This weekend I took a mini road trip with my friend Lorraine to Superior, AZ to check out the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. We were headed there to check out their “How to Juice Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit” class. Lorraine had sent me an email wondering if I would be interested in going to this class with her – my response: Interested? Heck YES I am! What a great way to spend my Saturday since my hubby was at the lake with the guys for Ross’ bachelor party.
We also saw on their website that they were having a butterfly walk around the Arboretum that morning as well so we decided to head up early to check hem both out :)
I was pleasantly surprised at how many butterflies we actually saw!
Our guide knew a ton about butterflies
He even showed us some little caterpillars that were there at the arboretum
This made me cringe a little when he grabbed the butterfly – I felt like he was hurting him, but supposedly he didn’t..
A few things I learned:
- Just because a butterfly is small, does not make it a “baby” – its actually full grown (Personally I just like to call things small by putting the word “baby” in front of it – it makes it sound cuter, but I guess our guide doesn’t agree )
- Like all things in nature, the female butterflies are the ugly ones with less color. Go figure.
- The state butterfly of Arizona is the Two-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly
The arboretum was filled with plants and flowers. We saw this cute pomegranate bush! I think I am going to plant one in my yard :)
Now onto our prickly pear class! This is a prickly pear cactus if you’re wondering what they look like – and this one is covered in fruit. The pads of the cactus are called Nopales and the fruit are called Tuna. And both the nopales and tuna have many health benefits!
So how exactly do you pick the fruit off one of these? Well it’s a little tricky because they are covered in spines, both large visible ones and small hair-like ones. The first step is to brush off all of the spines – for the demo they used some clipping from a bush (its free and you can leave it in nature) but you could also use a broom or something similar. Next you’ll use a pair of tongs to grab the fruit and gently twist off – if there is too much resistance the fruit is not ready to be picked.
Next you’ll want to get the remainder of the spines off the fruit. That can be done a number of ways, but for demonstration purposes they poured the bucket of fruit onto the ground and raked them back and forth on the asphalt. You could also use a screen (like from a window) and shake a pile of fruit back and forth across it until the remaining spines fall off. They also recommend giving them a good rise by filling up you bucket with water and swirl it around before dumping it out.
After you take care of all that you’re ready to get to work on whatever you decide to do with your fruit! This is that the inside looks like. I love the vibrant color!
To juice the fruit you simply throw the whole thing into your juice and let it do all the work
You can also peel them and puree them in your blender if you don’t have a fancy-shmancy juicer like that one
Let let us all sample the juice – I enjoyed the taste, it was refreshing :) But it did remind us a little of watermelon rind haha
Here is Lorraine sampling one of the milkshakes the staff made with some of the fruit juice and some ice cream (and I think banana too). They also had an array of other prickly pear foods to sample
These are some lil’ smokies cooked in a prickly pear BBQ sauce. They said they just combined the juice with a jar of store bough BBQ sauce and let it simmer, but its sooo easy to make your own BBQ sauce so I can’t wait to make my own recipe for prickly pear BBQ sauce!
These were some cooked nopales to sample. It was a little slimey, similar to the inside of okra – but it tasted like a green bean
This is a cold soup they made using the nopales. I was shocked at how good it was!
This was by far my favorite of the prickly pear snacks. It was a prickly pear salsa jam mixed with cream cheese
They had lots of yummy homemade jams, jelly’s, pickles and other canned goods for sale
On our way out the door they had a pile of nopales for people to take home to plant their own prickly pear cactus. I grabbed one…but I am still trying to convince Lance that it is a good idea for us to plant it ;)
After we left the arboretum we decided to head up to Superior for lunch. We had our heart set on Mexican so that landed us at Los Hermanos.
Homemade chips and salsa
I had some chicken taquitos and Lorraine had a burrito enchilada style
On our way out of town we decided to stop at the welcome to Superior sign and take a photo. It’s a tradition for us ever since we went to Las Cruces, New Mexico a couple years ago.
If you don’t live in Arizona (or another desert area where prickly pear commonly grow) and you’re looking for a way to try out this fruit, prickly pear syrup is a great option! I use this to make my prickly pear margaritas :) You can order the syrup online – I like Cheri’s, but I think there are others too (and if you’re in the valley you can find prickly pear syrups at AJ’s).
Here is my prickly pear margarita recipe that I served at my Cinco de Mayo dinner party!
Prickly Pear Margaritas
1 cup tequila
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
½ cup lime juice
3/4 cup prickly pear syrup
1/3 cup OJ
Salt/sugar and lime wedges for serving
Stir all ingredients in a large pitcher. Serve over ice with glasses rimmed with salt or sugar and garnish with a lime wedge.