If you are interested in the various activities and speakers the TCC has had in the past, please request past newsletters from J. T. Garcia.
The TCC has copies of proceedings from years past, such as articles on cacti, growing it, uses of it, medinal value, etc. Below you can find newsletters dating back to April 2008.
November, 2010, Newsletter
Ruth Potts, longtime member and one of the founders of the Texas Cactus Council, passed away on November 23, 2010. Her husband, Lloyd, who was also a very active member of the council, passed away several years ago. Ruth worked hard all her life and loved it. She was proud to be a “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II. She worked at North American, Temco & Chance Vought. She retired from Vought Aircraft Corp. after 21 years of service. Our condolences to her family. May she rest in peace. Ruth was 92. (online obituary)
If you were not able to attend the party in celebration of the Mexican Revolution's Centennial Anniversary held at the Villarreal Ranch, you lost out on a good one. First, we cannot thank the Villarreal's, Alfredo and Dora, enough for allowing us into their precious ranch style home. Additionally, Alfredo did a great job of grilling the fajitas, which turned out deliciously tender, marinated to perfection, with that distinctive mesquite flavor. There was food aplenty, ranchero beans cooked by Dora Villarreal, a great potato salad, a large plate of cocktail shrimp, other succulent accompaniments and a galore of desserts.
Man - Lauro Salazar
Woman - Dora Villarreal
For years I have been wondering why our fruit cacti in South Texas does not produce as much fruit as the fruit cacti in Mexico . We have brought fruit cactus from the Saltillo, Mexico, area and from the Cactus Gardens at Texas A&M University – Kingsville (the cactus gardens are now in quite a sorry state since the departure of Dr. Peter Felker, research scientist). While our plants do grow quite large, the quantity of fruit is very minimal. As I've mentioned before, the few fruits that are produced are of great taste. Most of these are consumed by a variety of birds. In fact, for every one fruit we get, 200 are eaten by the birds. Terry Lee Gonzalez from Tampa, Florida, is an aloe collector and has researched Opuntia cactus. The following paragraphs address the needs of Opuntia as presented by Terry Lee:
For maximum stem growth, fertilizer high in nitrogen is recommended. For fruiting, a 0-10-10 fertilizer is recommended. Honestly, the only variables with plants are sun, water and nutrition/fertilizer. There's also something they do in Sicily called Scozzolatura. The Spring flush of flowers (and young/new cladodes) are removed. The result is flower re-growth about a month later. The fruit from that second flush is larger with less seeds. This is something we can experiment with this coming Spring.
If you grow the prickly pear for its pads, feed with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. In warm climates, well-tended plants may be harvested of pads up to six times a year, and established plants may yield 20 to 40 one-half pound pads at each harvest. Remove the pads by carefully cutting them from their supporting pads. The best time of day to harvest the pads is from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, when the acid content in the pads is at its lowest.
If you prefer more flowers and fruits, give the plants a fertilizer such as 0-10-10 once a month, even through the winter. During this dormant period, the plants require a bright situation and enough water only to keep the pads from shriveling. The cactus will bloom and set fruit from early spring through the summer, depending on the variety. Each pad can support numerous flowers, each yielding one fruit. Up to 30 blooms have been counted on mature pads, but 8 to 16 is a good number to allow for development of good-sized fruits. The fruits are ripe enough to harvest when the glochids fall off. Twist, rather than pull, the fruit from the pad to avoid tearing it. If the fruits are harvested unripe, the peel color will change some, but some of the sugar in the fruit will be lost.
Thanks, Terry, for providing this information to us.
Winter is slowly approaching. Cactus is mostly cold-tolerant and will survive our cold weather in South Texas. A very few species will not do well in colder weather. These cacti must be either covered outdoors where they are planted or brought indoors in pots. They'll be safe in most covered garages or in your homes. The slight freeze damage that may occur will not totally destroy the cactus. The plant will start sprouting once the cold winter days terminate. The freeze burned cactus pads may be trimmed off. It is people further up north that will have to take extra steps to care for the cacti in the colder times. Cactus needs very little or no water during the winter.
Christmas cactus is already available in most nurseries and department stores. This cactus is beautiful and comes in a variety of colors and does well indoors as centerpieces.
Mexican Pintos with Cactus
Place the pinto beans into a slow cooker, and fill to the top with hot water. Add the bacon, 2 tablespoons of salt, jalapeno and onion. Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, adding water as needed, until beans are tender.Remove any thorns from the cactus pads, and slice into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of salt, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water for 1 minute. Add to the beans when they are soft, and cook for 15 more minutes on High.
Scrambled Eggs Arizona Style
Scrub cactus pads and remove spines (or use spineless cactus). Use a potato peeler to cut around spiny nodules and remove. Slice cactus leaves into bite-size pieces. Saute diced cactus in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl and add shredded cheese and cooked cactus. Pour in heated skillet and scramble. Serve warm.
The Texas Cactus Council Christmas party is set for Saturday, December 11, 2010, at Dora & Alfredo Villarreal's ranch house. We plan to start eating at 1:00 o'clock.
DIRECTIONS TO THE VILLARREAL PLACE: From Hebbronville, follow Hwy 16 South, and just past Randado take a left on Rd. 649 - continue on past Guerra - just a short distance before reaching El Sauz you will see the Villarreal residence on the left. The big ranch style house sits about 150 yards from the road. There is a green mailbox at the entrance road that leads to the house. Across the highway from the Villarreal house stands a tall communication's antenna. The Villarreal's place is about 60 miles south of Hebbronville and about 15 miles north of Rio Grande City . If using GPS, the address is 1308 N 649, Rio Grande City . Alfredo's cell phone: 956-500-0084.
Several Texas Cactus Council members have already indicated what they will be bringing to the party:
Joe Martinez - - tamales
J. T. Garcia - - turkey
Minnie Salazar - - mashed potatoes
Yolanda Zapata - - dressing & gravy
Nelda Utley - - capirotada
Ida Perez - - candied yams
Dora Villarreal - - plates, knives, forks, cranberry, napkins
Ofelia Garza - - green bean casserole
Julia Wade - - homemade cranberry sauce
Emma Martinez - - Turkey
WE STILL NEED bread rolls, soft drinks, ice, cups, desserts, more dressing & gravy, ham, etc. etc. Get in touch with me at (361) 207- 0966 to tell me what you will bring. In this way I can tell other callers what has already been promised and what we still need. We expect over 40 will be attending the party.
If you wish to participate in the gift exchange, bring a gift. Men bring a man gift, ladies bring a ladies gift. Value - - not more than $10. Indicate on the gift if it is a man or ladies gift. You don't need to write your name on the gift you bring. And, or course, you can bring guests. They may also take part in the gift exchange. Let me know how many guests you will be bringing so we can be sure of providing food for all.
Hope to see everyone at the party!
May the approaching Christmas season fill you
and your loved ones with joy, cheer and
J. T. Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
October, 2010, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council is happy to announce a new member. He is Yeturu R. Reddy from Hyderabad, A. P. India . Welcome to the council, Yeturu.
The October meeting is a YOU-DON'T-WANT-TO-MISS AFFAIR, which will be held at the Alfredo and Dora Villarreal magnificent ranch style mansion just north of El Sauz on Rd. 649. This is a family style gathering to be held on Saturday, October 23, starting at 2:00 PM. Bar-B-Que fajitas prepared by Alfredo will be the main fare, along with charro beans prepared by Dora, individual TCC members will furnish the rest. A special program will be presented to commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, and what a better way to commemorate than by acknowledging the Revolution's most famous personality, General Francisco (Pancho) Villa. Throughout the world Pancho Villa is Mexico's best known personality. One hundred years have elapsed, yet folks still remain fascinated with the Villa persona. Fittingly, Villa's life will be the focus of the presentation, accompanied with some of his famous corridos, which will be played intermittently through the presentation.
To add to the fun, there will be a contest with prizes for the best men's and women's costume which better depicts the eras of the Mexican Revolution and the Bi-centennial of Mexico's War of Independence. So start getting that old sewing machine out or visit Nuevo Progreso for an outfit.
DIRECTIONS TO THE VILLARREAL PLACE: From Hebbronville, follow Hwy 16 South, and just past Randado take a left on Rd. 649 - continue on past Guerra - just a short distance before reaching El Sauz you will see the Villarreal residence on the left (the big ranch style house sits about 150 yards from the road, there is a green mailbox at the entrance road that leads to the house. Across the highway from the Villarreal house stands a tall communication's antenna on the right,. The Villarreal's place is about 60 miles south of Hebbronville and about 15 miles north of Rio Grande City. If using GPS, the address is 1308 N 649, Rio Grande City . Alfredo's cell phone: 956-500-0084
I've had some calls from different members stating what they will be bringing to the gathering at the Villarreal Ranch:
Emma Martinez - - potato salad
Josie Slonaker - - homemade apple pie
Marianela Ramos - - Spanish rice
Ida Perez - - fruit salad
Minnie Salazar - - potato salad
Yolanda Guevara - - cake
You can call me at (361) 207-0966 to tell me what you will bring. In this way I can tell the TCC members who call what has been promised. We need bread, soft drinks, ice, cups, napkins, paper plates, desserts, and other side dishes.
Coming up real soon is the Annual Texas Cactus Council Nopalito Cook-off that will be celebrated in conjunction with the Vaquero Festival on Saturday November 6, 2010, in Hebbronville, Texas. Cook-off chairperson is TCC member Lydia Canales, who has completed preparations for this year's event. The entries will again be judged in the same building as last year, the annex building next to the County Courthouse, downtown. All TCC members, relatives, etc. are encouraged to submit a cactus cooking competition entry by 12:00 noon, the day of the contest. A recipe needs to be included with the dish, and cactus must be the main ingredient. The various categories of dishes are included on the entry form, a copy which is attached to this newsletter. The recipes are to be typed or handwritten on this standard form, furnished by Lydia Canales, or other members of the TCC.
You will turn in your recipe and the written recipe. Please do not write your name on the copy of the recipe . A number will be assigned to each entry by a cook-off committee member. Please do not display your written recipe alongside the dish. ONLY THE WRITTEN RECIPE ON THE PROVIDED FORM WILL BE ALLOWED. Please understand that all recipes will be sampled by the audience who shows up. This will take place after the judging takes place.
Winners will be awarded their prizes soon after the judges complete the judging. A first place winner will receive a $50 check, 2 nd place winners, $25 check, and 3 rd place winners will receive $15 checks. This will be in each of these categories: MAIN DISH, SALAD, DESSERT, & MISCELLANEOUS. I encourage all members to bring an entry for the cook off.
The Christmas Party will also be at the Villarreal residence. Start thinking about what you may want to bring for that occasion. More information on the party will be given to all in coming Newsletters.
Yeah, I know that this sounds kinda odd, it did to me also, eating the raw pads of the plants. Raw cactus is actually real tasty when harvested young, tender and succulent. They have an interesting snap and crunch to them, much more than one would expect. Sliced into one inch strips they are an intriguing item on the dinner plate. These must be freshly harvested pads for this, not canned. Long-time TCC members Gilbert and Margarita Hinojosa from Benavides have always enjoyed eating raw cactus right from their garden. They just rinse the tender pads and enjoy them as they are tending to their cactus and vegetable garden.
Boil whole, de-pricked and slit nopales for three minutes then rinse. Dip in mixture of milk and egg and dredge through flour or mixture of cornmeal and flour. Brown in hot skillet with corn oil. Top with tomato-based sauce and mozzarella cheese; flash brown in broiler. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and roasted Anaheim chile.
Slivered Nopal and Mushrooms
Saute sliced Shitake or Portabelo mushroom caps with garlic and cumin. Add julienne of nopal and toss, then add seasoned stock to taste. The juice of the nopales will give the vegetables a thick, slick textured sauce.
Note: The two recipes above can be changed/improved and possibly entered in the cook-off.
J. T Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
September, 2010, Newsletter
I was invited to make a presentation at Turner's Gardenland in Corpus Christi on August 15, 2010. Many people are still unaware of the many uses of cactus as food for humans, as feed for livestock, and as great for landscaping yards and city parks. The nutritional value of cactus (nopal) was puzzling to some in the audience. The information below has been shared before but I am repeating it for those who may not remember or who are new to the council.
Hyperlipidemia (High cholesterol/ Fat levels):
Nopal's amino acids, fiber and B3 (niacin) prevent excess blood sugar conversions into fats, while reducing the total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels by metabolizing fat and fatty acids and eliminating excess bile acids (excess bile acid is eventually converted into cholesterol). Other research studies on B3 (niacin) show its conversion effects of LDL (bad) to HDL (good) forms of cholesterol and help decrease the risk of heart disease.
The effects of the amino acids and fiber, including the anti-oxidant of Nopal's vitamin C and A (B-carotene) prevents the likelihood of blood vessel wall damage and the formation of fatty plaques
Gastric Ulcers / Gastrointestinal Disorders:
Nopal vegetable fibers and mucilage's control excess gastric acid production and protect the Gastrointestinal mucus. This pH buffering and coating has been studied for the prevention of damages that may occur from ingesting spicy foods, aspirin and other NSA IDs.
Digestion / liver function:
Nopal's naturally available vitamins A, B1, 2, 3, C and the minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Iron, and Fibers in Lignin, Cellulose, Hemicelluloses, Pectin, Mucilage's, and Gum form along with the 17 amino acids to help detoxify and support not only the liver but also the body in general. Ammonia, free radicals and environmental toxins such as alcohol and cigarette smoke-which all suppress the immune system, are removed by Nopal. Nopal also aids in the balancing and calming of the nervous system, which benefits the body's overall function.
Nopal's 17 amino acids, 8 of which are essential and must be ingested as food, provide you with more energy and less fatigue by helping the body to lower blood sugar; elevate moods, suppress the appetite and provide nutrients. Fat build up is prevented, while fat break down and excretion is increased. Insoluble fibers such as Lignin are known for increasing satiety and eliminating excessive binges. Nopal's vegetable protein helps the body pull fluids from the tissues back into the bloodstream thereby diminishing cellulite and fluid retention. Also Nopal's 17 amino acids, fibers, vitamins and minerals address the needs of a vegetarian diet.
Hyperglycemia (High blood sugar):
Nopal stabilizes and then regulates blood sugar by increasing the body's levels and sensitivity to insulin. Research studies have shown significant hypoglycemic effects maximal from 4 to 6 hours after Nopal ingestion in type II diabetics and non-diabetics. The dangerous side effects of high blood sugar levels including visual, blood vessel and nerve tissue disturbances are all addressed by Nopal's content of B-carotene (Vita. A, Vitamin C, and Vitamins B1, 2,3.
As a rule, cacti graft quite readily. Almost any two cacti can be successfully grafted, and can produce some interesting forms. Cactus grafting is often tried by beginning grafters, while learning the basic techniques. It is a great confidence builder, because with a little practice one can become quite good at it. But first, what is grafting?
Grafting: The art and science of connecting two pieces of living plant tissue together to grow as one composite plant.
Why are Plants Grafted?
