Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Class Season Finale
'Labor Day Monday' September 2 , at 10:30am

      Many have tried to make prickly pear jelly, only to watch in dismay as their labors dissolve into an un-gelled puddle of sweet-tasting, fuschia-colored goo. Prolific local author Jean Groen will make a fresh batch of prickly pear jelly right before your eyes Labor Day Monday during our 'season finale' prickly pear cactus fruit class, which begins at 10:30 am and is 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.
Preview this event on YouTube - Mike Rolfe posted a short feature about the Arboretum's How To Juice Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Class at

As an added bonus of the Labor Day Prickly Pear cactus fruit class
, Jean will share "the dos and dont's" she has learned over the past decade experimenting with cactus fruit jelly and perfecting recipes. The best part? At the end of this informal class Jean and her prickly pear pickin' accomplice Robert Lewis share fresh juice and a variety of desert edibles made from the pads and fruit of opuntia cacti.

    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, which will be open especially for Labor Day weekend travlers and offers an Arboretum-specific discount.
Ask for "the prickly pear special" over Labor Day weekend for a buy-one-get-one-half-price deal on breakfast or lunch entrees from 6:00am til 2:00 p.m. Editor's note: regular hours at the Buckboard are Wednesday-Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
And mark your calendar for August 2014 -- don't miss the town of Superior's Second Annual Prickly Pear Festival

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.

        Apache Junction author Jean Groen wrote Foods of the Superstitions; she is seen in the photo at right -- and on four dates 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 commercial 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 left 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 "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