossoms close up, the round buds ripen and then turn into fruit. The fruits are most commonly used in jelly, candies, wine, and Tanque Verde Ranch’s famous Prickly Pear Margarita.
4. They are Desert Beauties
When a Prickly Pear Cactus blossoms, you cannot miss it! The large flowers vary from yellow, orange, pink, red, or magenta. When an abundance of these cacti are seen together during peak blooming season– the sites are indescribable. The vibrant colors illuminate the desert. Hummingbirds and bees dance around these flowers for the nectar. The Prickly Pear cactus can also be home to desert wildlife protecting themselves from predators. Quail, rodents, reptiles, and birds can all be found among these cacti, so it is most important to be cautious when around them. The fruit, when not eaten by humans, are eaten by jackrabbits, peccaries, deer, squirrels, birds, iguanas, tortoises, and beetles. Humans and animals also eat the paddles of the cactus, but when spines are appropriately removed, of course. The fruit are also known for its natural cochineal dye in carmine red. This dye is used in products we use today such as textiles, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even waterproof paint for your homes. As you can see, aside from the gorgeous blossoms, The Prickly Pear Cacti play an essential role in the desert and human ecosystems.
3. Health Benefits
There are many significant advantages to consuming and using Prickly Pear cacti and fruit. The fruit is high in amino acids, fiber, vitamin B, magnesium, and iron. Some additional ingredients found in the fruit are water, carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals, vitamin C, calcium, copper, and beta-carotene. Commonly used to treat diabetes, stomach problems, cuts and bruises, sunburn, windburn, constipation and cold symptoms. It is an old historic remedy to use a spineless Prickly Pear cactus pad, heat it up and lay it on your chest to relieve congestion. The juice from the paddles, when cut open, are also useful for repelling mosquitos.
Some other universal health benefits they are said to help include:
- lower cholesterol levels
- improve digestion
- decrease risk of diabetes
- strengthen blood vessels
- help weight loss
- reduce inflammation
- strengthens bones and teeth
- protect heart health
- helps prevent certain cancers
- decreases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
2. How to Harvest Prickly Pear Fruit
Although these organic plants are a great resource, obtaining them can be difficult and dangerous. It is of most importance that you take up Prickly Pear Harvesting with caution by following these steps:
1. Wear and use the proper equipment!
- Work gloves (that spikey needles cant poke through)
- long pants (prevent needles from scraping legs
- tennis shoes (because it’s just a good idea)
- long tongs (for reaching and picking off ripe fruit)
- bucket (for storing your prickly fruits safely)
- sunscreen (protect yourself from the summer sun)
- sunglasses (when working close to cacti, you don’t want to poke your eye out!)
2. Keep an eye out around the Prickly Pear Cacti; you never know what is hiding within, especially by your feet (ssssssssssssss).
3. Bring and drink lots water! It would be terrible to dehydrate yourself and fall into a prickly cactus!
4. Go with a group of people. Use the buddy system and know where you are going!
5. When ready to process the fruit be sure to take caution as the fruits are still prickly and dangerous.
1. Tanque Verde Ranch makes the MOST of Prickly Pear Harvesting
With Tanque Verde Ranch’s Prickly Pear Harvest Package, it’s more than just a bucket of fruit; it’s buckets of fun! Partake in the annual experience with friends and family and learn everything from picking to processing, recipes, tricks, and more. Pick one of two weekends in August, Thursday the 16th through Sunday the 19th, or Thursday the 23rd through Sunday the 26th. Hike through the beautiful Saguaro desert with your guide while wearing your FREE harvesting T-shirt! Join in culinary classes with our cooks and bartenders, and try specialty Prickly Pear desserts, cocktails, and more. Tanque Verde Ranch is famous for their Prickly Pear Margarita, so make your way to The Dog House Saloon for a traditional treat! While on the all-inclusive package take advantage of our full all-inclusive activities schedule, which includes:
- Horseback Riding – Breakfast Ride, Sunset Ride, Sunrise Ride, and more
- Mountain Biking
- Desert Hiking
- Live Nature Center presentations
- Kids Programs
- Cowboy Cookout
See the more on our current activities schedule.
To learn more about the all-inclusive package see ‘Be a Part of the TVR Prickly Pear Harvesting Crew.’