Find prickly pear treats, recipes and harvesting tips at the festival next Saturday, Aug. 29.

So there I was, stalking the wild prickly pear cactus. With tongs in hand, I gave each fruit a quick twist.

Within 10 minutes I had 6 pounds — and all without even a scratch.

After attending a demonstration at a farmers market last week — and blogging about it, of course — I knew I had to try harvesting them for myself.

So I grabbed my best pair of tongs and a heavy paper bag and headed out into the wilds … of an empty lot near my house.

The picking was super easy and a few days later I made my first batch of prickly pear lemonade — perfect for a hot summer day.

Here’s what I learned along the way:

  • Remain vigilant as you rinse, blend, mash, strain or otherwise come into contact with these little buggers — the tiny spines, called glochids, are just waiting for you to make a mistake.
  • Easiest method for extracting juice? Rinse, freeze overnight, let thaw and mash through a strainer lined with a fine cloth like a T-shirt. That’s it: No need to burn off spines, peel or chop. 
  • If you need to speed up the thawing process, toss the bowl into the microwave. 
  • Leave plenty of time for the pulp to dribble juice into the bowl. Mash with tongs or a spoon occasionally. 
  • Don’t use a sponge for cleanup unless you’re planning to throw it out. Yeah, I learned that one the hard way. 
  • Two pounds make about 1½ cups of juice.
  • Six pounds of fruit were not enough, so I will head back out this weekend to a secret spot in the Foothills to collect more. 
  • Always keep a hat in your car. 
  • I really need to clean out my freezer. 

Prickly pear lemonade

Here’s a basic prickly pear lemonade recipe. I can’t call it my recipe since I pulled it off the Internet, but I did test it out and tweak it slightly.

1 1/4 cups fresh prickly pear juice (not syrup)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of organic agave nectar or sugar

1 cup water

Blend, chill and serve over ice. If it’s too tart for your taste, add more sugar or nectar. Add a splash of vodka, tequila or champagne to each glass for an adult beverage.

Prickly pear vinaigrette

This one's from Eunice Gonzalez of Yuni Foods, a local catering company.

1/2 cup organic, extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup prickly pear juice or reduction

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Season to taste with salt & pepper

Add poppy seeds or sesame seeds for garnish.

  1. While whisking vigorously, pour a slow stream of olive oil into the prickly pear reduction.
  2. Once the mixture thickens, whisk in orange juice to desired consistency then add remaining ingredients to your preference.

Find Yuni Foods on Facebook at