new video
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Prickly Pear are the perfect permaculture plant for parched places  RSS feed

 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Likes 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The mighty prickly pear. Great for vegetable, fruit, dyes, living predator fences, erosion control, medicine and drought insurance. Talk about stacking functions!



We've been making tons of jelly, syrup, and wine the last month, which was the hottest and driest August in over a decade, here. The prickly pear produced a good crop, and we've started integrating them into our property in many ways.


Here's our recipe for prickly pear jelly





Opuntia are some of the most efficient biomass producers per unit of water input. This makes them suitable for many areas that are being hit with record droughts.

I've estimated that we could plant about 2,000 prickly pear around our perimeter fence and within 3-5 years, it will be an impenetrable wall of spines. These could produce several tons of fruit and pads a year.

On our swales and contour lines, we are planting spineless varieties, they require a bit more water, but grow extremely fast, 2-3 levels of pads a year. Non-irrigated patches can achieve 50 tons of pads an acre. We could fit at least 3,000 of these plants spacing a few meters apart.

Pruning these to have an open branching frame can greatly increase production.



They are super easy to propagate and require very little attention.



Just cut the pads at the node, let the wound callous over, and then stick in the ground. Plant every foot or so for a thick fence.

Here's a few of the different fruits and species in our area:





More about our Prickly Pear Permaculture Paradise


 
Tracy Kuykendall
Posts: 165
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would recomend to trim/prune them somewhat tree like to keep them open enough underneath to keep an eye out for snakes, the native pack rats love to get into the spiny shelter to build nest, then the native rat eaters love to set up camp inside the spiny maze to ambush lunch. I've picked a truckload of pear apples myself. Another native is agerita, not near as many uses but I prefer the jelly.
 
Francesco Delvillani
Posts: 66
Location: Italy
forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here in Italy are common in the South and in the coastal area.....fruits ripe in late August
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love the Prickly Pear! Here is some Prickly Pear liqueur I made:



Booze beverages:



Recipes:

10 whole cactus fruits
1 pint vodka
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Singe the spines off the fruits, cut them up and run them through a food mill to smash them but not break the seeds. Any other smashing or chopping process would probably work. Put in a wide-mouthed jar with the vodka and lemon zest and steep in the dark for 10 days. I experienced a time anomaly and only steeped mine about 5 days. Oh well! Shake the jar vigorously and then strain the pulp from the vodka. Discard pulp. Boil the sugar and water until thick syrup forms, let cool. Add to vodka, and put back in the dark for 20 days. Strain again, and decant into a booze bottle.

Prickly Limeade

2 limes, juiced
8 oz water or soda
2-4 oz Prickly Pear Liqueur (to taste; more liqueur makes a sweeter drink)

Over ice in chilled wineglasses, serves 2. For more booziness, add Vodka.


 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you cook them in any recipe, like for your liqueur, you could cook them down to get the juice, there is no need to remove spines. The spines dissolve in hot water.

We make syrup in a similar way, cut and boil the fruit until you have juice, add sugar and a little lime. Boil for a few minutes, then strain. You could take that and add it to vodka or whatever you want at that point pretty easily.

I have a batch of wine brewing right now, interested to see how it comes out.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I actually didn't cook the fruit, only the sugar and water, to make syrup, which was added to the prickly pear and vodka infusion. But good to know the spines dissolve; they scare me.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:I actually didn't cook the fruit, only the sugar and water, to make syrup, which was added to the prickly pear and vodka infusion. But good to know the spines dissolve; they scare me.


I cook them to make the juice, just because it is the easiest way to get rid of the spines.

Even easier, use a Steam Juicer:

 
Juniper Zen
Posts: 44
Location: Winters, California
dog greening the desert tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been buying tuna at the grocery store. Yummy! Anyone have a good place to buy paddles from and start propagating on my own?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've not tried rooting the pads that you can sometimes find at the grocery, but you might try that.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Juniper Zen wrote:I've been buying tuna at the grocery store. Yummy! Anyone have a good place to buy paddles from and start propagating on my own?


