Barrel cactus fruit are one of my favorites foraged foods. Barrel cactus fruit are easy to pick, plentiful, and even a beginner will be successful! Plus barrel fruit are one thing you can find and forage in almost any month of the year.
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Which one are Barrel Cactus?
Just in case you are new here – 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 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 seed comes out easily.
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. While I mostly dry seed, I also dry some fruit for a lemony taste to iced tea. Moderation is key.
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 keep a number untoasted and throw them in when I cook rice, quinnoa, or amaranth.
I like to make an assembly line. First I cut off all the tops. Next I go and cut all fruits open. Last I go through and scoop out 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.
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More cooking and using Southwestern products in Chapter Five of Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon. If you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.
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