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TEXAS CACTUS COUNCIL

PO Box 423

Benavides, Texas 78341

December, 2014, Newsletter

We start the newsletter on a sad note. Long-time Texas Cactus Council member Betty Newman passed away on November 10 th . She is survived by her husband George and four daughters, Mary Antonette Cantu, Elizabeth Martinez, Laura Garcia and Andrea Newman-Caro. She is also survived by her grandchildren, a sister and a brother.  

Betty was a school teacher and also served as librarian for Jim Hogg County from 1985 through 2010. Her services were at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. She was a wonderful person. She will be missed. May she rest in peace.

 

********

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Simply put, what separates cacti from succulents are the organs that produce the spines, and some other characteristics specific to fruit formation, differences between dicots and monocots and a few other differing charcteristics. Cacti are native to the United States, mostly in the southwestern states, Mexico, Central and South America and a few species are native to Haiti, and other islands. They are grown for their spectacular flowers and plant shapes.

Usually, when one thinks of cacti, one thinks of deserts with inhospitable temperatures and levels of light. However, many of the smaller cacti that live in this environment are situated under bushes or in behind rocks and do not receive constant, intense solar radiation. The native habitat of many other cacti is often at a higher altitude (where the light is strong but the temperatures are far cooler than on the desert floor), or, in tropical jungle-like environments. Many cacti, such as the Astrophytums, dwell at higher altitudes and underneath pine trees, where they receive very little direct sun. All cacti require light to flower and to photosynthesize, however a plant can absorb a lot of light with nothing more than morning sun or reflective light. Practically all of the cacti enjoy a lot of sunlight. But be careful not to expose them to unrelenting hot sun for an entire day. Even in the deserts, as young plants, they grow in the shade of larger plants until they are large and well established in the ground. In pots, on heat reflecting patios, a full day's sun can put a lot of stress on your plants. Good partial sunlight or half day of full sun is usually excellent. Exceptions to this are the jungle or tree cacti, of course, and also some of the Astrophytums and other naked cacti which like more filtered or shaded sun since they have no spines to shade them.

All cacti need a rapidly draining, porous soil mix. It is always better to water well and thoroughly, letting water pour out of the drain in the pot. Never let cacti sit in standing water. Let them go thoroughly dry between waterings. Water sparingly during winter months (by sparingly we mean infrequently) as cacti do very little growing when cold. If you can keep night time temperatures above 50°F, the plants will perform very well through the winter. However, most can tolerate, without difficulty, night time temperatures which are consistently as low as 32°F, if kept fairly dry.

  RECIPE(S)

Grilled cactus

  • 1 dozen tender cactus pads 1/2 cup Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil Salt/pepper to taste 1 medium onion
  • Tomato sauce cumin diced jalapeno (optional)

Wash pads after removing spines (or use spineless cactus). Cut onion in thin slices.

Slice cactus into thin strips. Heat the oil in pan. Add the sliced onions. After onions are slightly browned add cactus strips. When cactus strips brown, add tomato sauce and cumin and diced cilantro and cover pan. Stir. Will be ready in 2 or three minutes

Christmas Salsa

This recipe is a blend of colors so vibrant flavors that remind me of Christmas .

•  6 green tomatoes, chopped 5 ripe tomatoes, chopped

•  ½ cup chopped onion 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

•  8 tender, fresh, clean and chopped nopal pads 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

•  Mix in a bowl the tomatoes, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, prickly pear, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Carefully stir until well blended.

  ********

The Texas Cactus Council annual Christmas Party is scheduled for Sunday, December 7, 2014, at the Civic Center in Benavides, Texas, starting at 2:00 p.m.

The members will be providing the food, etc., for the party as indicated below:

Gabriel & Yolanda Guevara - - - menudo Minnie Salazar –en-

chilada casserole Fina Serna - - - rice Ida Perez - - - beans

Irene Zapata - - - banana bread Lydia Canales - - - pie Yolanda

Zapata pan de polvo Ray Espinosa - - - - Paper goods & crackers

Mrs. Vera - - - - tea & fruit salad Pat Curry - - - pico de gallo Dora

Mae Canales - - - dessert J. T. Garcia - - - soft drinks & ice Mrs.

Garcia - - - green beans Texas Cactus Council - - - tamales

If you did not indicate what you would be bringing, feel free to bring a side dish of your choice. Those wishing to participate in the Christmas gift exchange should bring a $10 gift. Men bring men gifts, ladies bring a ladies gift. Guests wishing to take part in the gift exchange may also bring gifts.

Music will be provided by the Herrera Brothers. Bring your dancing shoes.

Those members wishing to arrive early to help decorate may do so.

This Christmas holiday, remember that the gifts you receive
Are not as important as the love you get and
The love you give to those who are precious to you.
May you never forget the value of love.
Merry Christmas!

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

Orchid Cactus

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 


October, 2014, Newsletter

Cactus cash crop in Mexico Don Lotter, on a Latin journey, writes:

The drive down the length of Baja California is spectacular at times – 1000 miles of desert and ocean vistas. Only a few hundred miles south, I encounter the first boojum and ocotillo plants – the unique spiral-like plants endemic to Baja, as well as huge saguaro and cardón cacti. As the main north-south road begins to cross the Baja peninsula, the land is rocky, dry, and sparsely populated, with only the occasional collection of small farm shacks.

It was here that I passed small farms with plots, no bigger than a half acre, of nopal, the Opuntia cactus that is a favorite food of the Mexicans.

Nopal has traditionally been an important crop for its penca, the fleshy cactus “leaf” (cladode is the botanical term), which are eaten sliced and sauteed with onion; as well as for its fruit, the cactus pear. It is also traditionally an important livestock forage crop, and is still cultivated for cochineal-carmine dye.

Diet and health authorities, as well as the Mexicans, attribute a number of health properties to the consumption of nopal pencas. It is especially noted for its hyperglycemia reducing properties.

The nopal was intensively cultivated in Mexico and Central America for several centuries after the Spanish conquest for the carmine dye that is derived from an insect, the cochineal, which infests its cladodes. Cochineal-derived carmine dyes fetched high prices in Europe until the development of aniline dyes in the mid-1800s. Carmine dye is still produced from Opuntia for natural red dyes used in foods. Most of the production, however, now takes place in Peru .