People graft plants for a number of reasons.
A Brief History of Grafting
While no one really knows when people first started to graft plants, a good guess would be that our ancestors mimicked what they observed in nature. Natural grafting occurs regularly. Branches and especially roots of woody trees and shrubs, when held in close contact for prolonged periods of time, will graft. As the stems or roots expand in girth over time, the bark between them is crushed. Cambial contact is made, and a connection between the separate vascular systems differentiates.
Nurseries, especially in Japan and Europe , have used grafting to bring unusual growth forms of cacti to the market. The most common of these novelty cacti are the “Moon Cacti”. With brightly colored scions of red, orange, yellow, or white atop green stocks, the “Moon Cacti” are quite striking. The sources of the colored scions are mutant seedlings lacking the green chlorophyll pigment. These seedlings would not live by themselves for more than a few weeks since the absence of chlorophyll prevents them from making food by photosynthesis. As tiny seedlings they are grafted onto vigorous green stocks, which provide the materials to support the colored scions. These “Moon Cacti” grow for years, but when the green tissues of the stock begin to cork over from old age, regrafting to a new stock is necessary or the scion will slowly starve to death. Interestingly, many people think that “Moon Cacti” are giant, brightly colored flowers. In reality, they are just brightly colored stems. Cactus grafts made between green scions and green stocks are much more vigorous than the “Moon Cacti”, and can live indefinitely.
A simple technique for grafting cacti follows:
The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, September 16, 2010, in Kings ville, Texas , at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be at IHOP Restaurant, 2612 S. U.S. Highway 77, about ½ mile from the Hospital (which is not far from Walmart). The phone number to the restaurant is (361) 595-4467. They have a good menu and reasonable prices. A program will be presented. Thank you in advance for your door prizes.
Nos vemos pronto,
J. T. Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
August, 2010, Newsletter
A committee of four Texas Cactus Council members has been assigned the task of selecting a slate of officers to serve as TCC officers. The slate will be presented to the council for their approval. This will probably be done in either the September or October meeting.
All the nice rains this spring and summer have resulted in very green pastures. Unlike last year when we had the terrible drought, all plants are lush and green. The cattle are content, fat, and their market price is great! Wild sunflowers grew to over 10 feet tall in some places covering roads, senderos and corrals. They are already drying up releasing the plentiful seeds all over. Needless to say, the quail (Bobwhite and scaled) and white wing and mourning doves are plentiful seeking the sunflower seeds as they're spread by the wind. Several wild turkey hens and their half-grown babies are also visible as they happily gobble up the seeds. They are also seen feeding by the deer and hog feeders left in operation by the hunters.
And the prickly pear cacti are full of colorful fruits (tunas) ready to be consumed by the hogs, javelinas, cattle and desert tortoises. There is plenty of room in the high tall grass and wide-spreading prickly pear for quails to nest. Some quail will also be able to raise another brood of babies. Roadrunners, thrushes, and desert wrens also build their nests in the protection of the spiny cactus pads.
And, of course, now is also the right time to gather tunas and prepare the marvelous jellies and jams and other candies and beverages we all enjoy. And who knows? You might come up with a great recipe for the Annual Texas Cactus Council Cook Off set for the first Saturday in November at the Annual Vaquero Festival in Hebbronville, Texas .
Here's a cactus tuna recipe you can try. If you can improve it, why not?
Wearing your rubber gloves, wash and skin pears. Be careful of the very tiny spines. Add all ingredients except mint to a blender and puree until smooth. Reduce liquid in half on medium heat. Strain and let cool.
Note: Before freezing the puree, adjust the flavor with sugar and cranberry juice, to taste. Freeze puree in an ice cream maker and you're ready to scoop.
Why putting cactus in your mouth isn't the worst idea ever!
Travis M. Whitehead, The Monitor
Emilia's Restaurant serves nopalitos in a broad variety of ways. One of the more popular dishes, says Silvia Contreras, manager of the restaurant at 605 West Elizabeth Street , is *fajitas Guadalajara , prepared with spicy peppers, onions, melted cheese, avocado, plus the ubiquitous nopales, or nopalitos, a type of cactus.
The use of nopales in the Mexican culinary tradition predates the arrival of the Spaniards, said Juanita Garza, lecturer and academic advisor for the history department at the University of Texas Pan-American in Edinburg . Indigenous people in pre-Columbian times didn't use nopales in festivals or religious ceremonies. Instead, the cactus pads were a mainstay of the daily diet just as they are for many people today.
“Nopales is a native food that the Spanish picked up when they came,” Garza said. “Then it has remained in the diet ever since, especially during the spring season when the nopalitos are nice and tender, and also when it's Lent season because of the non-meat diet.”
Garza said the most important change in the use of nopalitos since the arrival of the Spanish about 500 years ago is the addition of meats. The indigenous people prepared them only with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables and spices.
Tony Zavaleta, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, said the earliest manuscripts written by Spaniards in Mexico in the 1500s describe the use of nopales.
“This particular form of cactus was cited as one of the staple foods,” Zavaleta said. “So, it has been around as long as Europeans have been observing Mexican and Native American practices. It is what is called a cultural super food of Meso-America.”
He compared its importance to that of the corn tortilla.
“I think it's ditto,” he said. “It's the same thing. Beans would be the next one. Those are the cultural super foods of the indigenous Mexican population.”
However, not all Hispanics like nopales.
“Many people would look down their nose at it,” he said. “Most of the Mexican Americans that I know, unless they grew up eating nopales, with their mothers preparing nopales, they don't eat it. So when they see it in the buffet line, they just go right past it. It's seen as something that is just too simple. But for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people throughout Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, it's used as an essential staple food.”
Although indigenous people combined nopales with other vegetables and also with spices, people like the cooks at Emilia's now prepare them with meats.
For breakfast, Contreras said, nopales can be prepared with scrambled eggs with a side of beans. Emilia's menu also includes the more traditional nopales a la Mexicana: fried nopales with onion, tomato and chile peppers, with rice and beans on the side.
Nopalitos are also believed to have medical uses.“They are used for diabetics,” Garza said. “It really helps to bring down the sugar levels.”
First and foremost in Contreras' mind, however, is their culinary value. Her mother in Matamoros keeps a large nopal cactus from which she regular cuts pads for use in cooking.
“There's a lot of plates,” she said. “My mother, for example, prepares nopales with ground beef and mixed vegetables. She cooks, boils them and serves them with rice and beans. She cuts them in the little pieces and puts them on the grill and puts salt and black pepper. Other people sometimes prepare nopales with little pieces of chicken and green beans, and on the side, some pasta, like Alfredo or fideo. I think there's an infinity of plates where people use nopales.”
Note: This article was submitted by Joe Martinez .
This is a recipe from Emilia's Restaurant provided by manager Silvia Contreras.
Fry the fajita with the spices. When it's almost ready add the onion, tomato, slices of jalapeno, and a little soy sauce. Fry everything together until it comes to a boil, then add nopales. Spread cheese over the entire mixture and put the dish in a microwave oven for about two minutes to melt the cheese. Add avocado. Serve with beans and rice if desired.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, August 19, 2010, at Peppers Restaurant in Hebbronville, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. They have a great menu. Peppers is located at 402 E. Galbraith. Invite your friends and relatives to the meeting!
TCC president Joe Martinez will do the program for the meeting. Joe will present The Life and Times of Pancho, A True Life Story. This story is set in the South Texas counties of Hidalgo , Jim Hog, Jim Wells, and Duval and is chock-full of historical anecdotes, humor, symbolism and surprises. Do not miss this fascinating and entertaining true life story that took place in our own neck-of-the woods.
The Texas Cactus Council September meeting will be in Kingsville , Texas . Member Yolanda Zapata will announce the arrangements.
Nos vemos pronto,
J. T. Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
July, 2010, Newsletter
EDIBLE CACTUS !
We can already see the many colored prickly pear fruit in the pastures- - red, purple, pink, etc. The crop should be quite good this year. We got plenty of rain so you can start collecting the fruit as soon as possible to use in your recipes - - - jellies, jams, candy, beverages, etc. The fruit from our cacti brought in from Texas A&M University - -Kingsville and Saltillo, Mexico in 1992, is also plentiful, BUT - - - - it is being eaten rapidly by birds - -wood-peckers, thrushes, green jays, etc. The only solution is placing bird nets over the cacti to keep the birds away. I don't have nets yet so I'll have to purchase cactus fruit at HEB, Walmart or any of the other fruit stands that carry them. Or I can purchase some fruit in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, a nearby border town. I will certainly not destroy the birds.
Edible cactus is also known as nopales (no-PAH-les), nopalitos or cactus pads. This vegetable is popular in Mexico and other Central American countries, parts of Europe, the Middle East, India , North Africa and Australia . Its popularity is increasing in the United States where it can be found at Mexican grocery stores, specialty produce markets and farmer's markets.
Edible cactus is available year-round with a peak in the mid-spring and the best season from early spring through late fall . When buying edible cactus, choose small, firm, pale green cacti with no wrinkling. Be sure to pick cacti that are not limp or dry. Very small paddles may require more cleaning because their larger proportion of prickers and eyes.
The edible cactus you buy should be de-spined though you will need to trim the "eyes," to remove any remaining prickers, and outside edges of the pads with a vegetable peeler. Trim off any dry or fibrous areas and rinse thoroughly to remove any stray prickers and sticky fluid. Lucky you if you happen to have spineless cactus in your garden. These have few or no spines!
Dice edible cactus and add to couscous along with diced tomatoes.
Add to your favorite burrito along with lettuce and tomatoes.
Let me know of your adventures using cactus and fruit. Please share your recipes with us.
Two visitors were at the June meeting. They were invited by TCC member Lucila Reynolds. They are Doris & Elias Hernandez from Alice, Texas. Thank you for being with us and hope you will join the council.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Falfurrias , Texas , on Thursday, July 15, 2010, at STRICKLAND'S RESTAURANT , at 6:30 p.m. The council had wanted to meet at Star of Texas Restaurant but since they do not have a meeting room, it can get quite noisy. Hope to see all of you at Strickland's. If you can, bring a door prize. Only those bringing a door prize will be eligible for the drawing (of the door prizes). A program will be presented by TCC President Joe Martinez.
Please invite your family, friends, neighbors to the meeting. Feel free to ask the members to share their ideas on cactus landscaping. Or share your thoughts on the use of cactus.
Hope to see all of you in Falfurrias.
J. T. Garcia
June, 2010, Newsletter
For years we have been trying to find just the right kind of fertilizer for our fruit cactus. Cacti brought in from Saltillo, Mexico , has not been producing as much fruit as it does in Mexico . It is not unusual to see a single pad in the Mexican cactus farms with over 20 fruits (tunas). Is it our soil, our climate, insect pests, that are the problem? Anyone with answers or solutions out there, let me know. The fruit cacti grows quite tall. But where's the fruit? Will a specific fertilizer help us out?
I had a red fruit bearing cactus that was over 18 feet tall. This was one of the few that did produce plenty of simply delicious fruit. Unfortunately the cactus plant became too large and heavy and it toppled to the ground recently. I replanted the pads. Hopefully I will once again get more fruit. We'll see.
Liliana Rodriguez, Texas Cactus Council member from Houston, Texas, andher husband Mike Cracraft, have been named the new editors of Kactos
Komments, the bi-monthly publication of the Houston Cactus and Succulent Society (HCSS).
Kaktos Komments is now available in HCSS's Website: www.hcsstex.org
Look for the password protected folder marked as KK. To access the newsletter, use the following user id and password:
Congratulations, Liliana, on your new assignment. Please keep us informed on your tasks with KK.
Stuffed Nopales: Huaraches
These were first served to us at the nopal fair in Tlaxcalancingo , Puebla . I have since had them in restaurants in Mexico City . They are aptly named for the flat soles of the country people's sandals that they resemble.
Place the whole cactus paddles, onion and garlic in a large pot with water to cover and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until the nopales are tender but still firm. Drain and rinse.
Starting at the wide, curved end, carefully slice each paddle horizontally, as if butterflying a chop for stuffing. Do not cut all the way through to the narrow end (the thicker part where the pad is attached to the main plant) but leave approximately 1 1/2" uncut. Place a slice of cheese between the two sections and press flat.
Dredge the paddles in flour. Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and fold in the lightly beaten egg yolks.
Heat the oil in a large skillet until a few drops of water sprinkled into it bounce around. Dip the stuffed nopales in the egg batter to coat and fry in the hot oil until golden brown on each side. Serve immediately with red salsa.
Stuffed Cactus Paddles
When preparing cactus (nopal) paddles, make sure you wear gloves to avoid the agüates or tiny thorns. Use a potato peeler or small paring knife to remove them. Or if you're lucky to have them, use spineless cactus.
Boil the nopales in the 3 cups of water with the garlic, onion and salt. Drain.
On each of 6 nopal paddles place a slice of cheese and 3 or 4 pieces of onion. Top with another nopal paddle, secure with wooden toothpicks and dredge in the flour.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add the yolks and beat for 1 or 2 minutes more.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, dip the nopales in the batter and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper toweling.
Served drenched with cooked tomato salsa.
Now is the time to start taking long walks in the woods. Some of the wild cacti are still blooming and some of the cactus fruit is getting ripe. I noticed that strawberry cactus is almost ripe and ready to pick and enjoy. CAUTION: NOW IS ALSO THE TIME WHEN RATTLESNAKES ARE QUITE ACTIVE. I'VE SEEN SEVERAL LARGE ONES. WATCH EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. Purchase a pair of Snake Guards (leggings) to protect from snake bites. Back to the strawberry cactus. These are one of the most delicious fruits we can find in the wild. My potted strawberry cactus bloomed a couple of weeks ago. We can now see the fruits which will be ready to harvest and eat soon. I will be going to the ranch soon to find some. The great spring rains have done wonders for the pastures. They are lush and green. The cattle are nice and fat. Market prices have continued to climb. Unlike last year when we had that great drought, the prickly pear cacti are loaded with fruit (tunas). They are still green but should be a nice purple or red soon. They will be plentiful for those out there who make jams and jellies. If you have a good recipe send it in.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet at Jerry's Diner in San Diego , Texas , on June 17, 2010, at 6:30 p.m. As you know they have a great menu. You may arrive earlier if you wish.
A very informative presentation on cactus will be offered during the TCC meeting. TCC president Joe Martinez will bring some of his prized collection of cactus and offer a vivid description of each plant to better acquaint council members of the distinguishing characteristics of the different varieties of cacti. Cactus is a marvelous plant that is endemic to the American Continent, but mostly of Mexican origin, which TCC members proudly salute for being America 's valued gift to the world.
See y'all in San Diego ,
J. T. Garcia
Please bring a door prize. Thanks.