The best thing to do is find some already growing in your area, like in a yard or a roadside. Ask permission from the owner to cut a few pads. You will get locally adapted individual plants this way.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2497
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
471
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

In my climate, even the prickly pear need irrigation to do more than just hold onto a hardscrabble existence.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
During droughts our Prickly Pears, even the native ones, can look sad and sometimes die. Like all plants, they do need some water to survive!
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
65
bike dog forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This 'prickly pear' will surely be one of the fruits to grow at the future project of CuraDura (Curaçao).
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:During droughts our Prickly Pears, even the native ones, can look sad and sometimes die. Like all plants, they do need some water to survive!


yes, for sure, though they need considerably less. By the time the prickly pear are dying, the trees are long gone.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 384
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
3
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Abe Connally wrote:By the time the prickly pear are dying, the trees are long gone.


Definitely.

Here's a plant I moved from my garden to my desert plot in April. It wasn't in great condition when it was moved.
It went into a crack in the rock and was given 2 litres of water.

Its had 2 litres of water since and the second pic is how it looked yesterday. Temps have been low to mid 40s C (~110F) on several occasions this summer.

I'm pretty sure these can go for a whole year with no water, but would need to be healthy to start with for that so multi year drought would get them. They also make good hugel-type material for burying under plants.



20150410_192732.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150410_192732.jpg]
20150906_155057.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150906_155057.jpg]
 
Deb Rebel
garden master
Posts: 1469
Location: Zone 6b
163
books cat fish food preservation greening the desert solar trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The tuna (fruits) do help some with blood pressure. I started growing my own and in season harvest the fruits, process them for the juice and freeze the juice for using throughout the year... and yes, have to watch out for rattlesnakes here. My better half curses them to no end but for the sake of my health we will keep growing them. Also stopped the neighbor kids from climbing the fence along there... downside is I get to tend them and keep the grass out of there.

Best I have found is to go around your neighborhood or town and find a healthy plant and ask the owner nicely for a few paddles to grow your own.
 
Lori Ziemba
Posts: 145
Location: Northern California Mediterranean climate zone 10b
books chicken dog forest garden greening the desert urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Abe Connally wrote:The mighty prickly pear. Great for vegetable, fruit, dyes, living predator fences, erosion control, medicine and drought insurance. Talk about stacking functions!



Oh Abe, you are living my dream---the cactus farm/winery! Funny you should post this today, I just broke out my first bottle of last year's wine:
casafiesta.jpg
[Thumbnail for casafiesta.jpg]
final.jpg
[Thumbnail for final.jpg]
 
Alison Sargent
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Does anyone know how it is used as a plant dye?
Thanks!
 
Gay Hullar
Posts: 10
Location: Southern California
books dog food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are all paddle cactuses that produce tunas considered Prickly Pears and are they all edible? Or are there particular identifiers for edible cactus? I see them growing all over here in Southern CA but I'm not sure if all are edible.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2091
66
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been growing them for years here in the wettest part of the continental US. I mostly eat the pads, but also some fruit. They are good for pre-diabetes, and they have a huge amount of harvestable food from the plant as a percentage.
John S
PDX OR
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gay Hullar wrote:Are all paddle cactuses that produce tunas considered Prickly Pears and are they all edible? Or are there particular identifiers for edible cactus? I see them growing all over here in Southern CA but I'm not sure if all are edible.


most are edible, though may not be palatable or good. Most of the ones raise for vegetable consumption are spineless (or reduced spines).
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lori Ziemba wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:The mighty prickly pear. Great for vegetable, fruit, dyes, living predator fences, erosion control, medicine and drought insurance. Talk about stacking functions!



Oh Abe, you are living my dream---the cactus farm/winery! Funny you should post this today, I just broke out my first bottle of last year's wine:


How is it? I just racked off about 6 liters of wine as a test. So far, it seems like it will be pretty good.
 
Lori Ziemba
Posts: 145
Location: Northern California Mediterranean climate zone 10b
books chicken dog forest garden greening the desert urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alison Sargent wrote:Does anyone know how it is used as a plant dye?
Thanks!