There are over 100 species of nopal in Mexico , and a half dozen of these are cultivated on over a quarter million acres all over Mexico .

One morning just before the Easter weekend while I was in Ensenada getting my car worked on, an indigenous woman, obviously from the countryside, showed up with a sack of nopales. She had probably taken the bus in from the countryside with all the nopales she could carry with her granddaughter. The women from the surrounding businesses quickly bought all she had. The nopal is an important part of any Mexican feasting weekend, such as Easter is. Adriano Medina was applying herbicide to his nopal crop when I stopped and initiated a conversation with him. To my chagrin, he said the herbicide was paraquat - one of the most toxic agricultural chemicals. However it is powerful, and cheap in Mexico . Use of paraquat is highly restricted in the US because of its toxicity. Adriano was applying it with no gloves and only rubber boots and a piece of crude plastic to shield his legs from the spray.

Adriano, who looked to be in his late 20s, farms about a third of a hectare of this dry, unpopulated land, land for which a hardy, low water crop like nopal is ideally suited. This would be ideal land for a young startup farmer like Adriano - low value, possibly even free under homesteading laws in Mexico . He and his family live on the farm. The land has a well.

Note: 1 hectare = 2..5 acres

"Right now I sell my crop in Ensenada and Tijuana , but the price is very low," he said in Spanish. "I would like to take it to the United States . They say that in cities like Chicago and Ohio (sic) nopales sell for 15 to 25 dollars a box. Here in Mexico I only get twelve pesos (about a dollar) a box."

"The problem is that I need to get a visa to drive into the United States ." He said he has a truck, but a visa would probably be the least of his problems. Since the US bioterrorism laws kicked in, the obstacles to Mexican farmers transporting their goods to the US have multiplied (I will discuss this in my next article about the Del Cabo organic farming cooperative).

Contrary to my preconceived notion that a native cactus would have few pests, nopal has a host of insect pests. Adriano said that a moth worm (probably Cactophagus, the Opuntia Borer) infests nopal and must be sprayed.

Another serious potential pest is headed toward Mexico from Florida - the cactus-feeding worm Cactoblastis cactorum. Native to Argentina and introduced into the Caribbean decades ago, Cactoblastis is one of the star organisms in the annals of biological control. It was introduced into Australia to fight an invasion of exotic Opuntia. It pretty much wiped it out there.

Andy Boy Cactus Pears D'Arrigo Brothers, Salinas , California . We learned from Margaret D ‘ Arrigo the most extensive cactus pear production in Europe is in Sicily, right from where D'Arrigo Bros founders, Andrea and Stefano D'Arrigo, emigrated and where there are close to 10,000 acres planted . The fruit of the cactus plant has a number of different names cactus fruit or cactus pear, tuna or Indian figs. The Indians have the juice of the cactus pear to make fermented drinks such asolonche wine and brandy.

*

Mixologists nationwide are creating all sorts of new ways to use prickly pear in their cocktails. Cactus Pear martinis, cactus pear mimosas, cactus pear margaritas, cactus pear daiquiris are just a few of the cocktails you can prepare but only your imagination can limit what you can do with this delicious fruit.

To eat a cactus pear you should use a small sharp knife and slice off each end and make a single slice from top to bottom then peel back the thick purple-red skin to reveal the luscious fruit. The flaming fuchsia color is stunning and mouthwatering and you can even eat the small seeds inside .

Although cactus pears are a small part of our business, they are an important item because of the long history of cactus pears at D*Arrigo Bros. and because they are considered an important and profitable Italian specialty item. We currently grow about 120 ha of cactus (Opuntia ficus- indica) in the Salinas valley of California . We grow only the red spineless Italian-type cactus pears, which are harvested from August through March. All of our fruit is mechanically despined, cleaned, and lightly waxed. Our premium fruit is individually tissue wrapped and packed into our Andy Boy label in 8.2 kg boxes with 50, 60, or 70 cactus pears per box.  

- - - - - - -

The founder of the Texas Cactus Council (formerly Texas Prickly Pear Council) was Dr. Peter Felker, who was with Texas A&M Kingsville. Dr. Felker was working with D'Arrigo Brothers doing research. We assume he's still there. We thank Dr. Felker for all his work in getting our council going.

RECIPE(S)

TOSSED SALAD WITH CACTUS

Add ½ cup diced, blanched cactus to diced tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, salad olives, diced cucumber, shredded carrot, diced boiled egg. Toss with your favorite salad dressing.

  *****

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, October 9, 2014, at TCC member Yolanda Zapata's home at 1923 Rettye, Kingsville, Texas, at 6:00 p.m.

 Yolanda will provide the meal. We thank Yolanda for her generosity. If you get lost, call Yolanda at (361) 592-0586. You can invite your friends and family. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

September, 2014, Newsletter

SEGUIN Gazette News

“Cactus Margarita” owner and Texas Cactus Council member, Beth Zies, has earned a special Go Texan honor. She has been brewing up a concoction for several years. And for 15 of them she has been able to proudly display her Cactus Margarita juice under the “Go Texan” label.

Cactus Margarita

Jami McCool, Texas Department of Agriculture field representative presented Beth Zies with a proclamation from the state department on being a founding member of the Go Texan program with her Cactus Margarita. Court Street Coffee Shop owners Lyndon Langford and Mary Jo Langford, who sell Zies's product in their business, were present for the presentation.  

Congratulations to Beth on this accomplishment. We are proud of you! 

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

by Liliana Rodriguez Cracraft

Prickly pears, like all types of cacti, are succulent plants with special adaptations for capturing and keeping large quantities of water. They belong to an extensive family called Opuntia that includes more than 200 species. They are found in half of our states and in many, they are the only cacti found.

