On Saturday we had the pleasure of joining some friends (a fun-loving, outdoorsy couple who just happen to both be named Danny) in the beautiful Pedernales Falls State Park. Well-worn hiking trails ramble about the 5,211.7 acres, shaded by oaks, juniper, walnut and sycamore. The focal point of the park is the clear, spring-fed Pedernales River which winds lazily over smoothly sloped limestone. Though the graceful and inviting pools of the falls are closed to swimmers, we did manage a good soak downstream, beating the heat of the day in cool, emerald river-water.
As we made our way back to the car, sunbaked and loose-limbed, Jacob suddenly bounding off the trail yelping, “Prickly pear!” Indeed, the paddle cactus, or more accurately “Opuntia”, have now begun to sport what look like plump burgundy crowns. There was no stopping this wild forager (oh gods of the park, I beg forgiveness for this sacrilege), who despite prickled fingers managed to pick about a dozen into a handy frisbee. I had difficulty arguing when my little poacher revealed the intended destination of his loot: margaritas.
As we soon discovered, there is something of an art to dealing with this particular fruit. Often found in stores under the bewildering name “tuna”, or less frequently “cactus figs”, the fruit is generally de-prickled. Tiny, hairlike spines burst on all sides from the hard “eyes” of the “tuna”. These glochids are awful enough stuck in tender fingertips, but just imagining them lodged in ones throat or stomach is enough to engender a healthy respect. To safely remove these little buggers, you may burn them off by rotating the fruit over a flame, or rub the fruit down in a suitable gritty medium…like the ever abundant Texas sand.
After a quick lesson in “tuna” handling, we were soon enjoying the satisfying whir of the blender and marveling at the deep fuschia hue of the juice. The flavor of prickly pear is reminiscent of cucumber in its subtlety, though slightly more fruity and sweet. A lovely weekend concluded with the two of us swaying gently in our hammock, sipping on the flushed results of a good days plunder.
Prickly Pear Margaritas
- ½ cup prickly pear juice
- 2 ½ shots Tequila
- 2 ½ shots Triple Sec
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 ½ Tbsp. sugar
- 1-2 cups ice
Wash and de-spine prickly pears. Trim off the top and bottom. Depending on the fruit, you may either make a ¼ inch incision along its length and peel off the skin, or slice the fruit in half and scoop out the pulp. There appear to be several camps of thought on the seeds of the prickly pear, and again this likely depends on the fruit. After one bite test, we determined the seeds to be too hard to leave in and consequently milled out the pulp and juice using a sieve and pestle.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and frappe until smooth, or combine in a shaker and serve over ice.