Are you talking about cochineal, the red dye that was used to color the coats of the British army? That is actually made from a scale insect that lives on the prickly pear cactus. That is why the cactus was brought back to Europe and the Middle East. They wanted to grow it for the dye, which was very expensive. However, the plants escaped and are now a pest in many areas.
 
Andrew Ray
Posts: 165
Location: Slovakia
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For those in temperate climates they are very hardy-- When I was in middle school (~15 years ago) a neighbour was cutting the prickly pear out from where it was planted by her mailbox. She said they had brought it back from some trip to the dessert, and she gave me a leaf to plant in the ground. I planted it in my mother's backyard (Georgia red clay soil), and it started growing. Eventually my mother dug it up and put it into a large pot out of sight in the corner of the yard and for the last few years by the street hoping someone would take it. It languished in this pot for about 10 years, totally neglected. Finally this time when visiting home I remembered that I wanted to take some leaves back with me, so I cut off five leaves, some older some younger, wrapped them in several towels and stuffed them in my bags. Thankfully, Slovak customs service only looked at the bag jammed with my son's Legos, and not the bag with cactus, purple potatoes and sweet potatoes!

In June I planted these into pots, and 3 of the 5 now have grown new leaves with the 4th displaying growth of new spines. Next year I will put them out somewhere in the field. I suppose this might be the one plant the goats won't be able to destroy...

One question-- I assume that these can tolerate severe cold? Our worst winters can go to -25C, those usually just -10C.
prickly_pears.jpg
[Thumbnail for prickly_pears.jpg]
 
Cris Fellows
Posts: 40
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Question: I have started some prickly pear in a pot and have a half dozen nice little buddies now. They are about an inch and a half tall. Want to plant them at the top (driest part) of a new hugelkultur. Think I can transplant them now or leave em potted til Spring?
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
Posts: 561
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
65
bike dog forest garden urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If they grow in Slovakia, I think they can grow here in the Netherlands too! It's a pity I did not bring some from Curaçao when we were there. At Curaçao they're growing all over!
My husband told me about the medicinal use of the 'tuna'. They peel the 'paddle' and soak it in water for some time. It's a drink for stomach problems.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 384
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
3
forest garden greening the desert trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Abe, what about other succulents. Aloe vera seems equally drought tolerant, self propagates by suckers, and has medicinal uses. Not as effective as windbreak or barrier as doesn't grow so tall or spiky, but is much much easier to handle. Agaves?

I'm putting aloes, prickly pears and soon agaves in at my patch where I'm planting trees. Also some other thing (pictured) that looks like a relative of the aloe but is absolutely rampant at propagating itself in the garden. Haen't yet observed how well it handles drought but I suspect it will be pretty good. For me without expert knowledge it's a case of throwing lots of mud and seeing what sticks.

20150908_114815.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150908_114815.jpg]
 
Peter Heffernan
Posts: 3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Beware!
Prickly Pear rendered 58 MILLION ACRES UTTERLY UNUSABLE in Australia in the early 19th century, because birds so quickly spread seads everywhere!
Be very careful not to make the solution into THE PROBLEM!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There might have been some other problems with the land, such as overgrazing, that the Prickly Pear was able to colonize so quickly. Here in Texas it spreads quite slowly unless people try to eradicate it, in which case they only succeed in spreading it....

I'm a fan of Sotol, a plant native to here which has an edible stem. It was one of the staple foods of the native peoples.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Steve Farmer wrote:Abe, what about other succulents. Aloe vera seems equally drought tolerant, self propagates by suckers, and has medicinal uses. Not as effective as windbreak or barrier as doesn't grow so tall or spiky, but is much much easier to handle. Agaves?

I'm putting aloes, prickly pears and soon agaves in at my patch where I'm planting trees. Also some other thing (pictured) that looks like a relative of the aloe but is absolutely rampant at propagating itself in the garden. Haen't yet observed how well it handles drought but I suspect it will be pretty good. For me without expert knowledge it's a case of throwing lots of mud and seeing what sticks.



yes, any of these are good. Agaves makes excellent borders and fences. They are all very good for erosion control, too, because they have a lot of surface roots.