  • This large and varied group is characterized by a green skin, though a few species are purple. The size ranges from towering trees to sprawling shrubs. All have joined stems, tiny barbed bristles called glochids . Stems are peppered with numerous button-like structures called areoles, which bear large spines. Along the stem's narrow, upturned edge, areoles produce new joints, flowers, and fruit from March through June. Their fruits have thick rinds and large seeds.
  • Although the Opuntia is not from the Mediterranean, its name comes from the Greek town of Opus, named for the ancient tribe Locri Opuntii.
  • Called teonochtli (in nahuatl), the prickly pear was among the sacred cactus of the Aztecs. Some authors believe that its red fruits (tunas) were compared to the human heart offered to the gods in sacrifice. The Aztecs used the prickly pear cactus symbol in all their artistic work, jewelry, paintings, and feather works. One of the first gifts sent by Moctezuma to Charles V of Spain, was a beautiful necklace with 8 golden pieces and 183 or green stones in the form of little tunas.
  • When México obtained its independence from Spain, in an act of justice to the role that cacti played in the life of the Aztecs, and in the recognition of their tribal symbol, the young nation chose as the emblem of its nationality, an eagle perched on the prickly pear cactus as it now embellishes México's flag.
  • From México, the Spaniards took the plant everywhere as far as the Mediterranean, and is now abundant in Italy and Israel and North Africa where it became a common part of the scenery. Its fruits are known in Europe as "Indian Figs."
  • Tunas helped saved the lives of explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions during the early 1500s, after a narrow escape from Indian enslavement in arid regions of what became South Texas
  • In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sailors carried them to prevent scurvy (lack of ascorbic acid - or vitamin C) on their long journeys.
  • After the 1850's battle with Comanches near Cotulla, Texas, Ranger Bigfoot Wallace slapped prickly pear poultices on the wounds of his men. Biographer A.J. Sowell wrote that "the poultice kept out all fever and the wounded rapidly recovered."
  • In the early 1900's, Australian cattlemen planted the prickly pear cactus to feed cattle but the idea backfired. The plant thrived so well, it overran an area larger than the state of Connecticut, turning it into a wasteland.
  • After 1897, the Morley Brothers Drug Company with a retail store in Austin's Pecan (now sixth) street manufactured 187 products in its so-called "Cactus Line." It included medications for athlete's foot, boils, burns, ringworm, sore feet, swellings, or any other afflictions of the skin.
  • In 1920, Australia established the Prickly Pear Board and sent entomologists to America for many years trying to find an insect that could kill the plants. More than 500,000 insects of 50 different species were tested including the cochineal insects, moths and spider mites to control the new growth of cactus. In 1930, a moth from Argentina called Cactoblastis cactorum was found and in 7 years, this moth destroyed the dense growth of prickly pear. The total cost was 168,600 English pounds.
  • The prickly pear is extremely valuable as cattle feed in Texas and México.
  • The fruit is high in vitamins A & C, calcium and phosphorus. Delicious eaten raw, tunas make excellent fruit drinks, jellies and candy.
  • The gluey pulp in the stems was used by several Indian tribes as glue, obtained by concentrating the juice from stems.
  • Medical research has demonstrated that pectin, a high fiber, gelatinous substance in prickly pears can reduce the “bad” cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
  • For diabetics it is recommended to blend 1-2 fresh nopalito pads with water, orange juice, or grapefruit juice, and drink it 2-3 times per day.
  • The plant pads sliced in half and heated are used in Mexico to mitigate muscle pain and reduce swelling. A paste is used for tooth aches.
  • Sabra , the Hebrew name for the prickly pear fruit, came to be used to describe a person born in Israel: “tough on the outside, sweet under the skin”
  • Because of the many contributions of the prickly pear to the landscape, cuisine, and character of the Lone Star State, the prickly pear cactus was officially designated as the “Official State Plant” by the State of Texas House of Representatives, in April 24, 1995.
  • The traditional Mexican saying “ Al nopal solo lo van a ver cuando tiene tunas” meaning the prickly pear cactus only gets visitors when bearing fruit, may be not so true nowadays.

  ********

The Texas Cactus Council met in San Diego, Texas, at Jerry's Diner for the August meeting. Guests at the meeting were Duval County librarian B. J. Alaniz, who extended an invitation to a meeting sponsored by Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, where free books will be passed out to all in attendance. School students were encouraged to be at the meeting.

Other guests were Gracie Gonzalez, Rosie Barrera, Rosie Villarreal and Idolina Rios.

Lydia Canales, who is a member of the Texas Cactus Council and the Duval County Historical Commission, invited everyone to a “Branding Iron Exhibit” at the Duval County Museum in San Diego, Texas, on October 18, 2014. She asked everyone to bring their own branding irons for presentation at this exhibit.

RECIPE(S) 

Nopalitos and Cream Cheese  

2 cups diced, tender, blanched nopalitos.

8 oz. cream cheese

¼ diced onion, salt, pepper, 1 jalapeno pepper (diced, seeded)

2 fresadilla tomatoes (green tomatoes is a sour taste that comes wrapped in a kind of shell formed by sheets)

Place blanched cactus, salt/pepper in a little water. Separately, fry the chopped onion in a little oil.

Meanwhile, using a blender, grind the chili and tomatoes with a little water and add to the onion to a boil for about two minutes. Then add the nopales and let boil one minute. Then add the cheese cut into small pieces. Enjoy.  

Nopalitos mañaneros

•  1 cup diced blanched nopalitos, 4 diced red tomatoes, ½ diced onion, 2 tsp olive oil , 2 inch piece of chorizo, 2 eggs, optional

•  In a pan fry the chorizo ??first, without burning, then the tomato and onion is added, then when is hot crush all ingredients with a mortar to release their juice. We put back on the fire and when it begins to boil the cooked nopales are added pouring salt to taste. (Add eggs and scramble, if you so choose.) Cook a while for these to penetrate with juice and ready for breakfast served with flour tortillas.

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions Recipe

•  1 cup nopalitos,   cleaned, and chopped and blanched. Olive oil, 2 large cloves garlic, minced. 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped. 1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped.

•  1 medium tomato, roughly chopped. Salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato. Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

(Note: You might consider planting spineless cactus for your recipes. You could save a lot of time by not having to remove spines. Let me know if you want spineless cactus.)

MEETING

The Texas Cactus Council will meet at Dairy Queen in Freer, Texas, on Thursday, September 11, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. Invite your friends and family members. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

  J. T. Garcia and blooming dragonfruit cactus.

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

August, 2014, Newsletter

There are two varieties of cacti grown as houseplants, and both are popular and readily familiar. The desert cacti are the "traditional" cacti, usually covered with spines or hair and often growing in paddles, balls or obelisks. Forest cacti grow in wooded areas, ranging from temperate forests to subtropical and tropical regions. The most well-known forest cacti is probably the Christmas cactus. Both desert and forest cacti boast beautiful blooms, but they have very different growing habits.

