Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Classes
Have you wanted to pick a peck o’ prickly pears, but didn't know how to remove those painful little cactus needles before turning the bright red fruits into tasty jelly – or margaritas? On select weekends of August the Arboretum hosts classes coaching the finer points of processing ripe fruit of the season for fresh batches of jelly, jam, syrup and more.
Workshops feature Robert Lewis and also Chef Eric & Terri of Tall Order Catering, with their unique spin on Cactus Cuisine and lessons on de-spining & processing.
No pre-registration is necessary for any of these classes, just be in the visitor center breezeway by start time - revisit this page in July 2016 for specific dates.
Over the years thousands of Arizonans have attended BTA’s unique series of cactus classes teaching “How To Juice Prickly Pears” -- a summertime series so popular it spawned a cactus culinary festival in the neighboring town of Superior.Our experts share proven techniques to pick, prepare, process and preserve these juicy, seasonal fruits of the Sonoran Desert -- with tasty, healthy prickly pear snacks shared at the end of each class.Learn from prickly pear pickin’ pros!
And read more about the 4th Annual Prickly Pear Festival in Superior that was held Aug. 22. Superior’s culinary celebration of cactus cuisine included guided desert hike, a pancake breakfast - complete with prickly pear syrup, of course; vendors and guest speakers . .Arizona State Parks 'Volunteer of the Year' Robert Lewis is among special guest presenters. Each August these cactus accomplices rise to the challenge of culinary uses for prickly pear cacti pads and fruit. 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 menu items at a sampling session when the informal outdoor class ends around 10:30 am.
Preview this event on YouTube - Mike Rolfe posted a short feature about the Arboretum's How To Juice PricklyPear 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.
Cactus fruits begin to ripen during July and continue through August. Labor Day marks the end of the season and fruits become harder to find around our elevation 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 left 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