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
May, 2010, Newsletter
This Spring is exactly the opposite of last year, which was a very dry one. In April we received more than 10 inches of rain in some areas of South Texas . Most creeks in the area were flooded as were the fields and pastures. An area farmer had to be evacuated from his flooded home by helicopter. He returned a couple of days later. The yellow and orange prickly pear cactus blooms are in full display as are many other wild flowers. The ranchers and farmers are happy as are the livestock. Cattle prices are climbing which is a good change from lower prices. And we have plenty of tender cactus pads (nopalitos) to harvest and cook in our favorite recipes. Due to the great rain and fine pastures, the pear burners have not been used yet this year. Hopefully we will not use them at all. Cattle are nice and fat and content. Texas Cactus Council president Joe Martinez reminded the council about the annual cactus cookoff scheduled for the 1 st Saturday in November in Hebbronville, Texas . Everyone is invited to bring a cactus recipe as an entry for the annual event. The recipe must contain cactus or cactus fruit (tunas). A written recipe and the dish must be brought in by 12:00 noon on that date.
Joe also announced that the Texas Cactus Council trip was scheduled for November, 2010. The trip will be to Ciudad Victoria , Tamaulipas , Mexico . Details about the trip will be announced in coming Newsletters
Confetti Cactus Salad
1 cup nopalitos (about 3 chopped nopales - cactus pads)
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 1/4 teaspoon salt
To prepare salad, cook nopalitos in boiling water 10 minutes. Drain. Place nopalitos in a medium bowl; cool. Add onion, corn, cilantro, and beans; toss gently.
To prepare vinaigrette, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Pour vinaigrette over salad; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.
Place the chiles into a saucepan and cover with water. Add the cactus leaves and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and allow to slightly cool.
Add the blanched mixture to food processor along with the garlic, poblanos and tequila and process until combine.
Uses of Prickly Pear
Prickly pear is widely cultivated and commercially used in juices, jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks. American Indians used prickly pear juice to treat burns, and prickly pear has a long history in traditional Mexican folk medicine for treating diabetes . Its use in treating diabetes, lipid disorders, inflammation, and ulcers, as well as its other pharmacologic effects, have been documented. However, there is limited clinical information to support these uses.
Prickly pear is widely cultivated and used in juices, jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks. The fruits and flowers of the plant are used as natural food colorants. Cactus gum is used to stiffen cloth. Essential oils from the flowers are used to make perfumes, and the seeds are a source of oil. Prickly pear has also been used as a source of animal feed and dye. There are numerous medicinal uses of the plant. American Indians used prickly pear juice to treat burns. Often a cone of plant material would be burned on the skin to treat irritation or infection, a process known as moxabustion in Chinese medicine. The Lakota tribe used prickly pear in a tea to assist mothers during childbirth.
Prickly pear has a long history of traditional Mexican folk medicine use, particularly as a treatment for diabetes. Prickly pear pads have been used as a poultice for rheumatism. The fruit has been used for treating diarrhea, asthma, and gonorrhea. The fleshy stems or cladodes have been used to treat high cholesterol, blood pressure, gastric acidity, ulcers, fatigue, dyspnea, glaucoma, liver conditions, and wounds. In South Korea the plant has been used to treat abdominal pain, bronchial asthma, burns, diabetes, and indigestion. In Sicily , a flower decoction of prickly pear has been used as a diuretic; the cladodes were valued for their anti-inflammatory activity in treating edema, arthrosis, and whooping cough , and for preventing wound infection.
Prickly pear has also been planted on steep slopes to control erosion.
The May 20 th TCC monthly meeting will be presented by club president Joe Martinez. The topic is about the Tlaxcalan natives' impact on the very essence of our South Texas culture. It is important that we familiarize ourselves with the history and influence that the Tlaxcalans had in shaping our cultural heritage, such as: the coining of our language, our regional cuisine, and our unique way of life under a ranching culture. However, up to now, the history behind the Tlaxcalans' impact on our lives is an overlooked link to our South Texas heritage. After all, it was the Tlaxcalans who partnered with the Spanish in settling and pacifying our region. Amid their many contributions, they brought with them a way of life that we enjoy to this day, and very importantly they were the first vaqueros in South Texas .
It's fair to say that if it were not for the Tlaxcalans, many of us would never have set foot in what is now Texas , inasmuch as their alliance with Hernán Cortéz made it possible to bring about the CONQUEST. To hear a detailed explanation and substantiation of the above claims, please attend the meeting and bring a guest .
The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at El Charro Restaurant at 1011 W. Front St. in Alice , Texas , on Thursday, May 20, 2010. They have a great menu. Please bring a door prize. Come earlier if you wish to place your dinner order earlier.
J. T Garcia
Prickly Pear Cactus
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
April, 2010, Newsletter
Our thanks to TCC member Anne Estevis for her program at the March meeting. We all enjoyed it.
NOTE: If you like the sharp, tart, flavor of cactus, you need to harvest them early in the morning. For those of you who enjoy the milder taste of cactus, cut your nopalitos in the afternoon. Supposedly during the day the sun causes the cactus enzymes to go to the root thus making the tender cactus taste milder. I've always tried this and it's true. If any of the scientific-minded members out there have a more clear explanation for this, send it in.
Yeah, I know that this sounds kinda odd, it did to me also, eating the raw pads of the plants. But there are some varieties that are actually really tasty when harvested young tender and succulent. They have an interesting snap and crunch to them, much more than one would expect. Sliced into one inch strips they are an intriguing item on the dinner plate. These must be freshly harvested pads for this, not canned.
Stir-Fried Cactus With Tomatoes and Herbs
1 lb tender cactus (spines removed)
Cut nopales into strips about 1/4 by 2 inches. Heat oil in large skillet; add garlic and toss. Add cactus and a pinch of salt; toss to coat. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until sticky juices are thoroughly exuded and cactus is not quite tender -- about 5-8 minutes; stir fairly often. Mixture will appear quite sloppy. Uncover and stir often over moderate heat, until tender and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.
After mixture has finished heating, toss with onion and vinegar; add tomatoes, red bell peppers, and herbs and toss gently. Add salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm.
Grilled Cactus Pads
This is an interesting treat for a cookout. Scrub cactus pads well with a vegetable scrubber to remove any spines that may be on them. With the end of a potato peeler cut around the spiny nodules and remove them. Make sure that all are removed. Grill the leaves over charcoal or wood fire for 10 to 12 minutes on each side. Thicker leaves may take slightly longer to grill. Brush leaves with oil occasionally while grilling. Salt, pepper. Be inventive and add garlic and onion powder, etc. Serve hot.
Sopa de Hongos y Nopales
(Mushroom-Cactus Soup with Roasted Tomatillos )
Preheat the broiler. Carefully trim edges and cut the spines from cactus paddles; brush the paddles with 1/2 tsp. oil. Broil the paddles, 4" from the heat source, turning occasionally, until limp, 10-15 minutes. Cool, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4" wide slices. Set aside.
Place tomatillos and tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil, 4" below the heat source, until soft and blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Turn and broil on the other side. Cool; peel the tomatoes.
These recipes were found on the Internet. You can always add or delete ingredients to fit your taste. Please share your recipes with us. We will make an effort to print them in coming Newsletters.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, April 15, 2010, in Freer, Texas, at D&D Barbecue at 106 W. Riley. This is at the intersection of Highway 16 & Highway 44. It is near the STRIPES Convenience store on the north side of highway (44). They have agreat menu. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. but you may come before this time to place your order earlier if you wish. Bring your friends and neighbors. The phone for the restaurant is (361) 394-1499. Thanks for bringing a door prize.
The program will be presented by County Agent Sam Gavito who will make a presentation on the problems farmers and ranchers are facing with feral hogs all over the state. The session will be followed by a question & answer period.
The feral hog population in Texas constitutes an introduced exotic species. If not properly managed, this exotic species has the potential of causing extensive damage to native wildlife, habitat and agricultural resources. Texas Animal Damage Control Service (TADCS) depredation report records are presented as a sample of the damage the feral hog is capable of inflicting.
The pig family (Suidae) is not indigenous to Texas . The hog (Sus scrofa) was introduced to Texas and became a feral population through a combination of accidental releases and intentional stockings. Today, feral hogs are pervasive and abundant in the state and represent a remarkably successful exotic population.
There are both positive and negative aspects to the feral hog population in Texas . The hog's Russian boar phenotype (S. scrofa spp.) is considered by some to be a trophy game animal with an edible carcass. California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia afford feral hogs varying degrees of legal game status (Mayer and Brisbin, 1991). Some (Baber and Coblentz, 1987) even refer to feral hogs as the "most successful exotic big game species in North America ". In Florida , the feral hog has several times superseded the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginiana) in the number of animals taken under permit (Frankenberger and Belden, 1978). Although Texas does not give the hog legal game animal status, many landowners manage their feral hog populations as they do their white-tailed deer herds. The presence of feral hogs on a hunting lease is considered more of an added selling feature than a problem.
However, it may be short-sighted to consider only the positive aspects of this multi-faceted animal. There are numerous reports of severe problems with feral hog activities occurring in parks, recreational areas, national seashores, refuges, wildlife management areas, and Land and wildlife management agencies are finding that the feral hog is an aggressive and difficult invader species that threatens their natural resources and habitat.
Hope to see everyone at the meeting.
J. T. Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
March, 2010, Newsletter
The monthly meeting in February in Freer, Texas, was great. The program by Emma Martinez on using cactus to landscape your yard was very informative and easy to understand. As most gardeners know, the most pressing problem in the garden is controlling the weeds. The work in keeping the garden weed-free is never ending. Many times we'll see that the weeds have taken over the garden completely. Many will then abandon the garden for this reason. There is no chance that this garden will be getting a GARDEN OF THE MONTH award.
Mrs. Martinez, however, had the solution for controlling weeds in your garden.….she recommends that we surround the cacti with old magazines. Emma first soaks the magazines in water and then covers the garden beds with magazines (or newspapers), your problems with weeds will be over. Emma covered the magazines with stones obtained from a nearby gravel pit. The stones can be the size of a grapefruit or smaller. She paid $21 a ton for the gravel. The gravel solves the problem and looks great in the cactus garden. Incidentally, the magazines can be used in other gardens (rose gardens, in annual and perennial flower gardens, etc). Emma uses ROUNDUP to control weeds along the fence line.
When landscaping with cactus and succulent plants, you should always do your homework first. Learn more about their individual growing requirements and try to match these requirements to that of your landscape.
Cactus plants have a number of survival tactics that allow them to adapt to a particular environment; however, it's always better to choose those that are more likely to thrive in your particular area. Including a variety of cacti that share similar growing needs but with different heights and textures will add interest to the cactus garden. Other plants and succulents may be planted with the cactus. Plants that need lots of water should not be planted with cactus since cactus needs very little water.
Choose cacti which produce plenty of colorful blooms. Throw in some other succulents and perhaps a bougainvillea or two (they don't need much water). The hard work in the cactus garden will be worth every hour you put into it. And the work involved will be great exercise which will benefit you.
Thanks, Emma, for the fantastic program!
1 Can Tuna Fish
1 1/2 c. diced cactus
Cut needles off young cactus pads (or use spineless cactus if you're lucky to have it), dice pads and boil until tender. Drain. Fry onion in butter until tender; add tomatoes, cactus and 1 cup water. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
While this is simmering, fry hamburger until browned. Add cactus mixture and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve with hot, cooked rice.
Fresh Poached Salmon with Cactus
4 (5 oz.) salmon filets
1 medium sliced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c. white wine
Fill a shallow skillet with water high enough just to cover the salmon. Add white wine, cactus, bay leaf, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Poach the salmon for about 7 minutes. Lift the salmon up onto four plates and squeeze some lemon juice on the filets. Add cactus and cooked ingredients to salmon plates. (You can substitute any fresh fish for the salmon. The method is the same. Be sure NOT to overcook fish ever!!!)
It The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, August 20, 2009, in Falfurrias , Texas , at STAR OF TEXAS RESTAURANT at 6:30 P.M. The restaurant is right across the street from Whataburger at 312 E. Rice. They have a great menu. You may come earlier if you wish to place your order early. Bring a friend, a neighbor, a significant other.
The program will be presented by Juan A. Canales, son of Texas Cactus Council member Lydia Canales. His topic will be SecondLife. SecondLife or SL is a virtual 3D world that you can join and create and socialize in.
“We have built a virtual representation of some historical buildings from Texas . The Texas Capitol Building, the Alamo, The Governor's Mansion, the Presidio la Bahia, the Spanish Governor's Palace and the Lighthouse in Port Isabel. The region we own is connected to 28 other regions that make up a community. Antiquity is a community of roleplayers that live a virtual life in the Victorian era. Within our region, or sim as it is called in SL, we have historical documents, early flags and maps that people can take are read. There is also an automated walking tour I created that walks you through the sim and gives you some basic Texas history. The narrator is from Benavides, Richard Gonzalez.
”I also have a business in SL. I create and sell jewelry and furniture. I also have created some china and clothes.
"The reason some may find it interesting is that our sim is visited a lot by people in education. Over 300 colleges and universities have a presence on SL. Some in education consider this the cutting edge of technology. There are already classes and associate degrees you can earn from schools. TSTC, Texas State Technical College, the old TSTI, offers a Digital Media associates degree you can earn totally on SL.
"You can go to... www.Secondlife.com if you want to see the site. Membership is free. "
Nos vemos pronto,
J. T. Garcia
July, 2009, Newsletter
For many years we have heard about the value of cactus, for human consumption, livestock feed, and its health benefits. Here's an article on another cactus for another use.
TEXAS CACTUS DIET
Who wants to eat a cactus? Just about everyone in the world wants this particular cactus. You may not have heard about the Cactus Diet but most people have heard about Hoodia.
The basis of the Cactus diet is a substance called Hoodia. Several diet pills on the market claim to contain the substance. Hoodia is the name of a rather ugly cactus that grows in the Kalahari region of Africa . The Bushmen that live there use the Hoodia cactus, specifically Hoodia Gordonii, to keep them from getting hungry on long hunting trips.
The native tribes eat the plant and can survive for days on little or nothing to eat while they search for food. The Hoodia cactus suppresses their desire to eat. It fools the brain into thinking that they are already full.
The discovery of this plant sent pharmaceutical companies after the secret to stopping the obesity epidemic. Taking Hoodia is supposed to suppress the appetite and therefore lead to weight loss. When hunger does start to kick in, Hoodia users can eat healthier foods to fuel the body.
Taking Hoodia and following an exercise plan leads to weight loss according to those who swear by the substance. Natural Hoodia has no side effects and can affect the appetite after the first pieces are eaten. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to synthesize Hoodia for market to the rest of the world.
The cactus diet plan is still not perfected. The Cactus diet involves taking supplements that contain Hoodia. There are many types of Hoodia and you may be buying a pill that claims to suppress the appetite but may not. The amount of Hoodia may not be enough to cause the same effects that the Bushmen experience from eating the actual plant. Since this plant has not been found outside of this desert-like region of Africa , to follow the Cactus diet plan, people have to rely on commercial pills that make boastful claims about their product having the same effects as the original Hoodia plant.