The Desert Cacti

When I think cactus, I'm usually thinking about the desert cacti. These aren't friendly plants—grab a desert cactus without thinking about it and you're in for a nasty surprise. But they have a unique, stark beauty, and some of the desert cacti feature the most beautiful flowers in the plant kingdom. I had never thought of a desert as particularly lush until I saw my first desert bloom. There's nothing quite like it.

Growing desert cacti is not difficult—these are among the toughest of all houseplants—but it does require sticking to some pretty simple rules. There are dozens of kinds of desert cacti on the market today—for the most part, the rules governing their growth are the same. Some species of cacti will bloom after 3 or 4 years in cultivation. Others will take longer, or never bloom indoors. Generally, follow these tips for success with desert cacti:

•  Light:   Strong light is essential for healthy cacti, especially in the winter. Some species may scorch in direct summer sun if they haven't been hardened off first.

•  Temperature:   During the active growth period, cacti prefer hot, dry temperatures, ranging from 70ºF to more than 80ºF. In the winter, the plants prefer a cooler period, down to 55ºF. In their desert habitats, many cacti are accustomed to very chilly nights. However, protect them from very cold winter drafts.

•  Water:   In the spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing and/or blooming, water whenever the compost begins to dry. During these waterings, make sure the plant is thoroughly watered. During the winter rest period, nearly cease watering. Only water if the plant begins to shrivel.

•  Potting Soils and Repotting:   Pot into a fast-draining cacti mix. If one is not available, amend regular potting soil with inorganic agents like perlite to increase drainage and aeration. Cacti are generally slow-growing plants and will rarely need repotting. Also, remember that many species of cacti will bloom better when they are slightly underpotted.

•  Fertilizer:   Use a cacti fertilizer during the growing season. Some growers have poor results with standard fertilizers, so it's probably worth it to seek out a specialized cacti fertilizer.

•  Common Problems:   The most common mistake with desert cacti is overwatering in the winter, which will cause rot either at the base of the plant or at the tips of the growing areas. If the rot is advanced, it might be necessary to start new plants from cuttings or discard the whole plant. Cacti are also susceptible to pests include mealy bugs and mites.

The Forest Cacti

The forest cacti grow in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. They are often climbing or epiphytic plants that cling to trees. The most famous among these is the Christmas cactus, which is native to Brazil. Today, Christmas cacti are available with blooms in red, pink, purlpe and even yellow. They make excellent hanging plants.

•  Light:   These plants like bright, but not direct, sunlight. Move them outside during the summer (see Blooming Tips below).

•  Temperature:   During the growing season, they have a wide range, from 55ºF to 70ºF. During the rest period, a colder spell of 50ºF is essential.

•  Water:   Water as a normal houseplant during the summer months and when the buds begin to show. During the resting period, only water when the soil is dry to the touch.

•  Potting Soils and Repotting:   Use a regular potting mix. Repot at the beginning of the growing season.

•  Fertilizer:   Fertilize during the growing season with a standard fertilizer. Reduce fertilizer during the growing season.

•  Blooming Tips for Christmas Cacti:   Coaxing multiple blooms from a Christmas cactus (or the closely related Easter cactus) takes a little planning. Before you want the plant to flower, cut it back and induce a rest period when watering and fertilizer is reduced and the plant is kept cool (about 50ºF to 55ºF). After one to two months, move the plant to a warmer place and resume watering, and buds will soon begin to show. It is also essential to move the plant outside during the summer.

•  Common Problems:   As with succulents and desert cacti, these plants should not be watered heavily during the rest period. Root rot will result. Advanced root rot can only be treated by taking new cuttings and starting over. Fortunately, these plants root easily from cutting. Failure to bloom is usually caused by an inadequate rest period and/or not taking the plant outside during the summer months.

   

CACTUS Cacti are succulent perennials that are native to arid and semi-arid regions and are cultivated extensively, except where freezes regularly occur. The land area devoted to cactus cultivation in 2001 was about 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres), mostly for fodder, and over half of which was in northern Africa and northeastern Brazil. Cacti are also cultivated in over twenty countries for their fruits, which commercially fall into three categories: cactus pears, which are the fruits of the prickly pear Opuntia ficus-indica and certain other cacti with flat stems (cladodes), and represent over 90% of the cactus fruits sold; pitahayas, which are the fruits of vine cacti in the genera Hylocereus and Selenicereus; and pitayas, which are the fruits of columnar cacti. Young cladodes are consumed as a vegetable (nopalitos), particularly in Mexico. Nearly all cacti employ a photosynthetic pathway known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), in which the stomates (shoot pores that allow CO 2 entry) open primarily at night, when temperatures are lower and water loss is lower than for the overwhelming majority of plants, whose stomates open during the daytime. The best known edible CAM plant is pineapple, which is cultivated on about half as much area as cacti. Because of their lower water loss, cacti and other CAM plants thrive in dry regions (and also require little or no irrigation when cultivated in other regions.

History

Although evidence for cacti in human diets goes back more than 8,000 years in present-day Mexico, worldwide consumption has developed only in the last few hundred years. Cacti were introduced into Europe   in 1495 from the second trip of   Christopher Columbus   to the New World.   Opuntia ficus-indica spread across the Mediterranean region in the sixteenth century, where it readily grew under the local semi-arid conditions. Also in the sixteenth century, Spaniards introduced   Hylocereus undatus into the Philippines, whence it spread throughout southeast   Asia. In the nineteenth century, it became established in Viet Nam and is now extensively cultivated in the Mekong Delta, where its tasty fruit with red peel and white pulp is called "dragon fruit." Also in the nineteenth century, the columnar   Stenocereus queretaroensis was domesticated in Jalisco, Mexico. None of these species received much agronomic attention until the end of the twentieth century, and even then the money for research and development was meager. Both fruit crops and young cladodes used as vegetables require much hand labor. Although machines have been developed to remove the irritating small spines (termed "glochids") from cactus pears, many improvements in their cultivation await future research.

