Friday, November 07, 2008

prickly pear picking, part II

Cognitive Daily summarized research indicating that alliteration enhances memory. So "she sells sea shells by the sea shore" is easier to recall, than, say, e.e. cummings, "it is at moments after i have dreamed" or Emily Dickenson's "A narrow fellow in the grass."

With that in mind, I am hoping my readers haven't forgotten my post way back when on plans to pick prickly pears.

Pick them I did on the trail above. And two days later, no, two weeks later, I was still picking. Prickles. From my fingers. (You knew this was coming). And my hand. Especially that soft, fleshy area at the base of my thumb. And other parts of my anatomy I'd rather not put out there in the public domain. Those little bastards were turning up everywhere. So I will begin in order of necessity.
My list for post prickly pear picking:

1. a good pair of tweezers
2. a pair of high magnification reading glasses for seeing and grabbing those little skin sticking suckers.

I was given advice to wear thick gloves. I did, my first trip. Bad idea. My suggestion - make it your goal to have no hand-to-pear contact. Gloves or no.

Here's my experience tested prickly pear picking supply list:

1. a pair of metal tongs
2. a bucket
3. a metal or otherwise hard, flat cutting surface (I used a cookie sheet)
4. a knife to cut the pear open lengthwise
5. a thin edged spoon to scoop out the seeds and fleshy pulp
6. a strainer of some kind
7. teenager with a strong back and a penchant for mashing

I used a colander for jelly straining. Or, well, my able bodied teenage assistant did.

I also used a simple metal strainer, squooshing the seeds and pulp with a spoon.

Wooden cutting boards? Another bad idea. They capture and spread the prickles around. Unless you are cultivating a passive-aggressive plan to get even with your spouse or harbor a masochistic desire to hear him grouse about stickers in his hands for weeks afterward, do not lay your prickly pears on a wooden surface, like so:

That's a picture of my kitchen island. It has a cutting board top. Kitchen-central at our house, we wheel it around and use it for everything: food prep, dinner plate set up, homework checking. Burrowed down in the wood, those little prickly suckers enjoy an effective half-life of for-focking-ever. Take my word for it.
I did follow Rachel's advice on freezing the pods. I now have a dedicated bucket in my freezer. Can take out two or three at a time as (my blood alcohol level wanes) needed.

Burning the prickles off before handling works well, too. I heard of this method from two sources. The first was a friend who, years ago, was in the Peace Corps in Senegal. She recalled native children bringing her cactus bulb prepared this way. The second source was my mother-in-law who grew up in the Texas Hill Country. During drought conditions, she and her siblings (all nine of them) used to burn the prickles off the cactus in small bonfires and feed them to their livestock.

So I tried the burning method. With my tongs, I held a pear above my gas burner flame. Spore by spore they lit up in teeny little sparkles and burnt away. Worked great. A bit time consuming but made for easier handling later. Which, a few margaritas into the project, was appreciated.

So back to the fruit I picked. Or, the fruit of my efforts: a deliciously dark fuscia pink margarita, which, prickles not withstanding, was damned worth it!

And not a bad way to toast our new President-elect!


How will you all be celebrating this wonderful weekend in November?


Mental P Mama said...

That is funny. Well, to me it is;) Cheers!

Magpie said...

Huh. Who'd a thunk it? I have never heard of such a thing.

As to celebrating? I am having a birthday party tomorrow at 4, for my child who is turning five. I have not done one thing. Please shoot me.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I am so impressed. And thirsty.

I'm craving some mulled cider, as the rain is really coming down.

bernthis said...

I would just like to add that similar precautions should be taken when trimming your rose bushes that your gardner deems "fine" and yet are now taller than your dear friend who is 6 FEET.

HP said...

Admiration for all the trouble you went to, CY. I hope it was worth it!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Celebrating my BIL's 40th birthday-no prickly pear margaritas on the menu I fear.

flutter said...

yum, and ouch, and yum!

shrink on the couch said...

mental p -- I found it funny for the first couple of days. Then it got really annoying!

magpie -- I hadn't heard about it until I went to San Antonio in the spring. Living here for years and years, so many missed prickly pears.

lisa -- Now what exactly is "mulled" cider? Heated? It does sound perfect for a rainy day.

bernthis -- I bet those stickers really hurt! Buy I could sure find my way to enjoying a 6ft tall rose bush!

hp -- worth every slurp!

jenn -- happy birthday to your BIL .. wish I could ship you some rita's

flutter -- yes, that exactly!

Vodka Mom said...

YES, I DO remember the prickly pear post! I am SO impressed by your follow-through! I know what you mean about those damn needles. I have come cactus in my garden, and every year when I am weeding I have those things in my finger for DAYS. You'd THINK I'd learn.

I'll be right over for the drink!!!

katydidnot said...

i have never heard of this activity. but the margarita looks good.

Nora said...

I love that you have a kitchen island (my life will complete when I have one), and I'm very impressed that you Pick Prickly Pears.

Mels Place in Big Bear said...

Okay, so in my mind, I get the whole picking, gardening, raising animals, making it happen by the fruit of your labor thing. But in my heart, it sounds like HELL. So if ever I visit Austin again, can I just come by for a margarita and you can have done all the work and I can just live up to my lazy LA namesake?

AnnD said...

LOL! It cracks me up you have now devoted two blog posts to prickly pear picking! As I was reading through your post, I kept thinking: "Why does she even bother with the little buggers than?!" But, if you say it's worth ALL of that...then it must be. I just can't imagine a food product being worth all of that that's NOT chocolate.

shrink on the couch said...

vodkamom -- frosty one with your name on it

katydidnot -- it is oh so good

norabee -- my husband built the island. butcher block table top. its wonderful. one day it will even have shelves. it hasn't grown up completely, yet.

andrea -- the last two batches I emerged a sticker-free so its gotten easier. but yes, will have a frosty rita waiting for your next Austin trip, which I hope is soon!

annd -- the deep blackberry color of the inside of the prickly pear tells me its super nutritious. so it offers something almost as good as chocolate.

Minnesota Matron said...

Ouch! Pretty table and bowl!

JCK said...

Yowza that's a high price to pay for a drink. OUCH! But, I can taste it...

shrink on the couch said...

minn matron -- thanks! its actually a highball glass. not that I haven't drank rita's out of a bowl before.

jck -- I have simplified the process to the point where "look Ma, no stickers."

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