Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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Cactus Smoothie

A customer wrote to tell us how much she likes our edible cactus….


 I do have to say that this is the best cactus I’ve ever had!
My favorite is eating it raw with some lime and salt.
I also have a smoothie every morning
with orange juice, cactus, celery, parsley and pineapple.



La memoria inmòvil

Fine Art black and white cactus images by French photographer Philippe Perrin. Taken in Mexican deserts. As part of the book ‘La memoria inmòvil’ that will be soon published in Mexico
info. email: photoandfashionstudio@gmail.com

Door of the Morning Mist


“For that which is boundless in you
abides in the mansion of the sky,
whose door is the morning mist,
and whose windows
are the songs and the silences of night”


~Kahlil Gibran~


Mists of the forests approach the cactus


On Houses
 Kahlil Gibran


Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness
ere you build a house within the city walls.
For even as you have home-comings in your twilight,
so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
Your house is your larger body.
It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night;
and it is not dreamless.
Does not your house dream?
and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top?

Would that I could gather your houses into my hand,
and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.
Would the valleys were your streets,
and the green paths your alleys,
that you might seek one another through vineyards,
and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.
But these things are not yet to be. 
In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together.
And that fear shall endure a little longer.
A little longer shall your city walls
separate your hearths from your fields.
And tell me, people of Orphalese,
what have you in these houses?
And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Have you peace,
the quiet urge that reveals your power?
Have you remembrances,
the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?
Have you beauty,
that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?
Tell me, have you these in your houses?
Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort,
that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest,
and then becomes a host and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer,
and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.
Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.
It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed
and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.
It makes mock of your sound senses,
and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.
Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul,
and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest,
you shall not be trapped nor tamed.
Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound,
but an eyelid that guards the eye.
You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors,
nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling,
nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.
You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
And though of magnificence and splendour,
your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.
For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky,
whose door is the morning mist,
and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night 




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…

A Walk In The Cactus

   I took a walk about the place this morning, taking photos of some of the cactus growing here.
   We don’t actively sell all of the plants in our collection… but we’re always willing to negotiate the purchase of a plant or more if someone wants to explore the possibilities.

    Not all states allow cactus into them without a special inspection for which the state of California charges dearly.
   Some states allow cactus that has no roots… so for those states we can take cuttings of some of the plants… this may make it easier, or more possible, and cheaper to ship.
   Some of our plants, such as the agave and aloe have to be sent with roots, so we wash them, and prepare them for shipment carefully.

   You can see our cactus plant catalog at http://www.rivenrock.com/catalog2.html

   The National Plant Board Rules and Regulations is also a good place to check on importation info for your state.

   You can see that this section of our garden is very wild and rangy. we water a few times a year only, and we don’t worry too much about annual grasses and forbs.   I think that a mono-culture is in essence a bad thing… it leads to soil-chemical/nutrient imbalances, easy pest-proliferation and a less diverse plant community that helps shield against these things. So we allow the weeds to grow… we mow and weedwack,  the chickens eat much also, and scratch the ground killing many of the weeds. By winter-time the weeds have been trimmed or knocked down to where they are by then only a mulch on the ground. As the winter rains fall and stimulate the new weed seeds to growth, the mulch will help to shield them from the elements… it will then rot into the soil in the next year or so. This continual recycling of nutrients is a good thing for your soil.

Sunset From the Cactus Patch

sunset from the cactus patch

Sunset from the cactus patch….
Our cactus  have a good view….
We live further down the hill….
We don’t have the same view our cactus have.

You can see from this photo that we are on a South-Facing hillside.
In general south-facing hillsides are a good place for plants. They tend to be free of the shadow of other plants…
so plants will often have a much higher growth rate, as long as moisture and feed issues are good.

On the other hand (proving there are many variables in agriculture),
we know that quite often for fruiting orchards, north-facing hillsides are preferred.
This is so that the trees will get more winter cold, and delayed warming and flowering in the spring.
Early blooming on a south-facing hillside makes the tender sprouts and flowers susceptible to a late frost. So delaying blooming time by keeping the trees in the shade of a hill in the spring often saves a crop.

For us, the full sun of the southern exposure is the preference of the cactus. They like all the sun they can get. We can space them a bit tight, yet they all still get a full sun exposure to the south since they are raised above the other plants to the south of them. Yet they still shade the ground of the plants to their north, thereby reducing soil evaporation, and keeping the soil cool. Much of the soil in our cactus patches hardly ever gets a shaft of light…. almost all of the photons from the sun are all caught by the plants… converting sunshine, carbon dioxide and water/foods to sugars in the process of photosynthesis… using a mechanism called CAM that is particular to succulents such as cactus, sedums, euphorbias, and others.




Occupational Hazard on a Cactus Farm

Occupational Hazard

   As I walked I was getting an occasional tiny poke on the sole of my foot. Eventually I took my shoe off to see what the problem was.

   Imagine my surprise… now… how’d I get a cactus sticker in my shoe?



   This is very embarrassing…
as a professional I am not supposed to step on cactus spines.


  “Twenty years a Cowboy, and never stepped in manure yet”
~Western saying

  I should always wear my PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)… which in this case would be my boots. This spine would not have gone through that hard sole.  And the steel toes have saved my skin and bones at least twice that I can recall…. but they were both on the same foot…. so if I HAD sawn my toes off the first time.. they would not have been there to get smashed by a big load ten years later.  In both cases I suffered no damage or pain…. both the saw and the heavy load stopped at my steel toes and saved me.

