Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 17 Harvesting Cactus

31 Days of Homestead Living!

This time of year, we pick our cactus balls.  I believe they are really called cactus pears.  When the pears turn dark purple they are ready to harvest and use.  In the past, I juiced them on my stove.  This involves making a juicer from several bowls and a double boiler.  This year, I think I will simmer them on the stove to soften them up.  Then my husband can juice them in our fruit juicer on the carport.  Husband thinks they are too big and tough to juice that way from the start.

GrandBoy helping make juice

Then I can the juice.  This juice is very bright red and pretty.  We drink it.  It is suppose to be great and helps with many health problems, including joint pain.  Another thing we have done is use the juice to make jelly.  I heard that this is good to do for Christmas gifts because the color is so pretty and holidayish.  I have heard of people making wine with the juice.  I won't be surprised if my Husband tries this, too.

The leaves of the cactus are also edible.  These are called paddles.  I can't seem to find out how to process them or use them in recipes.  So I haven't done anything with ours before.  I understand they are cooked somewhat like green beans.  Sliced and diced into smaller pieces.  But they can be slimy like okra, so you have to know how to prepare them.  One day I will find someone who knows what to do, and I will learn.

Now that I think about it, I think the blooms are edible, too.  So I guess just about all the cactus parts are edible.  The blooms can be fried and used in other dishes.

Cattle also like cactus.  If I don't plan to do anything with our cactus pears, we dump them out in the pasture for the cows.  We will also see the cows nibble the paddles, if there are any within reach! 

So now you have a quick tutorial in using cactus to feed your family.  I often see big cactus patches in someone's yard, and am tempted to stop and ask if I can pick the pears.  I haven't done that yet, though.  But you can usually get cactus to plant in your yard for free.  And I hate to waste items I can use to feed my family for free.  We also have some cactus that is spineless.  We would like to get more of this growing and phase out the other type of cactus. 

In case you were wondering, you pick the cactus pears with some sort of long tool, and you probably should wear gloves.  I use long bar b q tongs.  Then you singe the spines off  the cactus pears.  At this point you would be ready to juice them.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  Honey 

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