We went to the Desert Museum this past Saturday evening and I couldn’t resist the beautiful, deep, rich color of this prickly pear tuna.
Here are a few fun facts about prickly pear cactus.
In 1995 it was designated the official state plant of Texas.
The prickly pear has been part of the Arizona diet for around 8,000 years.
The fruit is called tuna.
The tender young pads are called nopalitos.
The low glycemic value helps control diabetes and high cholesterol. (There are some health benefits drinking those prickly pear margaritas).
The ripe, juicy tunas will create a thick syrup, jellies or a frothy nectar.
If you have a desert tortoise in your backyard, they love to eat this fruit.
Carolyn Niethammer has written a book with delicious recipes.
It’s more than a cookbook. Carolyn discusses the history, uses and health benefits of this desert mini-mart. She will walk you through how to prepare the tunas and the nopalitos. You can order your own copy by clicking on the book above and the link will take you to Amazon.
The Sonoran Desert may seem barren to newcomers. It is filled with foods to eat not only for the critters but for generations of Native People. When the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui consumed this food, diabetes was not part of their culture. Today we are all trying to get back to eating seasonal, healthy food. If you aren’t up to making your own, you can purchase prickly pear juice, jellies, candy and more at our local farmers markets and grocery stores. Many gift shops sell it too. Enjoy!