According to the Hoodia tale, the substance is hard to reproduce with the same efficiency. Those who buy products that contain Hoodia should beware. We all know what they say about something that seems too good to be true. Until further notice, watch what you eat and exercise regularly to lose weight. Set aside the gimmicks.
Ensalada de Nopalitos (Cactus Salad)
This delicious recipe is compliments of the Epicenter.com Visit this sites terrific spice encyclopedia.
I N G R E D I E N T S
3 cups cooked nopales - - 3 tbsp chopped white onion - - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro - - 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano - - 2 tbsp fresh lime juice or vinegar
T O P P I N G
3 tomatoes, sliced - - 1/3 cup chopped cilantro - - 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or añejo or Monterey jack cheese - - 1/3 cup purple onion rings - -3 canned chiles jalapeños en escabeche, cut into quarters lengthwise - -1 avocado, peeled and sliced (optional) - - romaine lettuce for the side of the serving platter
I N S T R U C T I O N S
The council had a very informative meeting at Restaurante El Charro in Alice, Texas, in June. The program presented, by Joe Martinez, was on the history of Chorizo de San Manuel. The chorizo sold by this company is the most popular chorizo found in stores. Joe presented recipes on using this chorizo, including recipes using cactus. Among the many door prizes, were several packages of the famous chorizo.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet at Dairy Queen in Freer, Texas , for the July, 2009, meeting. DQ is on the main street in town (Hiway 44). The meeting is set for Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 6:30 p.m.
TCC President Joe Martinez will present the program during the Texas Cactus Council meeting. The topic is *corridos , specially those originating in our South Texas area. This will be a historical and cultural presentation, which will include musical recordings of very rare corridos . Some corridos scheduled for the presentation originated in our area and date back to the latter part of the 19th century. Two of the program's featured corridos are: El Corrido de Kiansis and Los Pronunciados . El Corrido de Kiansis is about a cattle drive to the state of Kansas , during the Chisholm Trail days. Los Pronunciados is about a revolt started and headed by Catarino Garza, a Palito Blanco resident (near Ben Bolt), with the intended purpose of ousting Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz. The Garza revolt took place some 20 years before the subsequent Mexican Revolution. You'll be able to listen to very rare recording of the above two *corridos . Also included are other *corridos about bootleggers, Don Pedrito Jaramillo, a horse race, George B. Parr, and Gregorio Cortez.
The members are asked to bring a door prize to the meeting. More cactus pads will be passed out as door prizes. Your donated door prize does not have to be cactus. We do thank the members who have brought in door prizes to past meetings.
*corrido is a ballad
J. T. Garcia
June, 2009, Newsletter
We start off the June, 2009, Newsletter on a sad note. Long-time member of the Texas Cactus Council, Sid Williams, from Pearsall, Texas , passed away on May 21, 2009. Below is some information taken from Sid's obituary.
When his wife asked Sid Williams what he would most want people to remember him for, he answered quickly "race relations." Playing with Spanish-speaking playmates along the San Miguel Creek in Frio County prepared Sid for his life-long pursuit: to facilitate harmony among all people, from family through city, state, country and the world. Sid went to Baylor at age 15. He learned and assimilated knowledge then used his intelligence, integrity, talent, and generosity to promote respect and understanding among all people. He studied and traveled extensively in Mexico meeting the people to understand their culture. He served as Frio County judge for a number of years. He also had artistic talents and he taught his skills to others.
We will all miss Sid and hold great memories of him. Our condolences to his family.*****************************
And interest in cactus gardens continues. For those who want to enjoy consuming cactus, a backyard cactus garden is the answer. If you don't mind taking the time to remove the cactus spines, go for the prickly pear cactus. Or if you are in a hurry like most of us are, plant spineless cactus in your garden. They are easy to prepare for your favorite cactus dishes. Many of you have been lucky to take some home as door prizes in past meetings. My favorite spineless cacti are Zapata, Nopal Negro, 1308, Luther Burbank. You will be pleased to learn that cactus is great for your health. Look at the benefits below:
No saturated fat -- No cholesterol - - Very high in calcium - -Very high in dietary fiber - - Very high in iron - - Very high in manganese - -Very high in magnesium - - High in niacin - - High in pantothenic acid ,
Once you plant cactus in your garden, it's quite easy to care for it. Cactus requires very little water. If you're on vacation for several weeks - - no problem. The cacti will survive. And the cactus pads start producing tender pads very soon. And if you need cactus recipes you can purchase our cookbook or look for recipes on the internet. Or you can experiment and come up with your own recipe. If you come up with a good one, send it in and we will include it in the Newsletter. Margarita Hinojosa came up with the “Nopalito Pie” several years ago. It was a hit. Has anyone thought of making Nopalito Empanadas with dry shrimp?
1 lb. raw, diced, tender cactus pads - - 2 pineapple slices - -1 celery stalk - - 4 cups orange juice - - lemon slices
Put all ingredients in blender (except lemon slices which will be placed on glass rims). Pour in glass over ice cubes. If you plan to add your favorite alcoholic beverage, be sure someone drives you home.
Grilled Cactus & Fajitas
6 whole tender cactus pads - - 1 lb. fajitas - - 1 cup pico de gallo - - 3 lemons - - red or green salsa - - tortillas - -sliced onions (or green onions) - - garlic powder - - olive oil
Start grilling fajitas. When half done, place cactus pads (brushed with olive oil) and onions on grill. Add garlic powder. When cooked remove fajitas, cactus pads and onions from grill and cut in strips. Place in warmed tortillas (flour or corn). Top with pico de gallo, salsa, lemon and salt/pepper. Add sliced jalapenos if you wish. Bet you'll love this.
We had a great meeting in Falfurrias last month. Guests were Yolanda & Gabriel Guevara from Falfurrias. We are hoping that both join the Texas Cactus Council. Gabriel is an accomplished musician. Maybe we can convince him to entertain us at one of our meetings. Another guest was Jerry Alaniz from Premont. Thank you all for joining us.
We finally got some rain in South Texas . It wasn't enough, but it did help the ranchers and farmers. The already wilted prickly pear cactus perked up. Some ranchers are still burning cactus for their livestock. Most cactus plants are covered with plump green tunas (cactus fruit) which the cattle readily eat. The pastures are already turning green and the pear burning will probably end soon. I have a feeling that Texas Cactus Council member James Williams from Freer continued his rain dances. Thanks, James. Did Grace Munguia help you with the rain dances? We bet she did. :)
The council had voted at the last meeting that we meet at King's Inn in Riviera for the June meeting. Member Emma Martinez, who was in charge of making the necessary arrangements, informed me that King's Inn would be happy to serve us. We could not meet there after all, however, because the restaurant would need to present only one bill for the meal. This would create all kinds of problems.
The Texas Cactus Council will instead meet on Thursday, June 18, 2009, in Alice , Texas , at 6:30 p.m. at El Charro Restaurant. It's located at 1011 W. Front St. They have great Mexican food, including menudo, enchiladas, carne guisada, tacos, etc. as well as steaks and seafood. The phone number is (361) 661-1409.
Again, we will provide cactus pads as door prizes. Anyone wishing to bring a door prize may do so. It does not have to be cactus. At last month's meeting we had plenty of grapefruit, cantaloupe, watermelon, jewelry, etc. all donated by TCC president Joe Martinez. Please invite friends and relatives to join us at the meeting.
Texas Cactus Council President, Joe Martinez, will be the program speaker for the June 18 th meeting. The topic is about a culinary South Texas breakfast favorite, Mexican chorizo. However, in this case it's about Chorizo de San Manuel, located north of Edinburg on Hwy 281.
The topic of chorizo may seem unpromising and lacking importance. Nonetheless, not until we analyze the role chorizo plays in the lives of South Texans, primarily Hispanics, do we realize its importance, be it culinarily, historically, culturally, or traditionally.
On several occasions Joe has stated that Chorizo de San Manuel is the best commercial Mexican chorizo in Texas and perhaps in the world (tongue in cheek). Joe will have to present the evidence.
At the presentation there will be chorizo recipes to pass out that include: queso flameado, chorizo refried beans, migas con chorizo, papas con chorizo, shrimp and chorizo quesadillas, chorizo tostadas and chorizo con huevos. Joe might bring chorizo with nopalitos tostadas as samplers.
Additionally, details on how to conveniently store chorizo in the freezer, which does not require thawing before cooking. Chorizo de San Manuel is packaged fresh and will not otherwise keep long in the refrigerator. We're all looking forward to this program.
J. T. Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
May, 2009, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council welcomes a new member, Charles White, from Gore, Virginia . Chuck invites everyone to visit his website where he promotes the consumption of nopalitos in a new and healthy way by offering it in a cornbread form. www.chuckiescactus.com . Thank you, Chuck, for joining our council.
Cactus Wren - - state bird of Arizona
There are many different types, shapes, and sizes of cactus. Cacti from desert areas are plump and spiny while cacti that originally grew in jungle areas are flat or thin and spineless.
Some cacti have leaves, and even flowers. For example, the pereskia, when full grown, looks like an orange or a grapefruit tree. The melocactus grows a cap on top at maturity, which later sprouts beautiful rosy-pink flowers.
Aeonium : Aeoniums are flowering cacti native to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region of North Africa . The flowers, which are usually yellow, come out of the growing points in the center of the rosette. In most cases, the plant dies after flowering when the seed matures.
Eulychnia saint-pieana : This tall columnar cactus is native to the hills of Chile . It has many ribs with large, white, wooly tufts and long central spines. Its flowers remain open day and night, and its fleshy fruit is edible, but not very tasty.
Ferocactus : The ferocactus, barrel-shaped cacti with prominent ribs, get their name from their long, heavy, often hooked spines. In Mexico , the skin and spines are peeled off and the flesh is diced and eaten raw or candied.
Haageocereus chrysacranthus : This columnar, slow growing cactus from Peru features many ribs and fine needlelike spines. With plenty of food and drink, this cactus will grow much fatter with more ribs.
Holiday Cactus : The holiday cactus (the schlumbergera) get their common name from the time of year they flower -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. Their flowers range in color from white through rose, red, lavender, and purple.
Melocactus : The melocactus -- also known as Turk's head cactus, Turk's cap cactus, and melon cactus -- is a large, ribbed, ball-shaped or cylindrical plant that develops a cap ("cephalium") on the top of the plant at maturity. The melocactus originates from warm, moist, coastal areas, and can tolerate humidity.
Mountain Cereus : The mountain cereus ( oreocereus hendriksenianus densilanatus ) from the Andes of Bolivia and Peru is a strongly ribbed cactus with reddish spines and long, silky hair.
Rat Tail Cactus : The Rat Tail Cactus ( aporocactus flagelliformis ) has thin weak stems that can grow five feet long and hang down over the sides of its pot, and its long red flowers can last for several days. In rural Mexico , the dried flowers are used medicinally.
Rebutia : These small ball or barrel-shaped cacti have small spines and their tubercles are arranged in spirals. Their flowers, which close at night, come in a variety of colors, are often larger than the plant, and can last up to four or five days.
Sedum : The name sedum comes from the Latin " sedeo ; I sit," which suggests that many of these cacti will sit and grow anywhere. These hardy plants are perfect for rock gardens since they will grow for years in spots that other plants find inhospitable.
The Spider Cactus : The spider cactus ( gymnocalycium denudatum ) from Southern Brazil , is a globular plant that gets its common name from its spine arrangement. In very bright light, this cactus takes on a brownish cast.
Tephrocactus : This South American cactus features thick, short globular or cylindrical joints, and its many glochids (barbed hairs or bristles) are very delicate and break off at the slightest touch. The plant's spines are usually long and give it character.
Torch Cactus : The torch cactus ( cereus peruvianus ) is a columnar cactus that can grow very large and is the stereotypical cactus for south-of-the-border cartoons. When mature, the plant has large, white flowers and blooms quite profusely.
For those of you who want to start growing cactus in your garden or in pots in the house, here's a recipe for making fertilizer for your cactus.
1 can beer 1 cup of epsom salts ½ cup ammonia
2 cups of water
Mix all ingredients and put in a container. Use ½ ounce at a time. One time every two weeks. Add this mixture to the water (one gallon) when watering your cactus.
Cacti that need as much light as possible (stand them in direct sunlight and the more, the better) would be most Notoactus, Obregonia, Astrophytum, Pilocereus, Mirtillocactus, Ariocarpus, Ferocactus, and some Mammillaria species. The Saguaro (Carnegia gigantea), prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) can also be left out in full sunlight. Plants with very dense spination, very tough thick skin and cacti with blue or white colored stems also fall into this category.
Cacti that would need moderate light are Aporocactus, Chamaecereus, and certain Gymnocalyciums. These can be put on a sunny windowsill but shaded from direct sunlight by a light scattering material, such as is used for plastic bags.
Cacti with low light requirements are leafy rainforest cacti. Sunlight can kill these plants. Keep them inside away from sunlight.
One important hint: if you are watering or spraying your plants, do it after the sun has set as water droplets can act as lenses in the daytime and burn the tender skin of your plants.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, May 21, 2009, at Strickland's Restaurant in Falfurrias , Texas , at 6:30 p.m. A 15% charge (tip) will be assessed on each ticket at the register. The restaurant is located at 1918 Highway 281 (going south out of the city on the right). They are asking that we park at the rear of the restaurant. Hope to see you all there. They have a great menu.
J. T. Garcia
April, 2009, Newsletter
I sent some cactus pads to two of our members who wanted to try to grow them in their area. Rosario Rivera from El Paso , Texas , and Dr. Gordon Pettey from Forth Worth, Texas, received a variety of pads. Rosario also got some Opuntia ficus indica from California . These are fruit producing cacti.
Rosario will hopefully report to us on the growth of the cacti I sent her. Dr. Pettey will be our North Texas contact on his experimental cactus crop and will tell us how each of the different cactus is doing in Fort Worth. He used ½ sand and ½ potting soil (mainly cow manure) in planting the pads. On planting he watered each pad deeply. He will water the pads when they get dry. (Once the pads start to sprout, they will not need much water).
The only news I have is bad news - - - STILL NO RAIN!! Central Texas did receive good rain. Maybe we'll get some soon! Ranchers are still purchasing feed and hay and burning cactus for the livestock. I sent a load of animals to the auction. This should lessen the work I do at the ranch. Cattle prices are still down, but we won't complain because they've been up in the past and we did well then. I'll still be going to the ranch twice a day, to feed, to burn cactus and to check the water supply. Luckily the ranch is only one mile from my house, so it's not as bad as it could be.
One of our members, Leandro Martinez, a rancher from Alice, Texas, recommends that ranchers not burn cactus if the cactus looks wilted and dry, since the cattle will only be eating cactus fibers, which are of no benefit to the cattle. Because of the drought, many cactus patches are indeed dry. So we'll all be careful.
And since the drought is upon us we must make an effort to remember the wildlife at the ranch who are having a difficult time finding water. My windmill in the back ranch empties into a huge cistern which fills the cattle trough. The overflow on the cistern flows into a nearby creek. I use a poly pipe to send the water to the creek which has plenty of water. We see the deer, wild turkeys, and feral hogs come daily for their water. They are all joined by the numerous numbers of birds including mockingbirds, blue quail, bobwhite quail, cardinals, mourning doves, white-winged doves, Eurasian doves, green jays, etc., etc. Please do your part to help our Texas wildlife who needs our help during these dry times.
