Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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Local Produce

Local-grown produce... all from our neighbors

Local-grown produce... all from our neighbors

   Some of us neighbors get together and exchange veggies. Even though most of us are from inside the canyon, there are many local micro-climates that favor one fruit/vegetable over another and enable that family to grow something that might be difficult for some of the other folks.
   Here’s some of the veggies we got last week. All grown by neighbors.
   The real find is those Palestine sweet limes…. they are not limey at all.. they have a very delicate flavor….. I want to grow some for myself.

 

Local produce grown by the neighbors
 Clockwise from High noon… avocado, tomatoes, Palestine sweet lime, squash and portobello mushrooms.

 

Roasting peppers

Roasting peppers

    We roasted some Anaheim peppers for supper…
first you have to remove the skin….
you roast them to boil and blister the skin…..

Scraping roasted peppers

Scraping roasted peppers

 Let them cool enough so you can handle them easily….
and the skin will then peel easily from the fruit with a butter knife.
You then have to split them open, and scrape out the seeds inside…
then chop ‘em up and set them into the bowl to finish cooking…

 

cactus, mushrooms and peppers in skillet
cactus, mushrooms and peppers in skillet

In the end we fried the peppers, some cactus, onions, and mushrooms all together in olive oil.
Add some spices… and you’ve got a pretty decent meal that’s really nutritious.
   Something like this is good over rice…

Carne Asada Tacos con Nopales salsa

Carolyn of Southern California makes Carne Asada Tacos from ‘flapsteak’ with a salsa made from nopal cactus.

She recommends using the canned/jarred cactus… ours are fresh, and also can be eaten raw chopped directly into the salsa….

I will appreciate the thornless robusta plant

   Most folks who get our cactus are pretty pleased with it. We enjoy getting positive comments… it keeps us and the cactus happy!

   Here’s a letter from some folks who purchased leaves for planting, and some for eating, as well as the cactus fruits (called ‘tuna‘ in Spanish) that we were selling until the season recently ended.

 

John and Vickie,

Thanks for the huge cactus pads!

And thanks for the tuna fruits! The orange tuna were delicious, even the rinds were good. The robusta fruit was pleasant and similar to some of the wild thorny cactuses I sampled this summer. I will appreciate the thornless robusta plant (!) and look forward to the nopales and to finding ways to use the fruits.

L

Tomato and Cactus Stew

Ingredients for cactus stew

Ingredients for cactus stew

   This meal was extra cheap… we grew all the ingredients except the canned corn and black beans, and the spices and olive oil.

   It costs us perhaps $2 for the whole meal, which can serve four with some to spare.

   Growing a small portion of your own food is not that hard if you have just a bit of good space (with sun, water and a suitable soil).

   Our son moved to Los Angeles some years ago…. moving him in I brought some potatoes for him to plant… he dismissed the idea…. ‘People in LA don’t grow vegetables’ he said. And pretty much, he’s right. We’ve got people on food stamps, that have no idea that a meal comes from the ground…. that foods are not grown in packages ready to pop into the microwave oven.  In general, people have grown to be too far apart from their food supply….. and the natural laziness of humans makes it easier to sit around popping prepared ‘foods’ into appliances, rather than preparing from scratch… as long as the food keeps coming, gratification is sustained, and the need to go and scratch in the dirt growing good and healthy foods is discounted.

Ingredients for cactus stew chopped and cooking

Ingredients for cactus stew chopped and cooking

Here’s those same fresh ingredients (picked just moments before cooking)
chopped and in the frying pan.

I don’t follow recipes explicitly… I mean,
I don’t always have all the ingredients listed on recipes… who does?

It is my way to roam through the cupboards as I’ve roamed through life…
picking and choosing what I wanted right then and there…
usually what is in front of me does OK in a pinch.
It pays to not be too choosy all the time.. because the world is full of good stuff….
don’t pass by the good around you while you seek for ‘the best’.

tomato and cactus stew

tomato and cactus stew

 

This is how the tomato and cactus stew turned out.
The ingredients don’t have to be adhered to like a formula…
experiment, try different things, and spices.

