Today’s post is by Jacqueline A. Soule.
Back in November 2014, I introduced you to the pleasures of using barrel cactus fruits (Lovely and Lemony – Barrel Cactus Fruit), and I think it is time to revisit the topic.
Barrel cactus is the generic term for a number of species of large barrel-shaped cacti. The one with the most edible of fruit is the fish hook or compass barrel (Ferocactus wizlizenii).
This species of barrel cactus is unlike many other species of cacti in that it often blooms two or even three times per year, thus providing you, the harvester, with ample fruits, often several times a year.
You can eat the lemony flavored fruit, but only in moderation. Fruit is high in oxalic acid, which can be hard on human systems. But the seeds are just fine to consume in quantity. They are the size, texture and taste of poppy seeds and can be used anywhere you use poppy seeds. They can also be cooked in with quinnoa or amaranth, or even eaten alone.
Barrel cactus seed are very simple to harvest in quantity because the seeds are easily removed from the fruit.
The average barrel cactus has 12 to 24 fruits ripe at once (unless the animals have been busy). 24 fruits yield roughly 1/4 cup of seed.
Prepare. (10 minutes for 24 fruit).
Rinse the fruits. This does two things. First, this removes dust and contaminants (bird droppings etc.). Second, the water softens the former flower petals on the top of the fruit, rendering them gentler on tender fingers as you process them.
Cut tops off the fruits. The seed filled chamber is surprisingly far down away from the flower petals.
Cut fruits in half.
Scoop seeds into a terra cotta saucer. Leave them 24 hours to dry. This will help dry any bits of flesh clinging to them before you store them. Alternatively you can put them right onto a baking sheet to toast them if you want to use them toasted. I also keep a number untoasted and throw them in when I cook quinnoa or amaranth.
I like to make an assembly line and cut all tops off first, then cut all fruits open, then scoop all the seed. Why? because the seeds inside the fruit may be gummed together and you want to leave the seed scooping to last, else you get sticky seeds everywhere and lose a portion of your crop all over everything.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my many free lectures. Look for me at many branches of the Pima County Library, or possibly Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, and more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, (due out in September 2016) “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).