Here are some cactus recipes. Nopalitos are now plentiful, so enjoy them in your favorite recipe.
PORK STEW WITH NOPALES
2 cups diced nopales
2 pounds lean pork roast, cut into cubes
2 cups water
3 fresh jalapeno peppers
1 clove minced garlic I diced tomato
2 cups chicken stock salt/pepper
Simmer pork in salted water for 2 hours or until cooked and tender. About 30 minutes before pork is finished add nopales. Meanwhile, in a blender combine the garlic, jalapenos and some water. Puree until smooth. In a large pot place the tomato puree, pork and nopales. Add chicken stock and simmer for about 1 1/2 or 2 hours until tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
FRENCH FRIED CACTUS
This is one cactus recipe in which we don't boil the pads first. In this one the fresh peeled cactus are cut into French fry style strips 3/8" wide and rolled in a batter of milk and eggs then rolled in flour and cornmeal.
Frying in a skillet or deep fryer will give a deep gold/green color. They are great fresh out of the oil.
DID YOU KNOW……(from the Internet)
Snakebites and insect bites, burns, rashes, sunburn and minor abrasions are all treated with a poultice made from cleaned prickly pear cactus. The gooey juice of the prickly pear cactus is used as a very soothing skin lotion for minor rashes, sunburns and windburns.
All opuntia species are edible (non-toxic) but some species are easier to use than others. Two parts of the plant are edible, the pads (nopalitos) and the pear (tuna). The pads are vegetable and the pear is fruit. The State of Texas named the prickly pear cactus as the state plant in 1995.
About 40,000 pounds of cactus pads come into Texas each day from Mexico . They are spineless varieties and are available already washed and diced or as whole pads. The fruits are often made into tuna jelly. Cactus pads contain large amounts of Vitamin A and C and also a fair amount of B vitamins and iron.
The Texas Cactus Council voted in March to meet for the April. 2009, meeting, at Baffin Bay Café in Riviera , Texas . Unfortunately, Baffin Bay Café will not be able to accommodate us this time. The council will instead hold the April meeting in San Diego , Texas , at Jerry's Diner, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, 2009. As always, you may come earlier if you wish. They have a great menu, as we all know.
J. T. Garcia
March, 2009, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council met in Kingsville , Texas , for the February meeting. The meeting room was filled to capacity. Everyone enjoyed the delicious food (mainly seafood) prepared by El Mercado Restaurant. Guests at the meeting were Lupita and Larry Lopez from Kingsville , and Jin Vanburkleo from Corpus Christi , Texas . And we'd like to also welcome our newest member to the council, Lydia Molina, from Corpus Christi . Texas , who was also at the meeting.
We had a very good session on using cactus to landscape. The different kinds of cacti for use in gardens were mentioned. Of course, we can use other succulents or annuals or perennials to complete the cactus garden. The topic of the drought came up again. It's looking pretty bad, folks. Most of the state of Texas is still very dry. Many ranchers are liquidating their herds because of this. Other are holding on to their livestock, relying on hay, feed and cactus. As you know, some of the members of the council have performed rain dances. TCC member Emma Martinez, from Alice, Texas, brought a “ rain stick” to the meeting. She bought it on one of her trips in the El Paso area. It appears to be made from bamboo. It is about three feet long and is as wide as a large mayonnaise jar. As you put an end of the rain stick down, a sound is made by the loose contents (probably pebbles) in the stick. It is a sound very much like rain. Several of us played with it and enjoyed the sound of the “rain”. It was indeed a good conversation piece.
The rain stick is a musical instrument from South America . Traditionally, rain sticks are made from the wood skeleton of a cactus. First, the thorns are pulled off and pushed back through the soft flesh of the cactus. Then the cactus is left in the sun to dry--with the thorns on the inside. Later, the hollow cactus is filled with small pebbles, and the ends are sealed with pieces of wood.
TCC member Josie Slonaker from Corpus Christi, Texas, brought some cactus pads to the meeting with some kind of problem. It appears that her Algerian cactus in her yard has developed some kind of rotting damage. The different possibilities were discussed. It appears to have started by an insect pest. Josie will cut and destroy the infected pads in the cactus. This should eliminate the problem and save the cactus.
We are often asked: “Does consumption of cactus cure diabetes?” The answer is “no”. There is no cure yet for the disease. The short article below is from the internet. Incidentally, Arizona Cactus Ranch is a member of the Texas Cactus Council. We congratulate them on their great work.
Arizona Cactus Ranch is located on forty square miles of desert near Green Valley in Southern Arizona , and is surrounded by Englemann Prickly Pear Cactus. Every August and September fruit buds from the cactus is harvested to produce a slightly sweet tasting juice that's 100% pure, concentrated prickly pear nectar with no sugar or preservatives added.
There has been a great deal of medical interest in Prickly Pear recently. Several studies, using Arizona Cactus Ranch Prickly Pear Nectar, have shown that the pectin,a dietary fiber similar to the kind found in Mesquite, contained in the Prickly Pear pulp dramatically lowers levels of "bad" cholesterol while leaving "good" cholesterol levels unchanged. In addition to this, another study found that the fibrous pectin in the fruit lowers diabetics' need for insulin . So, will eating cactus help? It won't hurt.
Nopal (cactus) is native to the southwestern desert regions of the United States and Mexico , and has a whole range of health benefits (all proven in numerous studies, both animal and human). These include the ability to:
Now that Lent is here, thoughts go to using nopalitos (cactus) in recipes. Here's one we hope you'll enjoy. Thanks to Stella Saenz for sharing it.
Cactus Salmon Patties
1 cup diced boiled nopalitos.
1 can salmon - - - 8 saltine crackers (broken up)
1 medium diced onion (may use green onions)
1 egg, salt pepper
cilantro (optional) - - cooking oil
In a bowl place all ingredients and mix well. Form patties. In a frying pan place two tablespoons oil. Place patties in hot oil. Turn patties. Cook until brown.
Here's another suggestions sent in by a TCC member. Just add a cup of diced, cooked nopalitos to your usual enchilada recipe. Great with Spanish rice and freshly baked pinto beans. And maybe a margarita before you eat lunch.
I'll print other recipes using cactus that you send, in future newsletters.
The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, March 19, 2009, in Hebbronville , Texas , at Morales Restaurant at 6:30 p.m. The restaurant is on 105 N. Smith, about one block from the county courthouse (right on the corner of the traffic lights next to the convenience store). There is ample parking space in the back of the restaurant. Come earlier if you wish. The telephone number for the restaurant is (361) 527-3996. Hope to see Brenda and Robert and the other wonderful friends from Hebbronville at the meeting.
J. T. Garcia
February, 2009, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council met in San Diego, Texas, in January. A sizeable group of members was present for the meeting.
The program was on pear burning for cattle. To feed cactus to cattle and other livestock, the prickly pear cactus spines must be burned off with a pear burner. Since it has not rained at all in most areas of Texas, ranchers are currently feeding cactus and other supplements (hay, cattle pellets, etc.). TCC member Liandro Martinez talked about how and when he burns cactus for his animals. He did emphasize the need for a supplement in addition to the cactus. Failure to provide hay, pellets, etc. will result in the cactus forming balls of fiber and twine n the cattle’s stomach, eventually causing death to infected cattle. Currently propane pear burners are the most widely used. A few ranchers also use gasoline burners, which can be dangerous. Ranchers in years past also burned cactus for their animals. But since modern burners were not available they had to resort to the only way they know how to feed cactus to their animals. They would cut a long (8 – 10 foot) stiff mesquite branch, remove the branches and make a sharp point in one end. Prickly pear cactus pads were piled up in a stack near a large open blazing fire. Several cactus pads were speared at a time with the mesquite branch and held over the fire to burn the spines. Using the branch, the burned pads were tossed all around to the waiting cattle who gobbled them up immediately. The mesquite branches were quite popular in the old days and called “chamuscadores”. This word comes from the word “Chamuscar” which means to burn.
Since the rains have not yet arrived, we’re all in bad shape. Fields cannot be plowed and planted so we will continue to wait for the wet stuff, continue with the techniques of the rain dancer, and continue “chamuscando"
Two of our Texas Cactus Council members provided sketches to use with the pear burning article. You will find them in this Newsletter. Our thanks to members James Williams and L. A. Perez for their art work. Both are from Freer, TX.
Above is a sketch by James Williams. It shows a rancher burning cactus for the cattle using a “chamuscador”. The burned cactus is tossed to the cattle waiting on the sides. Many are the ranchers who swear that cactus has saved them during severe droughts.
Cactus sprouts back after being burned during the spring. You will probably have as big a plant as the year before and the burning can be continued the following winter. Many birds such as mockingbirds, thrushes, wild turkeys, quail, road runners, etc., build their nests in the prickly pear cactus or on the ground below it. The nests will be safer from predators because of the spines.
Spring is on its way and the time for starting your cactus garden is here. There are hundreds of varieties of cacti - - spineless (used mainly for nopalitos), tuna (fruit) producers, tall-growing cacti, small cacti such as horse cripplers, star cactus, etc., etc., etc. Since cactus needs little water, you can use many different kinds of flowering plantswhich also require little water, such as the bougainvillea. Using other succulents to accent the cactus garden is also a good idea. Century plants, aloes, potted plants which may need more water can be used.
Grilled Cactus Pads
1 lb cactus pads
This is an interesting treat for a cookout. Scrub cactus leaves well with a vegetable scrubber to remove any spines that may be on them. (unless you’re lucky and have the spineless variety). With the end of a potato peeler cut around the spiney nodules and remove them. Make sure that all are removed. Grill the leaves over charcoal or wood fire for 10 to 12 minutes on each side. Thicker leaves may take slightly longer to grill. Brush leaves with oil occasionally while grilling. Serve hot.
Scrambled Eggs Arizona Style
1 or 2 cactus pads
1/4 pound cheese
Salt and Pepper to tast
Scrub cactus pads and remove spines. Use a potato peeler to cut around spiney nodules and remove. Slice cactus leaves into bite-size pieces. Saute cactus pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl and add shredded cheese and cooked cactus. Pour in heated skillet and scramble. Serve warm.
This L.A. Perez sketch shows a rancher using a pear burner to burn the spines off prickly pear cactus. Some propane tanks are small enough so they can be strapped on to the back of the rancher. Bigger tanks might be carried around the cactus patches or rolled on wheels.
Cactus sprouts back after being burned during the spring. You will probably have as big a plant as the year before and the burning can be continued the following winter. Many birds such as mockingbirds, thrushes, wild turkeys, quail, road runners, etc., build their nests in the prickly pear cactus or on the ground below it.. The nests will be safer from predators because of the spines.
The council had voted at the last meeting to have our February meeting at Baffin Bay Café east of Riviera, Texas. However, it has been reserved by many of their customers for that day and have no room for us at this time. We will be meeting instead at El Mercado del Mar in Kingsville, Texas, on Thursday, February 19, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. Come earlier, if you wish, to place your order. They have great seafood: fish, shrimp, oysters, crab. They also have chicken and steak sandwiches. The restaurant is located at 1021 S. 14th Street, Kingsville, Texas. If you get lost call them at (361) 595-5332.
The program will be on suggestions from the Texas Cactus Council members on what would make a great cactus landscaped garden. Please be ready to share your suggestions.
J. T Garcia
Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas
January, 2009, Newsletter
Hope 2009 has started well for all. May it bring happiness, joy, success and good health for you and your loved ones. May it be the start of great relationships and many happy times.
The Texas Cactus Council Christmas party at the Garza Party Barn in Benavides , Texas , was excellent. The great food that the members brought in was fantastic. Over fifaty members showed up for the party. Great main dishes, great desserts, (including fruit salads, pies, cakes, candy and capirotada) were enjoyed by all. After the exchange of gifts, everyone went home on a full stomach.
The day started early (at 2:00 o'clock) at the Benavides cemetery for a historical tour. The group visited the gravesites of three men who died in battle with the Texas Rangers in about 1920. The three men (Oliveira, Aguilar and Maldonado)were killed by the rangers. A corrido (ballad) was composed right after the killings. Texas Cactus Council president Joe Martinez sang the Corrido. Some of the members joined in on the singing. I passed out some copies of the corrido to the members.
The group also visited the gravesite of the Duke of Duval, Mr. George B. Parr. Joe explained to the group that Parr was involved with the now famous Box 13 incident which placed Lyndon B. Johnson in the U. S. Senate. The rest is history. Many of the members asked many questions during the visit to the cemetery. It was a very informative and enjoyable tour.
(NOTE: SOME OF THE MEMBERS WHO DID NOT GET A COPY OF THE CORRIDO ASKED THAT I SEND THEM A COPY. HOWEVER, I MISPLACED THE LIST OF THOSE WHO WANTED A COPY. PLEASE EMAIL ME OR WRITE TO ME AND I WILL EITHER MAIL YOU A COPY OR EMAIL YOU THE CORRIDO. ONE OF THE MEMBERS ALSO ASKED THAT I MAIL HER TWO COPIES OF OUR COOKBOOK. I ALSO LOST THAT NAME. PLEASE GET BACK TO ME. )
The drought is upon us in South Texas . Many area counties have declared a burn ban to avoid wild fires. It is also the time for burning cactus for livestock. And many ranchers are burning cactus at this time. The grasses are tall and very dry. All have to be careful while burning the cactus. One of our council members (Willie Utley) is a great believer in using cactus for his cattle. He will give us a brief report on this as will Liandro Martinez from Jim Wells County . I, too, am about to start using cactus for my cattle. I will share my experiences using cactus for my cattle. If the rains don't come soon, we may have to again resort to TCC member James Williams to perform his now famous rain dance. We may also ask member Robert McAnear to assist James with the rain ritual.
The sketches in this newsletter were made by long-time Texas Cactus Council member Sid Williams III from Pearsall , Texas . Sid is a very talented artist and we thank him for his contribution to this newsletter.
The council welcomes two new members to the Texas Cactus Council. They are Evangelina Kujawski from Freer, Texas , and Lorraine Cummings from Cato , Wisconsin . Welcome to our ranks, ladies. We know you will enjoy being members of our council. BIENVENIDAS!!
If any of the members still need cactus pads to start or add to their gardens please let me know. TCC member Rhoda Poensich from Ingleside wrote to me before the cemetery tour and Christmas party and asked for some 1308 spineless cactus pads. I had some ready for her the day of the party. She has been having trouble with javelinas raiding her garden. Hopefully she will bag a couple of the javs and bring to one of our meeting where we can barbecue them. And we hope the 1308 pads will survive the visiting wild pigs. Besides the 1308 spine less, I also have Zapata, nopal negro, pelona and Luther Burbank. All these are also spineless. I have a huge (about 18 feet tall) cactus which produces the most delicious cactus fruit of all. It has a succulent deep red flesh. The pads, however, are covered with spines. We brought this cactus from Saltillo , Mexico , in the early 19 90's. I cannot remember the name. Perhaps Robert Mick will remember the name and share it with us. Robert was with us on that trip. I think I remember “especial” as part of the name. I am not sure, however. In any case, if anyone needs cactus pads, just let me know. I'll take them to the next meeting for you.