 

I list the ingredients here not by quantity….
and do know that none of these have to be adhered to as a matter of dogma
substitution is  a proper way to approach cooking…
maybe even life

 

Tomato and Cactus Stew

Cactus leaves
peppers
tomatoes
Onions and Garlic
other vegetables

chop and fry gently in Olive Oil

add spices… for this I used:
Cumin
Cajun Seasoning
Paprika
Curry
Salt
Black Pepper

 

See? Cooking doesn’t have to be complex or hard…..
I’ve never met a great home cook (Like my Mom or Grandma)
who followed recipes exactly ALL the time
(there are times you must, don’t worry about them now).

My Granny could not pass on recipes well….
her quantities were in her head,
and matched the number of plates she expected to fill.

Maybe it’s a bit like weeding….
don’t sweat the small stuff,
cause there’s enough to do as it is anyway.

I’m a bit of a peasant actually…..
I’ll usually choose the coarse and simple for the elegant and refined.
Coarse and simple survives where I live,
‘elegant and refined’ gathers dust and rust…
I can’t use them, and in time they lose their shine,
and look sadder than the simple durable things near them.

 

And dang, was that a good meal…

Mmm, I love them French-fried Putadus

   Yeah, I do like fried foods, and I eat fried foods several times most weeks. Sure, it’s not supposed to be good for you, but we use olive oil for most of our cooking, and so it’s fried instead of some other cooking method… either way you’re destroying good life in the food by cooking. But to tell the truth, I just love the taste of fried potatoes, so we chop whatever we’ve got growing into the pan with our ‘taters.  Lately we’ve been eating a bit of squash.  We’ve got our peppers just starting to ripen now… and I ate our first red tomato yesterday. Now as we start the slide down into fall as summer passes on, we’ll be getting some of the food that’s been growing on the hillside all summer. What I’m really anxious for is the Jerusalem artichokes. But we have to wait until the wintertime for them. They are a root crop that gets killed down by the frost in winter… that moves all the sugars down into the roots for storage over the winter. Yep, I won’t be eating any of them until Christmastime.

 

   Here’s a photo of my favorite frying pan loaded with potatoes, and some chopped cactus tossed onto the top just as the taters are finishing up.  BTW, we bought that pan almost twenty-five years ago. Stuff sticks to it some…. but I like a big huge heavy pan like that.

 

fried cactus

fried cactus

 

Yummy stuff.

Rawman’s Pineapple and Mango Salsa Recipe

   Yes, there are foods that compliment one another very well…. it’s funny, but often when you see these delightful combinations, you also might find that the foods compliment one another from a nutritional standpoint also… perhaps one of the foods has an acid that permits your body to fully process the otherwise ‘bound’ nutrients it contains.  It’s these little chemical reactions and interactions that make up the huge web of life… each person is a conglomerate of cells, each living for itself, but in so doing it serves the greater body.

   In some ways, the interactions of persons is much the same… we all all small units, self-concerned… but as long as we function in certain ways, we do more good for the greater community and society than harm we cause.  When cells go renegade we call them ‘cancer’…

 

    There’s a fellow called ‘Rawman’ who likes to popularize raw foods.  His blog has a lot of interesting posts…. one recent I liked is his ‘Rawman’s mango and pineapple salsa.  It seems to me that those two ingredients would compliment one another quite nicely.

 

   I’ll probably be making this salsa soon… I’ll post on it. When I make it, I’ll probablyadd my own touches I enjoy…. I’ll add our diced fresh nopal cactus, some diced fresh tomatoes, some fresh garlic, some corn and black beans…. (the beans and corn will come from a can, so not technically ‘raw’).  It occurs to me that this might also be good as part of a cous-cous dish…. yes, again cooked in most instances.  But some cooked grains added to raw salsa such as that sounds good. I think some added dates would be good in that instance.  And of course the cous-cous would have an additional big drenching of good olive oil.

 

   Yep, eating is good… I like it quite a bit….. and it shows LOL

Corn Salsa Recipe

I came upon a salsa recipe that reminds me much of my own cactus salsa recipe

This one uses corn and avocados.

I came upon it here.