All succulents are more efficient at producing biomass with limited resources than regular plants.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Heffernan wrote:Beware!
Prickly Pear rendered 58 MILLION ACRES UTTERLY UNUSABLE in Australia in the early 19th century, because birds so quickly spread seads everywhere!
Be very careful not to make the solution into THE PROBLEM!


To me, the situation in Australia and Africa with prickly pear is very telling. First, we took a completely non native plant, shipped it across the ocean (which took a while), and it ended up eventually colonizing the entire continent. Australia is not very hospitable, and if something can take over there, it will grow just about anywhere.

But, here's the deal. These things have spines. Native wildlife to the Americas know how to keep prickly pear in check. Australia didn't have that.

Had they imported a spineless variety, there would have been no issue, because the native wildlife would keep it in check (everything eats it).

To control it, and this is one of the most successful stories of regaining control of an invasive species, they imported a natural predator of the prickly pear. A few years later, and it was totally managed.

Anywhere in the Americas, you don't have to worry about prickly pear invasiveness, because we have natural predators here.

 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm a fan of Sotol, a plant native to here which has an edible stem. It was one of the staple foods of the native peoples.


I am very familiar with Sotol, and we used the dried stalks for making shade structures and things. You can also train them as they grow to make really neat curved sticks.

But, I had no idea you could eat them. How do they taste, Tyler?
 
Alison Sargent
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lori Ziemba wrote:
"Are you talking about cochineal, the red dye that was used to color the coats of the British army? That is actually made from a scale insect that lives on the prickly pear cactus. That is why the cactus was brought back to Europe and the Middle East. They wanted to grow it for the dye, which was very expensive. However, the plants escaped and are now a pest in many areas. "

Thanks Lori - very interesting about cochineal. I was referring to the original posting in this discussion where he mentions it is used as a dye. I'm not sure if he meant the actual cactus or the cochineal.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2497
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
471
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Andrew Ray: Those pads in your photo look like a 'spineless' variety to me. I'd expect goats to eat them up like they were candy. Different varieties of opuntia have different tolerance to cold. Some are extremely cold hardy. Others are very sensitive to frost.

Here's the kind of prickly pear that survives deer, antelope, and cow predation at my place.


 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2091
66
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The fruit of the plant has a very dark red coloring so I assume it is the fruit, not the pad, that is used for dyes.

They can live in temperate regions, like mine, but they absolutely have to have outstanding drainage. I planted mine in pure gravel and it worked great.

If you are giving a pad, make sure they leave it dry and don't plant it for at least a week. Less and they will likely rot. They can stay out of the soil for months usually and still grow. Plant them on their sides or straight up, but not flat in the ground.

John S
PDX OR
 
Luke Perkins
Posts: 35
8
bee bike duck greening the desert trees
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am a fan as well. At one point I brought up the subject over in the "Cloud Forest Cafe", a great website for fruit growing info.

http://www.cloudforest.com/cafe/gardening/nopales-prickly-pear-t4193.html

One of the members there offered this link: http://thinkmexican.tumblr.com/post/5888012828/the-many-varieties-of-tunas

I also posed the question to a forum of our local California Rare Fruit Growers Chapter (Golden Gate). A local permaculture teacher and member of our CRFG chapter, Ken Litchfield, gave me permission to post this very informative answer he wrote.

Original question:

"Does anyone here cultivate opuntia (prickly pear cactus)? Do you use the
same cultivars for the pads (nopales) as you do the fruit? Or is it
generally best to grow separate varieties for fruit and leaf (pad)? Kind of
like beets and chard...

How do you harvest them? Are there good methods for de-spining?

Luke"

Ken Litchfield's answer:

Hey Luke,

There is a particular nopales variety that has tender floppy pads without
much fibers, even when mature, that's the usual variety that's sold in
Mexican markets. It does bloom and make fruit or tunas but they are so
scrawny for fruit that they even act like pads and grow more pads instead
of ripening. There is also at least one variegated version of that one that
some folks consider to be "tricolor" as the little true temporary leaves on
the new pads are red.