The next meeting will at Jerry's Diner in San Diego , Texas , on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. You may come earlier if you wish to eat earlier. They have a great menu.
See you all at the meeting!
J. T. Garcia
November, 2008, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council announces two new members, Elizabeth Burns from Encino , Texas , and Joycelene Odum from Brookshire , Texas . Welcome to our council, ladies.
The Texas Cactus Council tour to Parras, Coahuila , Mexico , is now history. It was a most enjoyable trip. The group loved the beautiful gardens at the popular Resort Hotel (Rincon Del Montero) as well as the tours to a denim factory and a winery/museum where many purchased the fine wines available. We made visits to several beautiful churches. A stop at El Mercado in Saltillo was also made. All returned with a smile on their face and many photos and stories to share with their families back home.
The Texas Cactus Council will have their annual Christmas party on Saturday, Decembe 13, 2008, in Benavides, Texas, at the Garza Party Barn. A tour of the Benavides Cemetary is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on that date. A description of the cemetery tour is explained below. The party will start at 4:00 p.m. Each TCC member will be bringing a dish for the party. Some of the members have already told us what they will be bringing to the party:
Joe Martinez — tamales
J. T. Garcia - turkey
Minnie Salazar - giblet gravy & dressing
Ida Perez – yams & fruit salad
Mary Holbein – ham
Emma Martinez – plates, napkins, cups, knives/forks
Yolanda Zapata – rolls, cranberries
Alicia Garza Saenz - strawberry cake
Gracie Munguia - dessert
Rhoda Poenisch - mashed potatoes.
We still need more cakes, pies, fruit salads, pan de polvo, green bean casserole, etc., and perhaps other main dishes. You may call J. T. Garcia at (361) 207-0966 to tell him what you will be bringing or to ask what elso is needed. You may invite family members or friends. Ladies bring a ladies gift (not over $10). Men bring a man's gift. Your family and friends may also be involved in the gift exchange by bringing a gift.
The GARZA PARTY BARN is located about 5 miles north of Benavides , Texas , on Highway 339 (going to Freer, Texas ). We will have balloons at the gate to mark the entrance. For those coming from the Freer area, the entrance to the party barn is on the left side Of the Highway. There is no need to include a map for the directions to get there. Just get on Hiway 339 (if you're coming thru Benavides, turn on N 339, cross the Railroad tracks and you're on your way. If you're coming from Freer, get on 339 and drive about 20 miles. And if you get lost, call me at the cell phone listed above.
For the Cemetary tour, we will all meet in Benavides , Texas , at the city park right in front of Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church at 2 o'clock. The cemetery is two blocks away. Joe Martinez will conduct the tour and will give colorful details and historyabout some aspects of the cemetery. NOTE: THE CEMETARY TOUR WAS DONE IN 2005 BUT IS BEING REPEATED FOR THOSE WHO WERE NOT PRESENT THE FIRST TIME. Everyone will enjoy the historical visit to the cemetery.
Three time-weathered tombstones in the Benavides Cemetery are testament to a once violent period in the history of South Texas . From about 1915 and into the early 1920's, the Texas Rangers were the scourge of South Texas , inflicting havoc among the Tejano population. Shoot first and ask questions later seemed to be order-of -the -day. It is estimated that between 1500 and 3,000 Tejanos were killed by the Rangers in the early 1900's along the South Texas frontier. Thus, El Corrido de Oliveira . Joe Martinez will sing the ballad for the group
April 1, 1920, the date inscribed on three tombstones in a cemetery in Benavides, Texas, denotes the fateful day when the Texas Rangers shot and killed three Tejanos who were on their way to Paras, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The three tombstones are located within feet from each other. Cresencio Oliviera, Jr., Dionisio Maldonado and Aguilar were killed in the community of Bruni by the Texas Rangers, who opened fire from behind the cover of a mesquite corral, ambush style. Maldonado, Aguilar and Cresencio, Jr. dismounted their horses, at which time the rangers opened fire. Two others who had not yet dismounted raced away unscathed. The two riders that escaped were the father and a brother of Cresencio Oliviera, Jr. It was a chilly, drizzling day so the riders were wearing oil cloth capes that opened up and spread out when the two hastily galloped away. To their amazement, upon dismounting, they discovered that the flapping parts of their capes were riddled with bullet holes.
The corral at Bruni was a stop-off point (a place to rest and water the horses) for those traveling by wagon or horseback on their trek to Mexico or other South Texas points. Here the group of five stopped to water and rest their horses. The three who were killed were also accompanied by Cresencio, Jr.'s, brother Doroteo and their father, Crecencio, Sr. Earlier, their departure point was Rancho Palo Blanco located 3 miles from Benavides, a ranch owned by Crecencio Sr.'s brother. Their destination was the town of Paras , Nuevo Leon , Mexico , where Cresencio, Jr. was to wed Chucha Gutierrez, his beloved sweetheart. All plans for the big wedding were complete, the calf was already butchered, the wedding cake all decorated, and the rest of the arrangements finalized. The only thing pending was the arrival of the bridegroom who was traveling from Texas , Crecencio Oliveira, Jr.
Upon hearing about the treacherous death perpetrated on Crecencio, Jr., everything went into disarray in the town of Paras . “Not to worry,” said Crecencio, Sr., “I have another son that will marry Chucha,” “the wedding will proceed as already scheduled.” The other son and prospective groom, Doroteo Oliveira, however, was committed to his own girlfriend and thus refused to follow his father's wishes. Fortunately, there is another son, Corando, the younger brother of Doroteo, who is coerced into marrying Chucha, although she was five years older than him. The wedding proceeded on schedule and the bride and groom lived happily thereafter. They had three sons and one daughter.
A member of the Texas Cactus Council, Dr. Crecencio Oliveira from Corpus Christi , Texas , is the nephew of Crecencio Oliviera, Jr, referred to above as one of three killed by the Texas Rangers.
Dr. Oliveira offered other interesting anecdotes about the 1920 incident at Bruni as follows:
The Oliviera families from both Texas and Paras decided to honor Crecencio Olivera's memory by naming the first boy born to the family with his name. So, Dr. Cresencio Oliviera was named Cresencio for that reason. However, in Paras, Nuevo Leon another boy was born about the same time and he too was named Crecencio, not knowing that a boy had already received that name in Texas . Today, many of the Oliviera's descendents are named Crecencio.
Maldonado, Aguilar and Oliveira were buried in the Benavides cemetery at night for fear of reprisal from the Texas Rangers. The three bodies were left where they were shot for several days because in those day the Texas Rangers would shoot anyone going near the bodies of their victims.
Rumors follow that during the Laredo , Texas , George Washington Celebration held on February 22, of each year, that in 1921 in a cantina, the captain of the Texas Rangers was shot and killed. He was the commander of the rangers who killed the three in Bruni. Crecencio Oliviera, Sr., who escaped the bullet barrage at Bruni was brought before the law and interrogated as the likely suspect in the killing of the ranger captain. Oliviera, Sr. testified that he had upwards of 300 witnesses that placed him in Monterrey the day of the killing. Judging the hatred for the rangers among Tejanos and Mexicans during that period, there is no doubt that he could recruit that many witnesses.
While at the cemetery, the TCC group will also visit the burial plot of a once powerful dynasty, the Parr family. Prominent among the several headstones is the one of the famed “Duke of Duval,” George B. Parr. This will bring memories of the often talked about incident concerning the notorious Box 13 in Alice, Texas, a maneuver that threw the election for the U. S. Senate to Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1948, when he ran against Coke Stevenson. The rest is history.
Hopefully we'll see everyone at the Cemetery tour and the Christmas party on Dec. 13, 2008.
J. T. Garcia
September, 2008, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting in August at Jean's Restaurant in Alice , Texas . Joe Martinez talked about the TCC Tour to Parras, Mexico . Since many of the members and their families were unable to obtain a seat on the tour bus as space quickly ran out, Joe is planning another trip to Parras on the following week (Nov. 17-20, 2008). For those interested on this other tour, contact Joe at (956) 781-9252 or cell (956) 266-4391 for information and details.
For the meeting, TCC member Emma Martinez brought a cactus dip, a 1 st place winner at the 2007 Cactus Cook-off in Hebbronville , TX . Dora Mae Canales brought pecan cactus tarts, also a 1 st place winner at the cook-of. Ray & Nita Nora Espinosa brought fruit of the Easter lily cactus and beautiful pictures of the night blooming flowers. Ray will perhaps bring some pads of this beautiful cactus as door prizes soon.
Everyone is encouraged to bring a cactus dish and recipe for the cook-off coming up on Saturday, November 1, 2008, in Hebbronville , Texas . Prizes for First Place , Second Place and Third Place will be awarded to the winners selected by judges yet to be named. This cook-off is open to everyone, members and non-members of the council. Texas Cactus Council member Lydia Canales : in charge of the cook-off and asks all those participating to:
1). Bring a dish containing cactus or cactus fruit juice.
2). Bring a written recipe for your entry - - do not write your name on the written recipe.
3). You must bring the recipe by 12:00 noon on the day of the festival.
4). Bring spoons, knives, paper plates for use by the judges as they sample your entry.
ALL TCC MEMBERS ARE ASKED TO BRING AN ENTRY FOR THE COOK-OFF!
Entries will be judged in four categories: MAIN DISH, DESSERTS, SALADS, and MISCELLANEOUS. First place winners will get $50, second place winners will get $25 and third place winners will receive $15. The public is invited to the cook-off area after the judging to sample the goodies brought in for the judging.
The cook-off will be taking place during the annual Jim Hogg County Vaquero Festival. Everything will take place all around the Jim Hogg County Courthouse, which is in the middle of town on Highway 16. AND AGAIN, ALL THIS WILL TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAY, November 1, 2008.
The Texas Cactus Council welcomes new members.
From Hebbronville Tx , we have Avelino & Amanda Jasso; From Corpus Christi Tx, we have Eva Muniz. Rosa & Ernest Loera, from Austin Tx, and Mary & Dick Holbein from Hebbronville Tx have also joined the council. All are welcomed aboard and are thanked for their interest in cactus. Bienvenidos a todos al concilio de los nopaleros.
As we've all noticed, there are plenty of prickly pears out there after the great rains we got this summer. The plump deep red and purple fruits are ripe and ready for picking. Now is the time to collect juice and save it in freezer for recipes for the cook-off! And again, go to our website and find the easy to collect the juice. The website is listed on the name label side of the Newsletter. Here are a few recipes you can try (and perhaps perfect). Experiment and you may come up with an outstanding entry for the cook-off.
Prickly Pear Salad Dressing
1/2 cup prickly pear puree (juice)
1/3 cup salad oil (not olive oil)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar (or stevia)
3 to 4 Tbs. tarragon white wine vinegar
Shake all ingredients together in a covered jar. Makes about 1 cup . This pretty pink dressing is thin like an oil and vinegar dressing, but lower in calories. Good on fruit salads and tossed green salads.
ANDY BOY CACTUS PEAR FUCHSIA LEMONADE
2 Andy Boy cactus pears (You can use own prickly pears)
1/2 C lemon juice
2 T sugar (or stevia)
1 C water Ice cubes
1. Cut ends from cactus pears. Cut a lengthwise slit through peel on each fruit. Pull back peel, scoop out fruit and discard peel.
2. Put prickly pear pulp, lemon juice, sugar and 1 cup water in a blender. Blend until smooth.
3. Strain over a colander in a bowl.
4. Pour into ice filled glasses. Garnish with mint and lemon slices Serves 2
The TEXAS CACTUS COUNCIL will meet for the September meeting in Freer, Texas , at Dairy Queen on Main Street (Hiway 44) on Thursday, September 18, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. Long-time TCC member James Williams will be in charge of the program. He is asking all members to bring photos of cacti to the meeting. Prizes will be awarded to winners selected. Any cactus picture you may have from any of the places we have visited in Mexico , pictures from your own ranch or backyard, etc. are acceptable. The pictures will be judged on originality, uniqueness & beauty. Please invite your family, friends, neighbors, etc. to the meeting. Do not write your name on the pictures.
See you all at the meeting!
J. T. Garcia
NOTE: Thanks to all TCC members for sending in their dues. If you want to send yours, send them to the address on the Newsletter which you will get in the mail. The date shown by your name on the address label of the newsletter shows you when you need to re-new your membership. Questions? Email me at the address shown above.
August, 2008, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council welcomes three new members . We have Lora Lee Everett from San Diego , Texas , Amanda & Abelardo Perez from Hebbronville , Texas , and Charles G. Cecil , from McAllen , Texas . Welcome to the council, folks!
The council met in San Diego , Texas , at Jerry's Diner, for the July meeting. Joe Martinez mentioned the Texas Cactus Council tour in November to Parras , Mexico . This is a tour for the members of the council and will depart for four days on November 10, 2008. The bus will depart from Family Dollar in Hebbronville , Texas , at 6:00 a.m. on this date. This is a “not to be missed” tour. Some of us have been there before and will be returning. *An itinerary is included with this newsletter regarding the tour . You need to sign up quickly to reserve your space on the bus. All questions about the tour must be made to Joe Martinez. Valley members will be picked up in McAllen .
Members Nita Nora and Ray Espinosa from Benavides , Texas , brought in some green tortillas (made with corn and cactus) they bought in Progreso , Mexico . Jerry's cooking staff gladly fried the tortillas which were enjoyed by the group with pico de gallo and salsa. Thanks Nita & Ray.
Door prizes were plentiful. Joe Martinez, president of the council, arrived loaded with cacti and other succulents. Many of the members left with one or more door prizes.
Several members renewed their membership in the council. To determine if you are due for renewal, look at the date on the label of your TCC Newsletter. The date shown shows when your dues are due. Mail your dues to the address seen above on this page.
Well, Hurricane Dolly did minimal damage in our immediate South Texas area. Deeper south in Brownsville , Harlingen , San Benito , etc. severe damage was inflicted by the strong winds and rain. In our area we got tree damage and some of our phone and power lines were downed. Some of the area towns received substantial amounts of rain. We only received two inches of precipitation. Over all, the pastures are green and lush. The cattle are all smiles as are the ranchers. In addition, some of the cochineal I mentioned in the last newsletter was washed out by the strong wind and rain. This is the pest that eventually kills a cactus plant.
And for those of you that are ready to try your cactus recipes, the prickly pears (tunas) are ripe now for the picking. The fruit is large and plump and filled with the tuna juice for your kitchen concoctions. An easy way to collect the juice from the cactus fruits is listed on the TCC website, www.texascactuscouncil.net . Go to “cookbook” and click on “ how to extract prickly pear juice'. There's lots you can do with the cactus juice. Please share your recipes with us once you have developed them. Or simply try the recipes listed on the website.
