Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems

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Prickly pear processing, South Tucson, AZ

The Prescott College 2012 Agroecology of the Arid Southwest course visited the Arizona Cactus Ranch near Green Valley, AZ earlier this summer and instructor Rebekah Doyle graciously invited me to tag along.

Prickly pear, Oputina engelmanii, is an amazing cactus plant. It is not listed in National Geographic’s “Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants“, but I assure you both the fruits (Spanish: tunas) and pads (Spanish: nopales) edible! I just bought Carolyn Niethammer’s “Prickly Pear Cookbook” and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes. There has been some interesting research on the health benefits of multiple prickly pear species extracts related to cancer, cell damage,  and diabetes.

Wearing “snake legs” because rattlesnakes love to eat the rodents that hoard the prickly pear seeds right under the plants.

Prickly pear fruit

RoyDan was brave enough to peel the fruits, I was too scared to touch them

Looking more delicious with the glochids removed, thanks RoyDan!

Sam loading the truck

Kevin rocking a hair net at the prickly pear processing facility

Me, not so much rocking the hair net