Any prickly pear species can be used for nopales, the young green tender
pads that still have their true leaves, but some are more tender, tasty,
and less fiberous, spiney and glochidy. And any can be used for fruit but
some have larger, sweeter, more tasty tunas with less spines and glochids.
Some can be good for both, or at least passable, but like any rare fruit
with fiends, in the minds of some afficionados that might not be so, so
they grow tuna types for tunas and nopales types for nopales. The glochids
that grow from the areoles are usually removed with a sharp knife cutting
all the areoles off the pads for market or they can be removed with a
flambe torch. In Texas they use flame throwers to remove the spines and
glochids from whole stands of plants so that cattle can eat them in
droughts.

I think that Burbank may have made a number of spineless ones as there are
lots of spineless offspring out there or they just naturally make some
seedlings that are spineless. They probably die out in the wild since they
don't have as much protection but in human habitation areas they are
favored. You can find lots of varieties around the bay area selecting for
color, size, spinelessness and glochidlessness, length of fruiting season,
and growth habit. Among others I think I have three large ones like
Bethalyn's variety on the other side of the hills from her and the two out
in the open often have their branch joints blow up in freezes but the one
under an awning has not shown that problem. That variety has longer pads so
grows taller more quickly and so maybe that has something to do with it's
freeze stress in the weighted joints. The rest of the plant's pads are fine
and don't turn to mush in frost.

The UC Botanic Garden and the Ruth Bancroft Gardens have several varieties
that make lots of huge fruit of various shapes, sizes, colors, and length
of time that the fruit stays on the plants, and with some variety of
growth forms and even stem color. My favorites have palm sized fruit with a
very deep magenta red color when ripe, for juice. Many of the orange or
yellow fruited varieties are very tasty and more fleshy for fresh eating.

The fruit are easiest to harvest with long tongs especially those extra
long types that are used for BBQs. They are easiest to carry in a plastic
bucket. I usually don't eat the magenta ones raw or as fruit as most do
have lots of seeds and not so much flesh. However I do like making herbal
prickly pear mead using local ingredients. They are the first wild fruit I
collected and used when I was a kid back in Texas and then started
collecting various varieties and growing them to see how big I could get
the fruit to go under cultivation. I especially liked making pancake syrup
out of them as it is quite tasty and has a very magenta color that I can't
think of any other fruit having, maybe pokeberries.

To prepare the fruit for use, use shorter tongs to take them out of the
bucket and hold the fruit while cutting it lengthwise twice and then across
the equator so it is in eighths and then put it into a plastic produce bag.
Fill up a bag with around a dozen sliced fruit and then put it into the
freezer. It can stay there for storage or it can be just frozen until solid
so the fruit cells are all lysed. Then they can be taken out and put into a
strainer over a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container to thaw and
drain only by gravity, without pressing, for several hours after it has
fully thawed and stops dripping of its own accord. This first "virgin"
"press" isn't squeezed or pressed so it has no cloudiness in it. This juice
is used to make raw mead, jelly, or syrup. It comes out crystaline magenta
and when the mead from it ages it becomes a rich reddish amber that no
other wine has. The fruit still has plenty of goodies in it and the drained
fruit can be put into the container and water or cherry juice added to
barely cover and simmer, not boil, out the rest of the fruit properties
into the liquid for no more than thirty minutes and then the fruit is
drained and mashed in the strainer to remove the rest of the liquid. This
second juice can also be used for mead, jelly, or syrup. Either the first
or the second juice can be put into ice cube trays, frozen, and then stored
in zip locks frozen until you are ready to use it.

I have never had problems with glochids in raw or cooked fruit for juice.
The first time I cooked it when I was a kid I expected to have to strain it
through an old cloth but I discovered that apparently the glochids dissolve
when the juice is simmered because they had completely disappeared. I
thought it would be a problem with the raw juice too but I haven't found
any glochids in the juice so I never do anything about them.