The next meeting of the Texas Cactus Council will be in Alice , Texas , on August 21, 2008, at Jean's restaurant, at 6:30 p.m. They have a great menu, and specialize in steaks. Those who wish to bring their own beer or liquor may do so, but do bring a designated driver. Members are encouraged to bring a sampling of their favorite cactus recipe. Jean's is on 108 E. Main St. in Alice, Texas . Their phone number is (361) 661-1123. Call them if you get lost.
J. T. Garcia
Parras/Saltillo - - TEXAS CACTUS COUNCIL ANNUAL TOUR
4 days - 3 nights - - Departs Monday, Nov. 10, 2008
$289.00 per person double $350.00 single
This tour is brought back by popular demand. The magnificent 400-year-old town of Parras de la Fuente is located in the state of Coahuila . Parras seems like a mirage in the middle of the Coahuilan desert, as cacti give way to lush vineyards. The first winery in the Americas was founded in Parras in 1597 at the old former Hacienda San Lorenzo . Today, this winery, known as Casa Madero, produces some of the best wines in Mexico .
Parras, located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre, is one of the most colorful and typical towns in Coahuila . The many colonial buildings, beautiful places to swim, huge pecan trees and underground Sierra Madre streams that gush to the surface, are reasons for Parras being called the “ Oasis of Coahuila ”.
Besides the charming 400-year-old Hacienda San Lorenzo , Parras' other main attractions are the 335 year-old Colegio de San Ignacio Loyola , which has a library with the oldest books in Northern Mexico. Too, the church of Santo Madero , which is uniquely located at the top of an extinct volcano. An important site is the Obelisk to Francisco I. Madero , plus other interesting attractions.
Francisco I. Madero , leader of the Mexican Revolution and former president of Mexico , was born in Parras on October 30 1873 and is known as the “apostle of democracy.” His grandfather, Evaristo Madero founded Casa Madero Winery in Parras and their descendants still run the business that claims the title of “The Oldest Winery in the Americas .”
Day 1: Depart at 6:00 a.m. from the Family Dollar store on 407 N Smith Ave. in Hebbronville , TX and at 8:00 a.m. from McDonalds on S. 10 th St. , McAllen , TX near La Plaza Mall. We clear customs in Reynosa and travel to Monterrey , where we'll have lunch (maybe cabrito). After lunch in Monterrey , we continue on our journey to Parras via Saltillo . Our early afternoon arrival in Parras will allow us to relax and enjoy the beautiful grounds of our host hotel. The hotel has a golf course, which you may enjoy for an additional fee - make arrangements after our arrival.
Day 2 . Today we visit the oldest winery in the Americas , Casa Madero, a fascinating 400-year-old ex-hacienda originally named San Lorenzo . A guide will take us through the winery and direct us to the outdoor Museum of Wine , which holds displays of grinding machines, stills, and retorts that were brought from Paris during the 19th century. These artifacts comprise many of the winery's original wine making equipment. Afterwards, we'll enter the wine tasting area where you'll be able to sample and purchase some of Mexico 's finest wines. Merlot is one of their best wines but they also produce chardonnay, cabernet and sauvignon, They also produce two reserve brandies that are generally regarded as the best in Mexico . Each person can bring back three (3) gallons of wine, in addition to one bottle of brandy.
After lunch at a nice restaurant, El Farol , we'll enjoy the many green areas throughout the city, including Entanque La Luz , a mountain stream pool where Thomas Alva Edison installed the first electrical plant in Mexico . Also, we'll visit the College of San Ignacio Loyola , which houses in its library the oldest books in Northern Mexico . We'll also visit two important districts, Madero and Viesca , located within the city - we'll pass by the former home of Francisco Madero . Too, we'll visit the historical district , stroll the city's ancient streets and enjoy the murals at the Municipal Palace . Other popular places we'll visit is a pecan candy store, which features exquisite regional candies. If time permits we'll visit a denim factory , Parras is a world class producer of denim fabric..
Day 3: Today will be a relaxing day for all. You may want to go swimming, strolling, taste wines at the different wineries, ride horses, enjoy a game of golf, etc. In the morning, however, some of us may want to venture out by bus to El Cerro del Sombreretillo , an inactive volcano peak, which offers an extraordinary panoramic view of the region. The church, Iglesia de Santo Madero is perched at the very top of El Sombreretillo . Warning: the climb to the top is a steep and vigorous ascend by foot and is suited for only those well conditioned - our bus will take us to the base of the mountain. From the top of this unique peak you will be able to take fantastic pictures. A “ Farewell to Parras ” dinner and music (price of dinner not included) is planned for the evening. Note: Parras is at altitude, so the weather is cool and comfortable - bring a light jacket. Our first class hotel offers a golf course at 50% off for guests (bring your own golf club), a swimming pool, horseback riding, tennis courts, walking trails, ping pong, volley ball, and more.
Day 4: Early departure for the return trip. We'll stop in Saltillo for a tour of the state capitol of Coahuila . There will be time for shopping at the Mercado , which is located in the heart of the city. Places to visit here are the serape factory , the Cathedral , the Governors Palace and the Plaza de Armas . Lunch will be in either Saltillo or Monterrey , depending on our time schedule. Continue to the border for arrival between 6:00 and 7:00 PM..
ENJOYABLE TOURS PO Box 4195 McAllen , TX 78502
Ph: (956) 781-9252 * Cell: (956) 266-4391 * Fax: (956) 782-7273 * Email:email@example.com
July, 2008, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council had a very interesting meeting in Alice , Texas , in June. A program on Long Term Care was presented by David Perez. The presentation was followed by an extensive question/answer session. Thanks David.
The Texas Cactus Council welcomes new member Rosario Rivera, from El Paso , Texas , to the council. Bienvenida, Rosario.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The genus Opuntia includes the prickly pear, bunny ears, and beaver tail cacti. Over a period of several weeks in late spring and early summer, each pad produces several three- to- four- inch wide flowers that bloom in an array of colors, depending on the variety, from subtle to brilliant tones of yellows and oranges, pinks and reds. When the blooms fade, the edible fruits form.
In warm climates, well-tended plants may be harvested of pads up to six times a year, and established plants may yield 20 to 40 one-half pound pads at each harvest.
Culinary Uses: Whether you add sliced or cubed pads to omelets or gently urge the fruit from its stickery skin and eat it fresh or cooked into jelly, this cactus has much to offer. Even the seeds can be eaten in soups or dried and ground into flour. Recipes and informative tips on preparation can be found in The Texas Cactus Council's cookbook “ Cooking with Cactus ”. Cactus tastes something like green beans. Today, the pads are available in this country throughout the year in specialty produce sections and at farmers markets. The smaller young pads in the early spring are the most succulent, delicate in flavor, and have the fewest spines. Fresh pads are full of water and should be bright green and firm. To prepare the pad, simply hold its base and scrape the skin on both sides with a blunt knife until all the spines are removed. Then peel the pads and cut them into shoestring strips or dice them according to the needs of the recipe. They can be eaten raw in salads, boiled and fried like eggplant, pickled with spices, or cooked with shellfish, pork, chilies, tomatoes, eggs, coriander, garlic, and onions. Many Texas Cactus Council members grow their own cactus in their own back yards and use it in their kitchens often. NOTE: Most of us are lucky to have spineless cactus in our collections.
The flavor of a ripe prickly pear cactus fruit depends on the variety but include strawberries, watermelons, honeydew melons, figs, bananas, and citrus. You can eat them raw, at room temperature or chilled, and alone or with lemon juice. They can be cooked into jams and preserves or cooked down into a syrup as a base for jelly and candy the cactus candy in some Mexican food stores. Individual taste preferences will dictate which varieties to choose for eating fresh and which for cooking. In Mexico alone, there are over 100 species with edible fruits. Sam Williams, a cactus enthusiast in Carmichael, California, says that while all the fleshy fruit kinds are edible and none are poisonous, only a few are palatable and even fewer taste really sweet. They range from juicy to dry and sweet to acid. Cantwell-de-Trejo says that the acidity and fibrousness of the fruits increase as the fruits mature. The more acid fruits are called xoconochtlis and are used in certain traditional Mexican stews and other dishes.
Fruit size, shape, and color vary from small and round like a walnut to three inches long and two inches wide like a rounded cylinder. Skin and flesh come in a rainbow of colors, white, green, yellow, orange, red, purple, and brown. White-skinned varieties are the most popular in Mexico , says Cantwell-de-Trejo, while the sweetest varieties generally available in this country have dark reddish-orange or purple skins and deep red-purple flesh. The fruit contains significant amounts of vitamin C, one fruit containing about one-half the amount of an orange. According to Cantwell-de-Trejo, this is its most important use in the diet of rural Mexicans.
Other Uses. Around the turn of the century, the plant scientist Luther Burbank researched many uses of the prickly pear cactus. Bob Hornback of Santa Rosa, California, has worked with the Luther Burbank collection for many years and done much to relocate and save specimens of these varieties. He has compiled a list of prickly pear uses from Burbank ' s research notes, circa 1914. (I have the spineless Luther Burbank cactus in my collection)
The sap from the pads can be used in first aid similar to the aloe vera plant. Simply cut off a portion of a pad, crush it, and squeeze the juice onto a cut, burn, or bruise. The sap will soothe the wound. Ground or pureed young pads are used as a laxative and also as a remedy for diabetes. According to Marita Cantwell-de-Trejo, Extension Vegetable Post-harvest Specialist at the University of California , Davis , the Mexican Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City is researching the hypoglycemic effect of cactus consumed by humans.
Carminic acid cochineal is produced by the cochineal insect that feeds on the pads and fruit, and is used in botanical stains and as a cloth dye. In the 16th century, the export of cochineal from Mexico was second in importance and monetary value only to silver. According to Cantwell-de-Trejo, there is a resurgence of interest in these natural pigments. Also, some Indian groups dry the pads, flower buds, and fruits for later boiling and eating. Young flower buds can be baked and eaten .
Note: We've noticed extensive damage on prickly pear in our area ( South Texas ) by cochineal. The insect can destroy the cactus it lives on. I've received communications from area cactus enthusiasts who are having their cacti gardens attacked by cochineal. The only solution I know to control the insect is by spraying it with soapy water (clothing or dish washing detergent will do). About 30% of the prickly pear cactus at the ranch are currently infested with cochineal.
Beth Zies, long-time member of the Texas Cactus Council from Seguin, Texas, sends her cactus sangria recipe. Beth's address & phone are below. Contact her to purchase the Cactus Margarita Mix.
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup sugar
In a 2 quart saucepan stir together the lime juice, sugar, and orange juice. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Chill for 3 to 24 hours.
Add chilled red/white wine
1- 750 milliliter bottle of red or white wine
1-12 oz. bottle of Cactus Margarita Mix
Scrub the orange, lemon, and lime under running water. Slice fruit into 1/4 inch slices. Cut each slice into quarters to form wedges.
Place the fruit wedges in a pitcher, pour in the wine and cactus margarita mix. Serve over ice. Garnish with citric slices. Store leftover Cactus Sangria (if there is any left over) in refrigerator.
Thanks for your interest in Cactus Margarita. I always remove all the thorns before I ship...
113 East Live Oak
Seguin , Texas 78155
The council had voted at the last meeting to meet in Benavides , Texas , for the July meeting. However, the restaurant will be closed for that week to allow the owners to go on summer vacation. We will be meeting at Jerry's Diner in San Diego , Texas , instead. The meeting is set for Thursday, July 17, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. The menu has steaks, Mexican food, seafood, burgers, their famous cabrito guisado (kid goat stew) and quail. Come early if you wish. Bring your family, your neighbor ands friends. Jerry's is right across the street from the San Diego Civic Center on the corner, one block from the Duval County Courthouse.
J. T. Garcia
June, 2008, Newsletter
The field day in Edinburg , Texas , on May 17, 2008, was quite a treat. We all met for lunch at Tiko's Café. From there the group went on to the Museum of South Texas . We met at the Reception Room where Texas Cactus Council member, Dr. Anne Estevis, presented a reading on her latest book, Chicken Foot Farm. The book details the life of a young Mexican-American boy growing up in South Texas in the 1940's. It was a most interesting session. Most of the TCC members in attendance bought the book. Dr. Estevis also wrote another book, Down Garrapata Road , a collection of short stories set in a small Mexican-American community in Southern Texas during the 1940's and 1950's, revealing the traditions, love, and social concerns of the families living there. I bought both books, and they are just great! If you would like any of the books, send me an email and I will gladly refer you to Dr. Esteviz.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Esteviz has taught in schools in New Mexico and Texas . She was also with the Department of Educational Psychology, college of Education , Univ. Of Texas-Pan American.
Down Garrapata Road won the following awards:
1. Finalist--Texas Institute of Letters Fiction Award
2. ForeWord Magazine's Silver Book of the Year award in juvenile fiction
All of the Texas Cactus Council members returned from the meeting loaded with door prizes, including bags of cantaloupes, fresh corn, grapefruits and seeds from the rare black lace cactus. And of course, the Museum of South Texas was fantastic. The guided tour of the facility was very interesting. I plan to go back and re-visit the museum with my family.
Well, we got some more rain. However, our little town ( Benavides , Texas ) also got a tornado or two early Friday morning (May 16 th ) at about 3 a.m. Many, many trees were knocked down as was part of the roof of the school's Momeny Gym. Power was out for part of the town. No injuries were reported and no other major damages were seen. We had not seen so much destruction on our trees in quite a while. Most neighboring areas are still very dry. We'll have to push our rain dancers to continue with their duties. Are you ready, James? If you can't do it, we'll have to recruit Robert McAnear to conduct future rain dances.
Cactus pears or prickly pears ( Opuntia spp. Cactaceae) are omnipresent plants of the Mexican landscape and have great historical and ethnobotanical significance. Ripe fruits and tender cladodes (pads), have been collected from the wild since preColumbian times, and the mature cladodes are used as a forage for livestock. Opuntia originated in Central Mexico and some parts of the Caribbean region.. Today cactus pear is a well recognized fruit crop in Mexico cultivated throughout the central semiarid highlands . Unfortunately, Texas has not yet made any attempts to consider cactus as a crop. California has dealt in cactus fruit production for quite some time.
A vast array of species are still found in the wild, while backyards contain mostly cultivars selected by farmers. Production at commercial level started in the 1960s and is based on outstanding plants taken from rural households where they provide food for the family. Orchards used foundation material obtained from plants bearing large fruit size, high color, and good flavor. The clones were named based on specific fruit and plant traits. It is difficult to identify plants based only on vegetative traits and most farmers and scientists still use fruit characteristics for descriptive purposes.
Official figures report that Mexico has 42,000 ha of cactus pear distributed in the central highland (2000 m) semiarid temperate part of the country, all of them under rainfed conditions. Mean annual precipitation ranges from 400 to 700 mm with a bimodal pattern. Soils are shallow to medium in depth, poor in organic matter, and acidic to lightly alkaline.