  MEETING

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, August 14, 2014, in San Diego, Texas, at Jerry's Diner at 6:30 p.m. Please invite your friends and relatives. Jerry's has a great menu. You may bring a door prize if you wish. Let me know if you want cactus pads. I'll bring some to the meeting.

Nos vemos en San Diego,

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

Beaver tail cactus with bright pink blooms. Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA. (color)

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

July, Newsletter, 2014

Medicinal Value of Cactus

The medicinal value of cactus is immense. Studies reveal that cactus contain anti-tumor, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic properties. In addition, experts opine that cactus has the capacity to prevent cancerous growth of cells. The prickly pear cactus for instance, has enjoyed enough significance with respect to its medicinal value.

Health Benefits of Cactus

Listed below are some health benefits of prickly pear cactus:

•  Helpful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes

•  Helps in the treatment of hyperlipidemias (increased or abnormal level of lipids in the blood)

•  Contains anti-inflammatory properties

•  Helps manage conditions of overweight and obesity

•  Prevents cancer

•  Heals wounds

•  Helps treat BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) symptoms

Medicinal Value of Cactus

San Pedro cactus has high medicinal value as well. Some health benefits derived from a juice prepared from the San Pedro cactus are prevents the burning of the bladder and kidneys, helps treat conditions of high fever and hepatitis.

Hoodia is another cactus-like plant which is popularly grown in South Africa and is renowned for its appetite suppressing quality and hence effectively used in the treatment of obesity.

The prickly pear, also known as   Opuntia   is a very popular herb. Forming an important part of the ancient Mexican culture, the prickly pear is abundant in flavonoids which are an important antioxidant property. Antioxidants have a detoxifying effect on the body thereby preventing cellular damage which is the path to cancers, ageing and other health problems.

The status of cactus has evolved over time from being just a crop to a cure or healer for various human ailments. Dishes prepared from the pulp of the opuntia fruit have become very popular today. Traditionally, the prickly pear cactus was also used to treat diabetes.

Considering the medicinal value of cactus, natural food companies are not only supplying prickly pear cactus but also offering recipes and dishes prepared from the fruit and pads of the cacti plant or herb.

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"Over all the posts we have made here I thought I would put together a top 25 list of some of my favorite cactus information.  Some of these are obvious while other facts might make you declare we have lost our minds or made some type of error.  So read away and I am sure you will be amazed at some of these incredible facts!"__Cactus Facts

•  Fishhook Barrel Cactus have up to 25 vertical ribs.  You know that's sexy!

•  The Cactus was discovered by a botanist name Carolus Linnaeus, he called the new plant “kaktos”.

•  Saguaros may take up to 75 years to develop its side arms and 55 years to start flowering.

•  Cactus can produce flowers and fruit, the fruit is edible and has great health benefits.

•  Fossil evidence from 9,000 years ago have show us that cacti have been in human diets for at least that long.

•  Cactus go into dormancy when temperatures lower in winter months.

•  There are four requirements that must be met to be able to classify a cactus; it has to be a perennial, the fruit it produces must be single celled, it has to have an areole, and last but not least it must be a dicotyledon.

•  The Fishhook Barrel Cactus is referred to as the “Compass Barrel” since the bigger plants will lean in the southwest direction.

•  A large Barrel Cactus once survived for six years uprooted from the ground, it used 24 pounds of its stored water over that time.

•  Once a Saguaro Cactus dies, its ribs can be use to build fences, roofs, and furniture parts.

•  Under the perfect growing conditions, it has been estimated that Saguaros can live as much as 150 to 200 years.  A Barrel cactus can live up to 130 years from records found.

•  A full sized Saguaro(40-60 feet) that has been hydrated can weigh up to 4800 pounds.  Don't let one of these fall on you!

•  The official state flower of our great state(Arizona) is the Saguaro Cactus Blossom.

•  Cactus spines have been used for sutures,  of course they have been sterilized first.

•  Cacti are pollinated by hummingbirds, bats, and some insects.

•  Peyotl, roots of a Mexican cactus, were chewed on by Aztecs for their hallucinogenic properties.  It allowed shamen to enter a type of trance.  

•  Barrel Cactus do contain water, but it contains oxalic acid and will cause diarrhea if consumed when your stomach is empty.  So be safe about what you eat and drink out in the desert.

•  All species of cacti have large roots.

•  Nopal Cactus has been use to treat type 2 diabetes, lowering blood sugar.

•  The cactus leaf may protect the immune system preventing oxidative stress.

•  Prickly Pears contain betalains which reduce inflammation in your body when consumed.

•  Even though the Saguaro is such a massive cactus fully grown, it is a slow starter.  After 10 years it may have grown only 2 inches tall.

•  The thickness of a cactus is dependant on how much light it receives.

•  There are over two thousand species of cacti and over 170 represented in the Columnar family.

•   The Saguaro Cactus is the largest of all the other cacti in the United States .

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RECIPE(S)

Creamy Nopales Dip

•  1 container (16 oz.) sour cream

•  1-1/2 cups Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise

•  1 jar (30 oz.) nopales cactus strips, drained, patted dry and chopped (or use fresh, tender, spineless cactus pads diced and blanched)

•  2 Knorr® Cilantro MiniCubes, crumbled.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; chill. Serve with tortilla chips .

MEETING

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Falfurrias, Texas, at Taqueria Jalisco at 6:30 p.m. It's located at 1413 S.Highway 281 (361) 325-3094. A discussion on landscaping with cactus will be held. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

 

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

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http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

June, 2014, Newsletter

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Simply put, what separates cacti from succulents are the organs that produce the spines, and some other characteristics specific to fruit formation, differences between dicots and monocots and a few other differing characteristics. Cacti are native to the United States, mostly in the southwestern states, Mexico, Central and South America and a few species are native to Haiti, and other islands. They are grown for their spectacular flowers and plant shapes.

