The central Arizona town of Superior is getting into the desert spirit with their first Prickly Pear Festival on August 25. They will beat the heat by starting early at 6:30 a.m. with a guided desert walk, followed by an pancake breakfast (just a base for prickly pear syrup!) from 8 to 9:30. At 9 a.m. , just 25 lucky participants will join Pete Rendek to learn how to brew prickly pear pale ale.
Those particpants not in the ale class can join Jean Groen and me for demonstrations on making prickly pear juice and other delicious goodies with prickly pear starting at 10 a.m. in the air-conditioned Senior Center. Jean, a graduate home economist, teaches a popular series of classes at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. She is the author of “Plants of the Sonoran Desert and Their Many Uses,” and “Foods of the Superstitions, Old and New.”
Other vendors will be offering prickly pear products including Cheri from Cheri’s Desert Harvest with her delicious syrups, jams and candies. The Chocolate Lady will bring chocolate prickly pear truffles (can’t wait for those) and restaurants in town will feature special prickly pear dishes.
Jean recently had one of her recipes using prickly pear pads (nopalitos) printed in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. What an honor. You know when nopalitos make it into a magazine like BH&G, that they are making their way into the national consciousness. Jean has shared the recipe with us below.
1 ½ c. peeled and chopped tomatoes.
½ c. chopped onions
½ c. tomato sauce
1/3 c. minced cilantro
½ c. canned, rinsed, drained, chopped nopalitos (or use fresh)
1/3 c. pickled jalapenos, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp. grated lime peel
¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce
4 ½ c. sugar
¾ c. water
1 box pectin
Squeeze tomatoes to remove juice and seed before chopping. Mix first 9 ingredients. Stir well and let set for 10 minutes. Combine water and pectin in saucepan. Bring to boil on high. Boil for 1 minute. Pour into the vegetable mixture. Stir 3 minutes. Put in containers and store in freezer.
Serve over cream cheese with crackers.
For more recipes for prickly pear, check out The Prickly Pear Cookbook and Cooking the Wild Southwest. Both books give complete information on harvesting and preparing both the pads and fruit of the prickly pear as well as turning them into delicious dishes your family and guests will love.