   Always wear your safety gear…. it’s sometimes inconvenient and often uncomfortable… but it’s better than losing parts of yourself… or getting parts poked and torn.  The toes you save may be your own :-)


Linton Kwesi Johnson

Cause when the music met I-Tops…
I felt the sting… knew the shock…
Yay… I could do and ride this rock!


Avis's Tortoises

Tortoises eating cactus

Tortoises eating cactus

   Avis sent over a photo of her tortoises eating cactus we grew.
She says they really enjoy the cactus we send them.
This is one of the Grade D leaves that lived through the winter.
You can see they are thick, but still have plenty of nice goodness inside.


Happy Tortoises!


  A customer wrote us to let us know how much she and her tortoises like our cactus.

   “Thank you for the great box of cactus leaves.  Happy Tortoises!!!  These are so nice, tender, and crunchy that they will have to share with me!

   Thanks for the recipe ideas.  One of my favorites is cold, raw, cut into strips and dipped into chunky blue cheese dressing.
   I was actually able to grow several nice plants from last year, but we had the first hard freeze in 15 years, so only the ones closest to my house survived and the leaves aren’t big enough yet for hungry torts.
   I really enjoy the photos of Rivenrock on your website.  It looks like you live in paradise.”

  Thanks Patty for sharing our cactus with your torts. We’re happy you all like it… and yes, we do live in a very lovely spot :-)

Prickly Pear Souffles by Steve Manfredi

An article with a Cactus recipe was brought to our attention….
It sounds delicious, and is written by one of Australia’s most well-known and respected chefs, Steven Manfredi.
I wrote him and asked if I may include it on our blog, he graciously permitted us to reprint it…


Prickly Pear Souffles by Steve Manfredi

   It may be difficult for some to think of Captain Arthur Phillip as Australia’s first ecological vandal but he brought in one of the most invasive plants ever to come into this country. He collected some cochineal-infested prickly pear in Brazil and sailed the cacti to these shores with the First Fleet.

   The cochineal insects feed on prickly pear and, when processed, these insects produce the crimson-coloured dye carmine. Amongst other things, this colour was used for the red coats of British soldiers at the time.

   In 1886 the first (Commonwealth) Prickly-pear Destruction Act was passed though the cactus was already a problem 20 years earlier. It wasn’t until 1996 that the (NSW) Prickly Pear Act 1987 was repealed and management for the “noxious weed” transferred to local governments.

   While it’s still a problem in certain areas of Australia, people from parts of the Mediterranean and the Americas adore its fruit. It looks like a small barrel about 6-8 centimetres long but care should be taken in handling the fruit because the fine hairs will lodge in the skin.

   Peeling is easy. Handle the fruit with a gloved hand. Cut off each of the ends using a sharp knife. Make a slit skin-deep down the length of the fruit and peel the skin away from the pulp. Prickly pear fruit can range from red to deep yellow and is sweet and juicy.





This dish is based on a recipe from Neapolitan chef Alfonso Iaccarino and can be made with prickly pear of any colour.

10 prickly pears, peeled
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
250ml fresh cream, whipped
3 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp sugar syrup

Make the sugar syrup first by boiling 100ml water with 100g caster sugar. Once it boils, cool. Whatever is left can be refrigerated indefinitely. Place 8 prickly pears in a food processor and puree. Place in a sieve, over a bowl and separate juice from seeds, discarding the latter. Place yolks in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk continuously over a simmering pot of water for about 5 minutes until fluffy and thick like zabaglione or custard. Put aside to cool. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Add remaining tablespoon of sugar and keep whisking until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half the prickly pear juice with the whisked egg whites, whipped cream and cooled yolk/sugar mixture until evenly incorporated. Ladle into 6 moulds and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Mix the sugar syrup with the remaining prickly pear juice. To serve, unmould the soufflés by dipping the bases quickly in hot water. Spoon a little sauce on and serve with wedges of the remaining prickly pear. Serves 6.



8 prickly pears, peeled
200g caster sugar
3 egg whites
300g fresh mascarpone
80g pistachios, roasted and roughly chopped
¼ (quarter) tsp ground cinnamon

Puree the peeled prickly pears in a food processor. Sieve over a bowl and separate juice from seeds, discarding the latter. Place the puree in a saucepan with 50g of caster sugar and bring to the boil, stirring. Once boiling, turn down to a bubbling simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Let it cool and refrigerate. Meanwhile beat the egg whites in a bowl, slowly adding the rest of the caster sugar until firm peaks form. To this add the mascarpone and fold in until the resulting mixture is light and fluffy. To serve, ladle some prickly pear puree into bowls, add a large dollop of mascarpone cream and scatter some chopped, roasted pistachios on top. Finish by dusting with ground cinnamon. Serves 8.


   I encountered two items I’ve not heard of before… one is the ‘Caster Sugar’ which is the same as what we call ‘Powdered Sugar’ in the US. The other item is ‘mascarpone’ which comes from his region of Italy (Lombardy) and is probably best known as the essential ingredient, along with coffee and savoiardi biscuits, in the popular dessert tiramisu. It should be fairly easy to buy from Italian providores or even supermarkets. See here:

Mascarpone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia