Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Class August 9 and 17
'Labor Day Monday' September 1 , at 9:30am

      The second of our Summertime harvest season prickly pear classes will be Saturday, August 9, starting at 9:30 am and featuring Chef Eric & Terri Naddy of Tall Order Catering -- Arboretum annual members who also volunteer their time offering culinary presentations.
Each August they rise to the challenge of culinary uses for prickly pear cacti pads and fruit - Saturday morning they will demonstrate how to harvest and de-spine, process and prepare dishes that incorporate healthy native cacti. Best part of all? They'll share a few unique dishes at a sampling session when the informal outdoor class ends around 10:30am. Chef Eric says he'll demonstrate how to make "a salsa with grilled watermelon and prickly pear fruit, and also a traditional posole with smoked nopales." There's no additional fee to attend Prickly Pear classes at BTA, and no pre-registration required; and if you can't join us Saturday, please note that the culinary couple return Aug. 17 to offer this same class on a Sunday ; mark your calendar for our Season Finale on Labor Day Monday September 1 -- and don't miss the town of Superior's Second Annual Prickly Pear Festival

Preview this event on YouTube - Mike Rolfe posted a short feature about the Arboretum's How To Juice Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Class at

    Drive up early, check out the gardens, and get breakfast or lunch in our neighboring town of Superior at the The Buckboard Cafe, nearest of all to the Arboretum.
Some 2,000 Arizonans have graduated from our popular and informal How-To-Juice-A-Prickly-Pear classes over the past few years, learning how to harvest these fruits without your hands becoming a virtual porcupine of painful cactus spines and glochids.. All ages are welcome -- and at the conclusion of the one-hour class we'll serve Prickly Pear Cactus fruit snacks -- such as the smoothies we shared last year with fresh cactus fruit juice, yogurt, bananas, pineapple and ice.

      Many have tried to make prickly pear jelly, only to watch in dismay as their hot summer labor dissolves into an un-gelled pool of sweet-tasting, fuschia-colored goo. Prolific local author Jean Groen knows the solution ("make syrup!") and will share prickly pear preparations Labor Day Monday September 1 . Classes begin at 9:30 am and are included with daily admission of $10. The informal one-hour workshop teaches participants proven ways to pick, prepare, process and preserve these juicy, seasonal fruits of the Sonoran Desert -- and with prickly pear snacks shared when the class ends. (Jean predicts: "nopales and corn salsa, prickly pear lemonade, prickly pear salsa, meatballs in prickly pear BBQ sauce").  Apache Junction author Jean Groen wrote Foods of the Superstitions; she is seen in the photo above -- and twice this summer Jean will explain how to pick, juice, and prepare opuntia fruits -- also describing cactus fruit and their nutritional value before we stroll onto the grounds to demonstrate how to harvest enough pears for a batch of juice or jelly. Back at the Visitor Center participants will learn techniques to remove most of the spines, as well as how to extract the subtle, watermelony-tasting juice from these forbidding fruits. Jean will also discuss prickly pear jelly and other recipes from her book. These cacti are of the Opuntia genus, and we'll share a cool, refreshing, freshly-blended pitcher of prickly pear, banana, yoguty and pineapple juice smoothie!

        Cactus fruits begin to ripen during July and continue through August. Labor Day marks the end of the season and fruits will be harder to find during September. They're simple enough to harvest, in fact countertop juicers work quite well once the fruits are de-spined. Have you sipped a prickly pear margarita or sampled the sweet cactus candy made by Tucson-based Cheri's Desert Harvest? Then you already know there's nothing which quite compares to the magenta color and hard-to-describe taste of juice from the prickly pear cacti fruits common at this elevation, and ripe during August.

        The image at right above shows Arizona State Parks Volunteer Robert Lewis demonstrating the juicing process. Prickly pears are an excellent choice as a landscape plant throughout Maricopa, Pinal, Gila and Pima Counties, and they thrive throughout the Sonoran Desert. Please keep in mind that a permit is required to harvest prickly pear fruit, or any other materials, from public lands, and you must always seek permission before picking fruit from plants that aren't on your own property. If you're interested in recipes using prickly pear juice we suggest "Even Cowboys Like Prickly Pear" by Jean Groen, and also "The Prickly Pear Cookbook" and also "American Indian Cooking" by Carolyn Niethammer or "Gathering the Desert" by Gary Paul Nabhan. These are available in our bookstore, where you'll also find pure condensed prickly pear syrup made by Cheri's Desert Harvest of Tucson.

       Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located 55 miles due East of Phoenix via highways 60, right near milepost #223 as you approach the historic copper mining town of Superior. For other directions or details call 520.689.2811