 

  • 3 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed

  • 2 avocados – peeled, pitted, and cubed

  • 1 red onion, finely diced

  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

  • salt and black pepper to taste

  • one quarter pound diced nopal cactus

  • one can black beans

  • one batch of diced pine nuts

  • one batch of sunflower seeds

 

   OK, I modified the recipe just a wee bit…
I wanted to add the cactus we include with so much food here,
and I wanted to include the black beans that we add to our salsas.

Cactus Fruit Eating Adventure

   There are some 400 species of cactus in the genus ‘Opuntia’.  Pretty much all of them have fruit…. some of the fruit is not that good, and not worth eating. some is exceptionally sweet, and totally delicious (although you must be aware of the seeds).

 

 

   Here’s a video of a woman in New York (get a rope!) who purchased some cactus fruit at her local store, took it home and tried eating it.

 

 

   She was gloriously unimpressed.

 

 

   I think part of it may be with the way she cut into it…. the rind is NOT what you want to eat…. that’s like taking a slice of banana with the peel, eating it, and deciding you don’t like bananas.

 

 

   I know the folks who probably grew that fruit. They are a fellow California cactus company that DOMINATES the cactus-fruit market in the USA.  I’ve eaten their fruits and found them to be a good variety, of high quality. Although I did notice the fruit she picked seemed a little old.

 

 

   I think this lady should watch my video on how to peel a cactus fruit, then she could try it again…. the cactus fruit season is just around the corner!

 

 

 

Sauteed Cactus Recipe

mmMMMmmm Good!

 

   This recipe reminds me of a  friend of mine. He wanted to have a wife schooled in ‘The Old Ways’, so he went  down to Mexico and got himself a wife from his parent’s native village and brought her here to The States.  Ten years ago she knew no English…. now she can converse pretty well in both languages.  I went by their house one day, and they’d just settled down to a big bowl of sauteed cactus much like this recipe. 

 

   He had the biggest smile on his face when he saw me come in the door… he was so happy and proud to show me that his wife knew all about eating cactus, made him cactus meals nearly daily, and even cared enough to serve the meals in their clear bowls, so you could see all the bright colors of the various ingredients showing from all directions.

 

   Yes, this meal will make a brilliant display of greens, whites and reds and yellows.  

Sautéed Edible Cactus, Peppers, and Corn

Recipe Summary

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Number of servings: 4

Ingredients

 

 

  •  
    • 1 large red bell pepper

    • 1 large green bell pepper

    • 1 large onion

    • 1 Tbsp trans-fat free butter

    • 4 small ears of small summer corn

    • 1/2 lb fresh, firm edible cactus, with spines removed, cut in 1/4- to 1/2-inch diced pieces

    • finely minced cilantro or parsley

 

Directions

 

Halve peppers; then remove seeds and stems. Cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch squares. Cut onions the same size. Cook peppers and corn in butter in a heavy pan over moderate heat until just softened.

Remove husks and silk from corn; then cut from cob. Add edible cactus and corn to peppers and onion; stir over high heat until vegetables are cooked through, but firm-tender, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with herbs and serve hot.

Sautéed Edible Cactus, Peppers, and Corn
Serving Size 1/4 of recipe
Amount Per Serving 
Calories 180 Calories from Fat 35
 
% Daily Value (DV)* 
Total Fat 4g 6%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 30mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 31g 10%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 8g  
Protein 5g  
Vitamin A 70%
Vitamin C 260%
Calcium 10%
Iron 8%
   
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

 

  You can find the original recipe with the ‘Diabetic Exchanges’ and the nutrients at Walgreens.

 

   I substitute olive oil for the butter… I’m an olive oil fanatic.  

   You can see how totally healthy this meal is…. and it is the common meal that peoples in the Americas would have eaten a thousand years ago. The bodies of the Native Americans were adapted to this low-fat high-nutrition diet…. it is the diet that all peoples should return to…. it is much healthier, and dang, it just plain tastes great!

NPR and Cactus

      We were interviewed on NPR about our cactus in 1999. 

Now we have found out they have once again done an article on edible cactus. 

You can listen to the article here.