As a plant with crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), cactus pear is able to withstand drought. It is cultivated in small tracts traditionally devoted to maize and beans production, with low revenues. Medical research has found value in cacti as a raw material for products to treat hypoglukemia, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, and obesity. Recent research revealed that this plant is also able to thrive in high CO 2 environments. Cacti have received attention as a crop to fight global pollution and desertification.
Growers expertise generated by trial and error and recent agronomic advances account for high yields of cactus pear. Production depends on intensity of farming practices, orchard size, and environmental factors such as late frosts and rainfall. Due to dependance on a narrow base of cultivars, there is a temporary (three months) market saturation, which is associated with falling prices and low returns. It is desirable to extend the harvest season either with earlier or later ripening cultivars or crop management practices .
At least 95% of production in Mexico is for domestic consumption. Cactus pears are eaten as a snack, and sold peeled and slightly chilled by street vendors. Harvest season starts late in June and extends through Sept. However it is possible to widen the market window if other cultivars are marketed. High soluble solids, white flesh, and juiciness are praised by Mexican consumers, while foreign markets prefer yellow and red-fleshed cultivars.
In this paper an attempt is made to provide a reference for growers, brokers and researchers about cultivars currently grown and marketed in Mexico . For many areas of the world cactus pear still remains an unknown fruit crop.
Cactus Fruit (tuna) Smoothie
2 peeled tuna
3 tbsp vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp Chia
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 tsp peanut butter
½ cup milk
3 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients. Sweeten to taste. Enjoy.
The council will meet on Thursday, June 19, 2008, at El Charro Restaurant in Alice , Texas . As always the council will provide a program that will be of great benefit to all. We've provided programs that highlight a beneficial product (chia, flaxseed, whey, etc.), educational field days (Rancho Colorado , Museum of South Texas in Edinburg , Texas , Museum in Sarita , Texas , Museum in Orange Grove , Texas , etc.) At the June meeting we will provide a program that explains a service that no one will want to miss. It is a program on Long-Term Care, presented by David Perez. A brief description follows. El Charro Restaurant is located on the “Y” in Alice leading to Falfurrias , Texas . Meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. As always you may come earlier to place your order at an earlier time.
Long Term Care by John Hancock
Achieving financial security. Maintaining the lifestyle you choose. It's how you see you future. And what you're planning for. Long Term Care provides coverage that helps protect your assets and quality of life, keeps pace with the rising cost of care, and most of all helps to maintain your family's quality of life. Protect your retirement. Over the course of a lifetime, you save and invest to reach many goals. A comfortable retirement. Travel. A second home or ranch. A legacy for your heirs or favorite charity. But the truth is, few of us have the financial resources to ensure our independence if we need ongoing care as we grow older. Or in the event of a serious illness, injury, or disability, which can strike at any age. And while you can't always count on family for help, you want to be sure that the time you spend together is quality time.
Long term care enables you to: Receive care in your choice : your home, an adult day care, an assisted living facility, hospice facility, or nursing home. You get customized care to suit your needs. You may stay home for as long as possible, with a home maker, home modifications ( such wheelchair ramps) , home safety checks and monitoring systems. Long Term Care provides assisted daily living services to you, when the time comes. Long Term Care provides a vast range of services. You will be provided hand outs to learn more how this policy can be so beneficial to you and your spouse.
J. T. Garcia
Prickly Pear with Tunas
May, 2008, Newletter
The Texas Cactus Council welcomes new member Salomon Charles, Jr., from Bishop, Texas . We also heard from former member Oscar Saenz from San Antonio , Texas , who indicated he would be re-joining the council soon. Welcome back, Oscar.
The April Texas Cactus Council meeting in Robstown was quite successful. We were extremely happy to once again see Robert & Jeannette Mick from Sinton , Texas , former members of the council. Guests to the council meeting were Lina Mireles from Benavides , Texas , and Lorraine Tummings (mother of TCC member Eugene Piette from Cato , Wisconsin ). And again, guests are always welcome at our meetings - - which are on the 3 rd Thursday of each month at a place designated by the group. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and are conducted right after the dinner.
Well, we finally received some rain in the South Texas area - - 2 ½ inches. It wasn't much but it is a start. Within a week after the rain the livestock was enjoying the green grass and weeds. Hopefully we won't have to continue purchasing hay, range meal and cattle cubes for awhile. We will need more rain. May is one of the rainiest months of the year and we hope that the precipitation will continue. Apparently the rain dance performed by Texas Cactus Council member James Williams from Freer, Texas , worked. Thanks, James. If you can get Abel Perez to join you in other rain dances, we might get a huge downpour! We'll keep our fingers crossed.
Most of the spring gardens are already planted. Reports of tomatoes, squash, and onions are being shared. Those who have started cactus gardens are also reporting success. Cacti are one of the easiest to grow plants. Have you tried using seeds to start cactus plants? We've talked much about the rare and endangered black lace cactus.
It is very hard to find and the only reported areas in Texas that have very few plants left in the wild are three South Texas counties: Jim Wells, Refugio & Kleberg. After searching for several years, I was able to locate a source for purchasing black lace cactus seeds. I might decide to take a few seeds to give as door prizes at the next meeting. Below are tips for growing cactus from seeds.
GROWING CACTI FROM SEED
A preferred method of growing from seed, from the people at the Soma Graphics. My thanks to them for many good tips and ideas.
Cacti should be germinated in sandy, well-drained soil. A commercial sterilized cactus mix works fine. Use small ceramic pots 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2 inch) since they allow soil to dry out completely (after germination) and prevent root rot. Most cacti germination temperature should be around 70 degrees F. Peyote should be around 80 - 90 degrees.
Place a small piece of cotton over the pots drainage hole and pull a few strands thru to act as a wick. Fill the pot with cactus mix. Place the seed on top of the soil in the center of the pot. Additional soil should be sifted through a tea strainer to barely cover the seed.
Put the pots in a tupperware container with a translucent snap-top lid."Bottom" water the pots by pouring about 1/4 inch of tepid water (never cold) into the tupperware. Bottom watering causes the roots to grow strong, from searching for the water. When you first plant the seeds, you should also top water once with a fine mist water sprayer. The soil should be well watered throughout but not soggy. Place the lid on the container and place it outside (April - July) or under artificial lights (For an earlier start indoors).
The tupperware creates a mini greenhouse, and should be kept closed except for a daily check on the seeds progress (which allows some necessary air circulation) until the seeds germinate. They don't need any additional watering or misting during this time (unless for some reason the water level in the container drops below 1/16 inch). Be careful that your mini greenhouse isn't too humid. Wipe off any beads of condensation that form on the containers lid. Also be careful that the temperature isn't too hot, as this can cook the seedlings.
Many species germinate within a few weeks. When the seedlings first appear, they look like tiny green spheres. After they have sprouted, replace the tupperware lid with a piece of stretched muslin secured with string or a rubber band. This will allow air circulation, which can be increased by placing a fan above the container. Adequate air circulation is essential as all green plants require plenty of CO2 to grow. Seedlings are more sensitive to light than mature plants. They should be dark green. If they are a reddish or brown color, they are receiving too much light, and additional pieces of muslin must be placed over the top of the container to shade them. If they are yellowish then they are not getting enough light.
When the seedlings have germinated, place a thin layer of very fine aquarium gravel on the surface of the soil. This gravel will help to support the new seedlings and protect the surface from drying out too quickly. Be careful to gently scoop out any green moss-like growth that might appear because of high humidity.
After four to five months (when spines have formed on seedlings) remove the muslin shading for one or two hours a day to give the seedlings more light. Stop bottom watering and use a watering can twice a week. Water around the seedlings, not on top of them. The seedlings should be misted occasionally (not a lot) in hot weather. Seedlings should be brought inside for their first winter, and kept moist (they cant handle very cold weather). They should be placed in a sunny window away from cold drafts.
Also note: The use of some sort of fungicide when germinating cacti seeds is almost mandatory due to the high humidity levels involved. I have heard reports that the fungicides Daconil and Consan 20 can cause reduced germination rates, and are not recommended. I have heard a recommendation for the brand name Chinosal, but have not used it personally.
1 ripe banana, cold from the refrigerator or freezer
1 cup diced, cooked nopalitos, (frozen)
Juice of ½ key or Mexican lime or 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
1 cup cold orange, pineapple or grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon honey
Put banana, nopalitos and juices in blender and liquefy until smooth.
Note: Diabetics should use unsweetened grapefruit or pineapple juice and omit the honey.
You can sweeten with Splenda or better yet, Stevia!!! You can add whey powder, flaxseed or chia, if you wish. Add 3 or 4 ice cubes to make smoothie slushy. ADD TEQUILA TO THE RECIPE AND IT'S GREAT! BUT YOU MIGHT HAVE TO BE DRIVEN HOME! :)
Our next meeting (field day type) will be held on Saturday, May 17, at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg , Texas. First, we will meet for lunch at 12:30 PM at Tico's Restaurant , located near the museum (see details below). At 2:00 PM, TCC member Dr. Anne Estevis will do a reading from her recently published second book titled Chick Foot Farm. Anne's book is a historical novel about life in South Texas during the 1940s, which all of us will find of great interest. The reading takes place in the museums conference room. Anne's books will be for sale and she will gladly sign them for you.
After the reading and book signing we will be guided through the museum by a staff member. The entry fee to the museum and use of the conference room has a total cost of $7.50 per person, payable when entering the museum. Excellent door prizes for lucky attendees.
The Museum's main permanent exhibit is called “Rio Grande Legacy”, which covers South Texas history from pre-Hispanic times to present-day. One temporary exhibit is a private collection of documents dating back to the 1500s A. D. These are original documents, which were submitted to the Spanish crown by Spanish subjects as a requirement to affirm their nobility lineage in order to be exempt from taxation (great for those interested in genealogy). The museum is very large and really worth the drive to the Rio Grande Valley . A very good selection of books on South Texas history are available at the museum's book store.
HOW TO ARRIVE AT THE MUSEUM As you approach Edinburg , when traveling from the north on Hwy 281 (from Alice , etc), you veer right on business 281 (Closner). Follow Business 281 until you get to the main square, where the county courthouse is most prominent. Park on the east side of the courthouse (big parking lot) and you will see the museum on the north side of the square (parking lot)..
Plan to have lunch before the meeting at 12:30 PM at Tico's Restaurant in Edinburg . Tico's has an excellent buffet or you may order from the menu. Tico's is located at 321 S. Sugar Rd ….956-361-1021. To get to the restaurant, take University Drive west and go just past UT-Pan Am University , then turn left on Sugar Rd. University Drive dead-ends at the court house. Tico's is just east of Wal-Mart, which is off University Drive .
Meet at the museum's conference room at 2:00 P.M.
Nos vemos en el museo,
J. T. Garcia (Sec/Treas)
April, 2008, Newsletter
The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting in Riviera at Baffin Bay Café in March. There was standing room only at the restaurant due to the great turnout of members. I presented a short program on Glycemic Index. This is the system where carbohydrates are ranked according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low Glycemic Index foods is the secret to long-term health, reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss. You can find lots of information on Glycemic Index on the internet. Interestingly, cactus (nopalitos) has one of the lowest Glycemic Index levels.
The council will meet on Thursday, April 17, 2008, in Robstown , Texas , at Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant at 6:30 p.m. You may, of course, arrive earlier if you wish. The council had voted at the last meeting to meet at Cotten's Barbecue in Robstown. However, when I dropped by to make arrangements, a lot of problems cropped up. For one. the restaurant would issue out only one bill for the group. Secondly, they wanted a guarantee of at least $20 charge per person. Then they had some issues with the tip (which sounded ridiculous). I thanked them and drove over to Las Palmas Restaurant. Here they have a variety of Mexican food, steaks, pork chops, etc.
The restaurant is on 900 N. Highway 77 in Robstown. If you're coming from Corpus Christi , exit on the “ Alice ” exit. At the end of the bridge the restaurant is right there on the right. If you're driving on Hwy 44 from the Alice area, turn right (right after the SNAPPY Service Station) to get to the restaurant.
A program will be presented to the group on “CHIA” the fabulous plant native to Mexico that will revolutionize our health practices. Some chia will be brought to the meeting and be processed and made available for sampling among the members. The source from where the product can be ordered will be provided as will other available and useful information. A company trademarked chia as "Salba" for profit motives. Joe Martinez will be presenting the program. Look what the following article has to say about this miracle plant:
...contain a secret super food that leaves broccoli, blueberries,
flaxseed, soy and salmon in the dust!
it's not chocolate!
Keep reading for great news about your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol balance, energy, skin, joints, digestion and so much more ...
A special report from Allan Spreen, MD.
Did our Creator make a PERFECT FOOD?
Stunned researchers now say "YES." Gram for gram, this amazing discovery packs awesome amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, plus:
Imagine a food so perfect that just a tiny bit every morning could transform your entire day. You simply stir a bit into your cereal or yogurt, and presto...
Then, as the weeks go by, imagine...
IT EVEN MAKES BROWNIES
TASTE MORE DELICIOUS!!
No, it's not chocolate! This "perfect food" blows chocolate (and every other contender) out of the water. Yet ironically, it's been sitting right under our noses for over 500 years -- and totally ignored until just recently.
It's a grain you've never heard of, yet the ancient Aztecs prized it more highly than gold. They fed it to their athletes, used it as medicine, even offered it to their gods...
Ancient Aztecs believed it gave them supernatural
ENERGY & POWER...
And maybe it did, in a manner of speaking Spanish conquistadores named it Salvia Hispanica L , promptly forgot about it -- and that was that for the next five centuries. Well, so far it's just a colorful Aztec legend, right? But everything suddenly changed just recently, when scientists finally took an interest in it...
And when modern researchers ran tests,
THEY NEARLY FELL OVER...
They noticed that Salvia Hispanica L. came in two colors -- black and white. The black ones proved unremarkable. But the white ones tested off the charts! So they bred a strain of purely white grains, tested them again, and the results clearly showed they had found a nutritional goldmine . Scientists named this super-grain Salba® . And just for starters, it turns out to be...
the "bread of heaven"
FOR YOUR HEART!
Gram for gram, Salba has 8 times more Omega 3 fatty acids than fresh Atlantic salmon...
Let me be clear that I'm not knocking salmon. I love it! Salmon contains different kinds of Omega 3, including high amounts of DHA and EPA -- while Salba's Omega 3 content is mainly in the form of alpha linolenic acid. I believe it's best to have both forms of Omega 3...
But you can't bake salmon into
And whoever heard of salmon cookies! The beauty of Salba is that you can sneak it into any meal, from your breakfast oatmeal, to lunchtime macaroni and cheese, to all kinds of delicious dinners and desserts.
Better still, Salba is richer in this special form of Omega 3 fatty acids than any other whole food I've ever evaluated. That's heavenly news for your heart! After all, even the American Heart Association agrees that Omega 3 fatty acids can help...
Sounds like a great program! Hope to see you all there.
J. T. Garcia