Photo by: Andy Sams
It’s time to harvest and process the gorgeous magenta-colored fruits of the prickly pear cactus and the hot pink wild plums. Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t bother with the prickly pear tunas because it seems like a lot of work. Here’s a little secret: if you’re simply interested in using the fruits to make juice, don’t worry about removing the thorns and glochids before you process them. All you need to do is pick the fruits with tongs, throw them into your bucket or bag, and then dump them, thorns, skins and all, into a big pot on your stove. Add enough water to cover the fruits and bring to a boil. Simmer the fruit for 15 to 25 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Mash the fruit with a potato masher and then pour the mixture through a jelly bag. You’ll have some gorgeous prickly pear juice ready to sweeten (if desired) and use in a variety of dishes. To make things even easier, though possibly a bit more rustic, just toss the fruits into a blender or food processor with some water, pulse for a few seconds, and then pour through a jelly bag. Boiling the fruits before juicing them might help to release a bit more juice, but it isn’t necessary.
One of the easiest ways to use the Mexican plum is by pulping them, and then using the pulp to make breads, muffins, sauces, wines or anything else you can think of out of plum pulp. Simply wash the plums, throw them into a food mill or cone sieve and mash out the pulp. Once you’ve pushed as much of the pulp through as possible, there will still be some pulp stuck to the pits and skin. You can throw it all into a saucepan, add a little water and simmer for several minutes to make plum juice for plum jelly.