Usually, when one thinks of cacti, one thinks of deserts with inhospitable temperatures and levels of light. However, many of the smaller cacti that live in this environment are situated under bushes or in behind rocks and do not receive constant, intense solar radiation. The native habitat of many other cacti is often at a higher altitude (where the light is strong but the temperatures are far cooler than on the desert floor), or, in tropical jungle-like environments. Many cacti, such as the Astrophytums, dwell at higher altitudes and underneath pine trees, where they receive very little direct sun. All cacti require light to flower and to photosynthesize, however a plant can absorb a lot of light with nothing more than morning sun or reflective light. Practically all of the cacti enjoy a lot of sunlight. But be careful not to expose them to unrelenting hot sun for an entire day. Even in the deserts, as young plants, they grow in the shade of larger plants until they are large and well established in the ground. In pots, on heat reflecting patios, a full day's sun can put a lot of stress on your plants. Good partial sunlight or half day of full sun is usually excellent. Exceptions to this are the jungle or tree cacti, of course, and also some of the Astrophytums and other naked cacti which like more filtered or shaded sun since they have no spines to shade them .

All cacti need a rapidly draining, porous soil mix. It is always better to water well and thoroughly, letting water pour out of the drain in the pot. Never let cacti sit in standing water. Let them go thoroughly dry between waterings. Water sparingly during winter months (by sparingly we mean infrequently) as cacti do very little growing when cold. If you can keep night time temperatures above 50°F, the plants will perform very well through the winter. However, most can tolerate, without difficulty, night time temperatures which are consistently as low as 32°F, if kept fairly dry.

An all around name brand house plant fertilizer should be used during growing season, only at half the recommended strength.

Cacti will reward you with their blooms if given lots of bright light or sun daily. They are slow growing, for the most part, and will not need frequent transplanting. We wish you many happy years of growing and enjoying your desert treasures .

RECIPE(S)

Nopalitos with Tomatoes & Onions

1 lb nopalitos, nopales prickly pear cactus paddles that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped, or save all the trouble and use spineless cactus.

Olive oil, 2 large cloves garlic, minced. 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped.

1 medium tomato, roughly chopped. Salt and pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato. Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Including cactus in your desert landscaping is a great way to add visual interest. Cactus, just like plants, can have texture, form and color. A tall, columnar cactus is strong in vertical form, while a golden barrel provides a bold texture with strong color. Do not confuse cactus with succulents, which have different water requirements. Cactus species include saguaro, prickly pear, cholla, hedgehog, pincushion and barrel varieties. Succulents include agave, ocotillo and yucca. Combining cactus and succulents to your landscape design is certainly recommended, as you will have more opportunities for variety.

Go to your local nursery and buy cactus and succulents that grow in your climate zone. If you live in USDA hardiness zones 12 or 13, choose fishhook barrel, Englemann's hedgehog and saguaro for spots in full sun. In zone 10, replace saguaro with ocotillo.

Pick a spot in your yard that has full sun and well-drained soil. Plant cacti in groups of odd numbers with the same sun requirements, around a boulder.

Dig holes no deeper than the root ball in the container and at least three times as wide. Spread cactus roots laterally, not vertically. Wear leather gloves and use a thick pad of newspaper to hold the plant so you do not get thorns in your hands. Remove cactus from the pot and set in the hole. Gently tease the roots loose from the root ball to give them a head start in growing outward. Backfill with native soil. Do not amend the soil and do not water.  

Water the cactus after two weeks. Soak the roots thoroughly. Do not water again for four to six weeks. Water once a month in cooler   months, once a week in the hottest part of the year, usually May and June. Follow this watering schedule for only one year, after that let Mother Nature take care of it. Water cacti outside of this schedule if they look drought stressed. Stress appears as shriveled pads on prickly pear cactus, and compressed ribs on columnar cactus such as saguaro and barrel cactus.

Meeting

We will not a have a regular meeting in June. Instead the council will have a field day at the Botanical Gardens in Corpus Christi, Texas. Everyone is invited to be there by 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, 2014. Some members of the Coastal Bend Cactus & Succulent Society will be there volunteering with the gardens on cleaning and replanting areas. You may offer to assist if you wish. Bring your own water and snacks if you wish. Do bring a hat or a cap.

South Texas Botanical Gardens

South Side
8545 S. Staples St.
Corpus Christi, Texas 7841

The South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center offers visitors a lush oasis of various types of plants, birds and other species. Several gardens and greenhouses are erected throughout the space. Plants include orchids, hibiscus, plumeria, roses and many more.

Several miles of nature trails can also be found in the gardens. Observation platforms and an observation tower offer visitors unique glimpses into the natural environment surrounding them. Visitors will be encompassed by the wildlife of the area, which includes a variety of birds and reptiles.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

cactus4.gif - 19.0 K

Saguaro Cactus

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

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May, 2014, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting in San Diego, Texas, at Jerry's Diner. Guests were Greg & Nellie Cowham and their daughter Alison from Michigan. Other guests were Ninfa Guevara and Yolanda Trevino. We were also happy to see member Shinichi Tokuno from San Antonio, Texas.

Cacti Need Little Attention They Are Ideal Plants For Busy Gardeners .

By Art Kozelka Chicago Tribune, January 10, 1987

Like conventional leafy houseplants, most cacti require little pampering or even space, which makes them an ideal choice for plant buffs on the go with limited time and room to care for them. Beyond these virtues, the cacti include fanciful, often bizarre forms that are never lacking for interest. With inbred ability to survive even under adverse conditions, the cacti are right at home in the warm, dry atmosphere of homes and apartments that so often is detrimental to leafy specimens. Some actually will thrive in situations where other plants may languish.

More and more people are finding that spineless cactus is easy to grow and is great in your recipes. There is no wasted time in removing spines and the very few spines that you may find do not have to be removed. I simply rinse out the cactus pads and dice them. I then blanch the cactus a few minutes and they're ready for your recipe.

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Dragon fruit is a beautiful fruit grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, and Israel. The plant is actually a type of cactus, and the fruit comes in 3 colors: 2 have pink skin, but with different colored flesh (one white, the other red), while another type is yellow with white flesh. Dragon fruit is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants.

Dragon fruit tastes wonderful! - sweet and crunchy, with a flavor that's like a cross between kiwi and pear.

There are many varieties of dragon fruit. You'll find some with thin stems that hang down from the plant. The fruit grows on these hanging stems. Another species of dragon fruit cactus has stiff upright stems as thick as a man's leg. These plants can grow up to ten feet tall or more. The beautiful blooms become the fruit - - - dragon fruit. Owners keep an eye on the fruit to hopefully beat the birds, who love to eat the fruit, which is simply delicious. I've seen dragon fruit on sale at Walmart for $5.95 each!

