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August 2021 - THE CUT: The 2021 Prickly Pear Festival

By Winter Elise

Creating an edible garden in New Mexico that is easier on the water supply and loves the sun can be tricky, even for experienced gardeners. The hot summer months and frequent droughts can take their toll on gardens. The Prickly Pear Festival, on September 4th and 5th in Downtown Albuquerque, will give us a better understanding of a native plant that is easy to grow and fun to eat. For its third year, the festival is expanding to two days. The 4th is for the public to learn to create everything from food to soap with starter plants available. The second day of the festival is for ranchers and farmers who want to learn more about the benefits of growing this native plant.

Part of the cactus family Cactaceae this plant grows wild and plentifully in the Southwest and Mexico. We have all seen this cactus with its beautiful yellow, red, or purple colored bulbs around our neighborhoods and along the arroyo walking paths. Like most cacti, its pads are a deterrent full of sharp spines waiting to stick unsuspecting passersby. This plant is native to New Mexico. It loves the full sun in June and July and is drought tolerant. What more could you ask for in a cactus? The fruit, which are brightly colored bulbs, are edible and can be made into simple syrups for cocktail time or added to salads or desserts to enjoy at mealtime. The spiny pads, also known as Nopales, are also edible raw or cooked, too. The festival will feature cooking demos from friends and partners: Three Sisters Kitchen, Slow Roasted Bocadillos, and Red Mesa Cuisine, to name a few. These chefs and mixologists will demonstrate tasty recipes you will want to go home and cook.

There will be different ways for you to purchase a Prickly Pear Mix, created by you, from pre-made syrups and jams to hand-made soaps. Did you know that cacti are good for your health? The fruit contains high amounts of antioxidants, amino acids, and fatty acids. They can offer digestive support and a wide variety of nutrients that we desert dwellers need. And high in fiber too! With so many ways to sample this plant, the festival is sure to change your mind about this native plant.

If you are one of the early adopters of Prickly Pear, you can send in recipes through their website or email. The judges will pick the top recipes from the piles you will send in, and those lucky souls will get to do a demo of the recipe at the festival in front of the cheering crowds. There will also be live music and vendors lining the downtown streets. Of course, the festival will enforce CDC guidelines, and there will be a raffle, so bring your vaccination card to show off. Early bird tickets are available until September 1st.


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