Prickly Pear Fruit Trees
Most folks don't give much thought to growing prickly pears with as much
TLC as they would their other fruit trees. However there are several things
you can do to to raise your prickly pears special. When you find a variety
you want to add to your orchard try to get at least three preferably four+
continuous pads linked end to end like sausages in as straight a line as
possible with the youngest topmost pad at the end of the growing season so
it is mature. What you are doing is starting with a fully developed trunk
to train your prickly pear tree and have fruit sooner than with a single
pad. Cut the base of the bottom pad from the parent plant at the narrowest
point of the joint and then set it in dry sand upright to give it one to
two weeks to scab over as it can rot if planted with a fresh cut surface.
You can then plant it in a large pot or wine barrel of cactus mix or
directly in the ground where it will grow permanently. When planting it
directly in the ground it should be in full sun and if your soil is rather
clayish you can plant it in the middle of a mound of soil 5+ feet in
diameter and 1-2 feet higher than the surrounding ground for better
drainage in the winter. The bottom half of the bottom pad is submerged in
the soil so it has a large area to develop a strong root system. Stake it
upright and tie it at each joint and the middle of the pads so the whole
length is straight and has support. If the top pad is mature when you make
the bottom cut that might be as early as Aug/Sept to end of October and
rooting will begin soon. While it is still the hot season you may want to
drape a sheet of burlap over some poles as shade on the southwest side of
the trunk so it isn't exposed to so much hot weather until the rainy season
starts. It will usually be well rooted by the first sprouting in the spring.

Watch for the buds coming out along the edges of any of the pads in the
trunk. As long as they are cylindrical buds they will be flowers and fruit
and you can leave those. As they develop if any start to flatten so it is
clear they are going to be pad stems then decide by their position and
future size if you want to allow those to grow. The younger the unwanted
ones are removed the less of a scar they leave and the less energy the tree
expends on that branch. The very top pad is the one you want to allow to
grow especially at the very tip to add to the height of the tree. If the
trunk is the height you want you can let the top pad form at least three or
four equidistant pads propeller style to make the main branches of the
tree-to-be. Usually one pad length is produced each season so you can
estimate the age of a tree by counting backwards from any terminal pad down
the trunk to the base, one pad per year, though, in good years or with lots
of TLC, each new spring pad could mature in the summer with time to produce
another pad length off itself. As the propeller branches develop new pads
each season you keep them pruned so that they arch out from the trunk and
leave open space between the propeller branches so you can walk up to the
trunk between the branches to harvest fruit with easy access without having
thorny branches in your way.

Grafting Opuntias
Another nice thing about growing prickly pears is that you can graft onto
them other varieties of prickly pears. In fact, as far as I know, you can
graft intergenerically throughout the whole Cactus family. There are three
Cactus family tribes, the primitive leafy Pereskias like Barbados
gooseberry, the temporarily leafy Opuntias like prickly pears and chollas,
and the never leafy Cereus - all the rest of the family from saguaro to
dragon fruit and pitayas. As long as you can find a way to line up the
vascular tissue and hold them together while the graft takes you can graft
any of them to each other, usually best in the dormant season. So if your
area works for lack of frost you could graft dragon fruit and Barbados
gooseberry to the top of the prickly pear trunk which could make for an
interesting cocktail tree. When I was a kid there was an old Japanese
gardener in San Antonio who had a curio garden where he had grafted
Christmas cactus and epiphyllums on the top of prickly pear trunks so they
looked like umbrella palms draping off the top of the trunks.

The areole is the dormant bud of any cactus species where the vascular
tissue terminates, so if you want to graft to the prickly pear you can
slice the pad through an areole at the pad edge and insert a wedged scion
of epiphyllum or Christmas cactus and pin it with a cactus spine or two and
give it some shade until healed. If you want to get a better idea of how
the vascular tissue in the pad works you can dissect a sacrificed pad by
skinning it and slicing away the tissue so you can see the skeletal
structure. In most of the Cereus tribe there is a skeletal cylinder of
vascular rods running up the center of the round stem so if you, say, cut a
section of Trichocereus stem so it has a flat bottom you can see the
vascular cylinder in the center of the clean cut tissue and that would be
lined up with the clean cut cylindrical joint of the prickly pear pad
usually held together by rubber bands and cactus spines. Usually some of
the extraneous skin tissue around the vascular cylinder is sliced away so
that the two vascular cylinders can have a tight flat contact. In the
Epiphyllum types the vascular tissue is in the "midrib" of the stem "leaf"
so you make the wedge on the two flat sides of the base. In the Pereskias
the vascular tissue can be treated pretty much like "regular" fruit tree
scions. If you want to graft pp to pp then you can wedge the base of the
scion pad parallel with the flat sides and cut the terminal pad of the
stock plant at it's basal joint and slice a wedge into the cut joint parallel with the stock pad for
the scion wedge and pin it with cactus spines and rubber bands.