The dragon fruit cactus in my yard is of the bigger species. It is easy to grow. We all enjoy the fruit. We also try to get to it before the birds do.

To choose a ripe dragon fruit: look for bright, even-colored skin. If the fruit has a lot of blotches, it may be over-ripe (a few is normal). Another sign of over-ripe dragon fruit is a very dry, brittle brown stem, or brown on the tips of the "leaves". Hold the dragon fruit in your palm and try pressing the skin with your thumb or fingers - it should give a little (like a ripe kiwi), but shouldn't be too soft or mushy. If it's very firm, it will need to ripen for a few days.

Placing the dragon fruit over a cutting board or other clean surface, cut the fruit straight down the middle with a sharp knife. It will cut quite easily.

Cut through to the other side, so that you can separate the fruit into 2 sections. Inside the flesh may be white or red - both will have tiny black edible seeds, just like kiwi fruit.

There are various ways to prepare dragon fruit for eating - this is just one way. Run a tablespoon around the circumference of the first section to separate the flesh from the skin.

Now lift the flesh out of the skin and place it on the cutting board. Note that the skin is NOT edible. Do the same for the other half.

Turn the mound of flesh over, checking for any residual pink skin. Slice this off, as the skin isn't healthy to ingest.

Now you can slice up the flesh. Cubes work well for eating the fruit fresh.

If desired, return the cubes of fruit to the skin to serve, or transfer to a serving dish and enjoy! Note that leftovers can be refrigerated, like any other fruit, in a covered container. Personally, I love combining cubes of dragon fruit into a fresh fruit salad. See my dragon fruit recipes below. ENJOY!

RECIPES

Tropical Thai Fruit Salad

This beautiful Thai fruit salad recipe is a taste of paradise. Tropical fruit - or a mixture of tropical and local fruit - is tossed together in a sweet coconut-lime fruit salad dressing that enhances but never overwhelms the luscious taste of the fruit. Choose your own combination of fruit for this easy fresh fruit salad. If making it for a party, consider serving your fruit salad in a pineapple boat, as pictured here, just follow the link below for easy instructions. ENJOY !

Dragon Fruit Maritini

The Dragon Fruit Martini is easy to make and beautiful to serve! Your guests will be surprised and delighted by this refreshing cocktail, and the marvelous-looking dragon fruit also makes a great conversation starter! Dragon fruit is native to Thailand, but is now readily available throughout North America. Note that I tested this recipe both with and without the coconut milk, and it was delicious both ways. If you like tropical cocktails, I recommend including it; whereas if you're a classic martini drinker, you may prefer it without. CHEERS !

*

Prickly Pear (Nopal Cactus) - Anti-diabetic and heart healthy

Prickly pear has been used in Mexico for over 1000 years to treat diabetes. It has been listed among one of the most commonly used natural products.

In fact, in 2002 a medical journal reported that this cactus "look-alike" plant, also called Nopal Cactus, is still used regularly in Central America.

The use of Prickly pear as a natural supplement to help in the treatment of diabetes is not new. There is no reason to doubt it's herbal hypoglycemic effects.

I grew up seeing these things growing wild. We used to pass the plant growing near a house that an old lady used to live. I remember frowning at the news that that the old lady used to eat that stuff. Now I know why.

MEETING

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, May 8, 2014, in Kingsville, Texas, at 6:00 p.m. at Los Cabos Restaurant. It is located at 1920 E. King Street, right by Hwy 77. Bring your family and friends. You may bring a door prize if you wish. Their phone number is (361) 595-0089.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

Dragon fruit cactus

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

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April, 2014, Newsletter

Remedy Hunger with Cactus Dish

By Steve Petusevsky Vegetarian Today

One benefit of living in South Florida is the rich culinary influence of Latin American countries. Although I know much about some of our Latin neighbors' cuisines, I know almost nothing about others. Cuban food is so familiar, but the food of Ecuador, Guatemala or even Puerto Rico is almost a blank page in my book.

One thing that seems common among Latin cultures is their respect for ingredients with medicinal properties. Here is a primer of some Latin ingredients, and a few of the ways they are used as cures as well as a simple recipe for nopales (cactus leaves).

It was given to me by a colleague from the Oaxacan region of Mexico. Although these ingredients are commonly used as home remedies, do not use them without consulting your doctor.

I do, however, recommend the Nopales Salad With Lime and Cilantro for curing hunger. The cactus leaves are delicious, tasting a bit like green beans.

The pantry of ingredients is from the Latino Nutrition Coalition, an educational program dealing with Hispanic nutrition.

Chamomile (manzanilla): Used by adults to soothe an upset stomach, as a sleep aid and to treat irritated or red eyes.

Cinnamon tea (te de canela): Believed to help regulate blood sugar in diabetics, relieve cold symptoms and cure diarrhea.

Cactus (nopal): Cactus is thought to have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels in diabetics, to aid digestion and to help heal stomach ulcers.

Flaxseed (linaza): Scientifically proven to be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed is thought to clean the intestines and help prevent arteriosclerosis.

Chili Peppers (chilies): Offer relief from the common cold by promoting mucus drainage.

Steve Petusevsky is a freelance writer in Coral Springs.

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RECIPE(S)

*************

APPETIZER

Nopales Salad With Lime and Cilantro

Cactus pads can be found in Latin markets as well as some supermarket produce sections. Look for bright green, shiny leaves the size of your hand. The spiny soft thorns must be rubbed off with a nylon abrasive pad before you proceed with the recipe. Careful as they can be sharp. (Note: Use spineless cactus if you're lucky to have them.)

2 large cactus pads (nopales), scrubbed of thorns, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch dice

*Water *Salt, to taste *1 medium tomato, chopped

*1 serrano or jalapeno chili, seeded and minced

*1/4 small red onion, chopped 1/4 cup minced cilantro

*Juice of 1 lime *6 lettuce leaves, optional

Put diced cactus into a saucepan of cold water to cover. Add a pinch salt and bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Combine cactus with remaining ingredients except lettuce and mix well. Serve on leaf lettuce or in small cocktail glasses as an appetizer. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 28 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams total fiber, .9 gram total sugars, 4 grams net carbs, .9 gram protein, 13 milligrams sodium.

