Prickly pear cactus and fruit
Be careful when harvesting! Even the fruit has little spines which hurt and can irritate! They are difficult to remove.
And as you can see, on this variety of opuntia cactus, the spines on the nopales pads are very sharp and long.
I did pull this out of my thumb!
Here is Terri, taking her turn foraging with tongs!
Where there is smoke there is fire! Something I am realizing is a powerful metaphor for learning, personally, especially now.
But hey, where there is smoke there is fire! And fires were breaking out in the mountain ranges around us.
We wanted to prepare the fruit for use by burning off the glochids… over hot coals. We were thinking of putting the fruit in a metal mesh strainer with a metal base and handle. Stirring the prickly pears, semi immersed/hovering over hot coals… and turning them over to burn off the glochids… the little cactus spines on the fruit.
We were going to use our outdoor firepit. We call our hearth. But with smoke in neighboring mountains all around we did not want to make our neighbors and others who could see our smoke plume… have cause for fear. So, we lit the coleman stove and used that flame to burn off the glochids on our fruit instead.
These fruit are related to more popular prickly pears, often called tunas. Those appear to have more fruit and less seeds. These have a skin layer of fruit around a bunch of seeds. It is filled with moist seeds that honestly reminded me of frog eggs!. The pulp and skin (minus glochids) are all edible when blended in a vitamix for a juice. Then strain the juice to avoid bits of the rock hard seeds! Or remove seeds to begin with.
Also, remove the seeds from the fruit if you are making a jam or pie with the fruit because they are very hard and NOT chewable at all!
Here are some of the moist seeds with part of the fruit pulp.
I made an empanada using the de-seeded fruit, coconut sugar, and water (heated and syrupy) for the fruit filling and amaranth flour for the dough. Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite recipe but the fruit was quite good. We ended up straining off the prickly pear fruit sugar syrup and that was delicious!
This sugar syrup is rich in betalains and nutrition. In fact, coconut sugar does not spike blood sugar levels and it is yummy!
Betalains, that are in the fruit are a great source of anti-inflammatory agents. Betalains also exist in smaller amount in beets and swiss chard. But, prickly pear fruit, its rich red pulp, has the highest amount of Betalains. Here is to your health! People suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions are said to benefit from these betalains.
Prickly Pear Coconut Sugar Syrup
Also research suggests a lowering of cholesterol and an aid for symptoms of diabetes. Other benefits also include some antiviral activity and other benefits!
To think this fruit is surrounding me in the New Mexico desert. Of course, I won’t forage them all. I just foraged a few. Respect for how hard the desert plants work to survive and the other creatures who enjoy the fruit too.
I am grateful to learn more about the Prickly pear cactus and its fruit.
Prickly pear is a natural refrigerant… it cools your body down. Especially the fruit. But don’t over consume! It can in some cases lead to cactus fever. A condition that results from over consumption.
A 4 oz glass of Prickly pear juice in this case would be a good serving. And cooling and refreshing too.
And, thankyou for joining me on this foraging journey!
And the following spring….one of the first blooms
And, still enjoying the prickly pear. This one in the escarpment area of New Mexico. Always happy to see my plant friends.
Not harvesting, just enjoying the view.
Common name/Nicknames: Clammy Ground Cherry, Ground Cherry, Husk cherry, Husk tomato, Chinese lantern, Inca berry
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
Ground Cherry fruit in its beautiful papery lantern husks in early fall
and this next one was an abandoned feast, lying on the arroyo floor…
Harvest fruit in Autumn
calyx… lantern like casing not edible. Only ripe fruit is!
Nutrition may be similar to Tomatillo
And perhaps more since it has not been cultivated… consider: phytonutrients, flavanoids, etc. Which may be additional when a wild plant.
See more nutritional info at end of post.
(I think it is indeed ripening… more yellow today!)
I’ve read that when the fruit of this cherry is yellow it is the Clammy ground cherry!
As is the spiral through time and space that I am learning about foraged plants… so it is with Clammy ground cherry. I have been admiring them, and learning about them, along with other nightshades that look like they grow tiny yellow tomatoes without husks or calyxes… are poisonous! beautiful, but poisonous.
But I love plants and it is so interesting to learn about families of plants. The edible, the poisonous, the look alikes and the plants which are in the same family but appear so different!
So this is spiral like too… or labyrinthine. Like when the datura pops and bursts open like my new foraging, plant hike friend, described.
She told our plant hike gathering, how she has admired the beauty of the nightshade datura … for many years.
Then one evening she had the time alone, she admitted was a rare treat, to admire the datura…
When to her delight and surprise, she saw and heard, as the interlocking tendrils at the end of the flowers (which hook it spirally shut)… at just the right moment, popped open and unfurled, to reveal their splendor.
I am so grateful that she shared her story on our plant hike. Stories help us unfold and glean the true wisdom and joy of plants and unfurl a learning experience we can all remember!