Of course if you don't want to go this formal you can just plant single or
multiple pads, cut surface scabbed over and planted vertically, bottom pad
half way into the ground, of whatever selections you want around your
territory and let them grow and then prune them as they get bigger.

I have attached 4 pictures of the Mexican nopales prickly pear, the
variegated type, and a couple good fruit producers. I don't know if they'll
come through OK or not.

Thanks Ken
IMG_2624.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_2624.jpg]
small floppy spineless variety blooming
IMG_5719.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_5719.jpg]
IMG_6515.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_6515.jpg]
tri color ornamental type
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Abe Connally wrote:

I am very familiar with Sotol, and we used the dried stalks for making shade structures and things. You can also train them as they grow to make really neat curved sticks.

But, I had no idea you could eat them. How do they taste, Tyler?


They taste blandly plant-like, certainly nothing to write home about, and they take a long time to cook. Native folks baked them in pits, but we moderns could use slow-cookers or solar ovens. I like to grow them as a potential serious famine food, as they look nothing like food to the average person. But as a day to day staple, they are not a good choice, given other easier, tastier options.
 
Daniel Kaplan
Posts: 15
Location: Adana, Turkey, Zone 9b
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Heffernan wrote:Beware!
Prickly Pear rendered 58 MILLION ACRES UTTERLY UNUSABLE in Australia in the early 19th century, because birds so quickly spread seads everywhere!
Be very careful not to make the solution into THE PROBLEM!


Somewhere I read about burning the spines off and using them as cattle forage during drought. I suppose you'd have to be careful not to torch the whole place but it seems that you could keep them in check that way. Or you could have it as a backup food supply that your livestock wouldn't normally go for. Add another use to the stack.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1318
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
26
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think I will com back and add my "granito de arena", as I am also developping that plant, including sowing. I have seedling from bought seeds. I wantes more varieties.

They do not all like the same exact weather, as I know a variety that grow here only at very low altitude, quite near the sea. I guess they get some humidity from the air? These have veeery long strong spines, and little very purple fruits, almost all year long. They are a tremendous dye.

In the Canary, they also "invaded", but I do not mind being invaded by food!!!

Goats keep them somehow controled, but more over cochinilla...
Here they invade stoney steepy areas, but they do not strangle all other plants.
And they produce a wonderful compost.

Here, dry pads are the best choice for smoking fresh cheese.
 
Lori Ziemba
Posts: 145
Location: Northern California Mediterranean climate zone 10b
books chicken dog forest garden greening the desert urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Steve Farmer wrote:Abe, what about other succulents. Aloe vera seems equally drought tolerant, self propagates by suckers, and has medicinal uses. Not as effective as windbreak or barrier as doesn't grow so tall or spiky, but is much much easier to handle. Agaves?

I'm putting aloes, prickly pears and soon agaves in at my patch where I'm planting trees. Also some other thing (pictured) that looks like a relative of the aloe but is absolutely rampant at propagating itself in the garden. Haen't yet observed how well it handles drought but I suspect it will be pretty good. For me without expert knowledge it's a case of throwing lots of mud and seeing what sticks.



Steve, that's Kalanchoe daigremontiana, Mother of Thousands. It's a neat plant. I grew it outside once here in San Francisco, California. It gets about 2 feet tall, and has small flowers.

Lori
 
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible - Zappa. Tiny ad:
Learn, Design, Teach, & Inspire with Permaculture games.
FoodForestCardGame.com
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!