Here is the first Datura plant on my friends’ property and Sustainable Learning Center called Ampersand. Now, some 10 years later, there are many datura plants that have chosen to thrive there.
I love the beautiful datura and have often called it the lily of the desert. It is a nightshade like the Clammy ground cherry… but NOT edible.
Humans have to share afterall. Not all plants developed as edible plants for humans… strong alkaloids and other compounds have developed over time as a plant’s evolutionary defense.
And plants can be teachers and allies, not just through edibility. A reminder to me, to learn about plant neighbors. What plants are growing near a wild edible plant. This tells more of the story of the plant. The story of the soil and place.
…the circle unravels and travels the spiral where we begin…
Flowering Alfalfa in the arroyo. Yummy alfalfa by the way! near nature hike…
So I got to go on a nature hike, through the happy connection of one friend telling me about the nature hike… that she was hoping to go to, at Ampersand.
Ampersand was created by Amanda and her partner Andy as a Sustainable Learning Center in Cerrillos, New Mexico.
I had been wanting to go to this particular event and because of my schedule had missed out on other nature hikes… but I had that Sunday off!
Amanda gave a hearty welcome for me to join. I couldn’t wait! 🙂
On this nature excursion, Amanda and others discussed and pointed out edible and medicinal plants. I was overjoyed.
This also included stories like the one about datura and traditional Native uses of plants, i.e. the Cleome plant which was used as food (wild spinach) and a dye for pottery painting.
Cleome, Cleome Serrulata, is also known as
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant!
Capparaceae family of plants.
The Navajo refer to this plant as Waa’
I just love this plant, Cleome!
Ampersand is located near a beautiful arroyo, meadow and desert area… (not too far from me.) It is a diverse riparian area and so many beautiful plants grow there. Here is Amanda from Ampersand our beautiful and knowledgeable nature hike guide sitting and enjoying a patch of false pennyroyal!
This area is resplendent with all sorts of edible and healing plants. Like this soothing, nervine benefitting herb Verbena!
And, I made my own healing salve with snakeweed and verbena! Soothing and anti-inflammatory!
Clammy Ground Cherry…where do you live?
“It is found mainly in habitats such as dry or mesic prairies, gravel hills and rises, sandy or rocky soils, and waste places such as roadsides.”
Related to the tomatillo. In fact the Tomatillo is a cultivated Ground Cherry!
Here are more pictures of the Clammy Ground Cherry!
Plant showing the leaves and ground cherries below hanging in their papery lantern husks!
My new nature hike friend showing me what lies within the “paper lantern!”
Showing each other Ground cherries on the nature hike!
Only eat Clammy ground cherries when they ripen to yellow. They contain alkaloids which could be potentially fatal and/or harmful if not ripe!… green is unripe in this case!
Okay so what can I make with Clammy ground cherries?… jam, pie, a fruity nibble… empanadas…
I just love this person! They made a Ground Cherry pie from a similar species… Physalis peruviana… but
Physalis heterophylla would work great too!
Wow that’s a lot of science… but so is good baking so here goes!
Here it is a greenish yellow on the windowsill of a sweet housesit!
I read somewhere that they will fully ripen to a (full yellow) in this case… just like their cousins the tomatoes… will ripen when left to do the same!
I will keep you posted as my journey with Clammy ground cherry continues!
I can’t wait to taste my Clammy ground cherry
once it is fully ripe!
From the above Medical Use… link:
” (Peterson Field Guides, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, 1990) report that the American Indians made a tea of the leaves and roots of Clammy Ground Cherry, P. heterophylla, for headaches, wash for burns, scalds; in herbal compounds to induce vomiting for bad stomach aches; root and leaves poulticed for wounds. Seeds of this and other species were considered useful for difficult urination, fevers, inflammation, and various urinary disorders.”
Also may have anti-tumor properties which are being researched.
Ripe berries can also be dried and ground into a flour to add to breads and doughs.
Clammy Ground Cherry is a powerhouse of Nutrition!
It is filled with Vitamin A
B complex vitamins
Phosphorus, potassium, and iron
Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory agents
Including withanolides which cut off cancer cells/tumors ability to make blood vessels to itself
Also, reportedly protects your liver from some forms of toxicity as well as aiding in illness from diabetes and hypertension.
The author, of Primaldocs.com, Arthur Haines, closes this excellent article by talking about the importance of re-wilding one’s life. That the impact of doing so changes one’s life for the better. With nutrition and sense of connectedness to nature, the world.
And that this task of re-wilding is essential to our wellbeing. That we regain ecological knowledge and wisdom and move from being told what to eat by supermarket shelves to a more closely related connection to wild foods and beings that share an ecological path with us.
Re-wilding is a path I am glad I am on!
Clammy Ground Cherry you have guided my way!