Prickly pear isn't often thought about as a super food. That should change as word gets out about some of its amazing benefits.

Prickly pear is known by a few names such as nopal cactus, barbary fig cactus, opuntia, Indian fig prickly pear cactus, tuna cardona, westwood pear and a few others. Prickly pear as the name applies have spines, which can be long or thick in shape or short or fine in shape. Prickly pears grow in North American deserts, Southwest U.S., Mexico and in Canada. Prickly pear cactus has been part of the diet for Mexican and Central Americans for thousands of years. Most prickly pear cacti have yellow, red, or purple flowers. They vary in height from 1 to 6 feet.

The unique thing about the prickly pear plant is that it possesses two different edible sections: the pad of the cactus (nopal), which is treated as vegetable, and the pear (tuna) which is used as fruit. They grow wild in the southwest part of America, and in South America and Canada. The ones that are commercially sold are usually from a commercial nopal farm .

The interest in the prickly plant is growing due to both the medical research and the wonderful taste of the fruit. Prickly pear has been used in Mexico to treat diabetes for over 1,000 years, and is one of the most used natural products in Central America.

The use of prickly pear as a natural helper in the treatment of diabetes is well known among native cultures. It is known to have hypoglycemic effects. The prickly pear has been reported as beneficial to a whole host of conditions. Research has shown it has beneficial actions on the cardiovascular system by decreasing platelet activity. This means it's good for both the heart and blood vessels.

The cactus pads of the prickly pear contain essential vitamins and minerals such as: potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene and vitamin C.

Nopal Catcus is the only plant to contain 24 of the known betalains, which are potent anti-inflammatory agents. Betalains are polyphenolic pigments found in beets. Betalains give nopal cactus their purple-red and yellow colors. Prickly pear juice power comes from its ability to fight chronic inflammation.

The pads of prickly pear fruit contain a wide range of amino acids. This includes the 8 essential amino acids, which our bodies don't produce. This is a plant that provides more essential amino acids than most other sources.

*

Several members of the Texas Cactus Council have been inquiring about possible tours. Minnie Salazar has informed me that there is a tour to the Painted Churches in Schulenburg, Texas, on May 24, 2014. The departure is from Walmart on Greenwood Drive in Corpus Christi at 6:45 on that morning. The cost is $49 per person. Each interested person should call Rockport Tours at 1-888-937-3488 to make reservations. Have your credit card ready when you call. Spread the word to your friends. Space is limited so call soon.  

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MEETING

************

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, April 10, 2014, at Jerry's Diner at 111 S.Victoria, in San Diego, Texas, at 6:00 p.m. They have a great menu and provide live music. Invite your friends and family members.  

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer  

 

mini cactus

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

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March, 2014, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council met at TCC member Yolanda Zapata's home in Kingsville, Texas, for the February meeting. As always, Yolanda provided a fabulous meal for the council. We again thank her for her generosity.  

Emma Martinez was re-elected to a three year term as president of the Texas Cactus Council. She graciously accepted the position.  

Pat Curry announced that Texas Cactus Council cookbooks were still available. Some members announced that they will be selling more cookbooks. Everyone was happy to once again see TCC member Terry Fanning at the meeting.

The Texas Cactus Council announces new member, Jaime Martinez, from Saint Anthony, Minnesota. Welcome to the council, Jaime.

  *

We've had a colder winter than usual. We've had some scattered rain and we can already see tiny cactus pads sprouting from the cactus plants in our yard and at the ranch. We should see ready to use tender cactus pads in about two or three weeks. I can hardly wait. HEB food stores and Walmart already have cactus pads in their produce deparment. With Ash Wednesday starting on March 5 th , everyone is beginning their plans for succulent cactus dishes so common during Lent.

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RECIPE(S)

************

Cactus and Corn Salsa

•  1 teaspoon olive oil-- 2   nopales cactus   pads, spines removed

•  2 green tomatoes, cored and cut in half

•  1/2 large, white onion, peeled and cut into 4 chunks

•  2 jalapeños, red or green, more or less to taste

•  1 teaspoon olive oil-- 1 cup frozen corn

•  1 cup cilantro, stems removed-- 1 garlic clove, peeled

•  2 hot chili peppers, stems removed, more or less to taste

•  Juice from 1/2 a lime, about 1 Tbsp

•  2 Tablespoons tequila, optional

•  1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano -- Salt to taste

This recipe is designed for the whole pads, but you may be able to make it with bagged cut cactus for nopalitos if that's all that is available in the market. Just arrange them close together on the roasting pan while you roast the vegetables so they don't dry out.

You can also use freshly cooked corn or grilled corn, stripped from the cob. In this case, skip the corn roasting in step 2, and just add to the salsa in the last step.  

Preheat oven to 425°F. Working with a large sharp knife with a fairly straight edge, scrape off any remaining prickles or nubs on the cactus paddles. Cut the paddles crosswise into 1-inch thick strips. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Place cactus, green tomatoes, white onion and jalapeños on the baking sheet in preheated oven for 12 minutes. The cactus should still be slightly crisp when pierced with a fork.

Heat a cast iron or stick-free skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat on the stove top. When the pan is heated, add frozen corn and spread out in an even layer. Do not stir the corn. Allow it to roast in the hot pan for about 2 to 3 minutes. The corn should become browned and roasted. You can check by gently flipping a few pieces with the corner of a spatula. When corn is browned, stir and roast for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Place corn in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the oven roasted vegetables in a food processor with the cilantro, garlic, lime juice, tequila, oregano and salt. Puree until nearly smooth, about 30 seconds. (Be careful when you remove the lid on the food processor—the heat released from the peppers will zoom up your nose and down your throat, so don't stand directly over the open food processor.)

Pour the salsa into a serving dish. Stir the roasted corn into the finished salsa. Allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips.  

*

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions, Arturo Vargas

Nopalitos are the edible young paddles of the prickly pear cactus , grown throughout their native Mexico, the southwestern United States, and the Mediterranean (brought back by the conquistadores). The paddles are widely available in Mexican markets in the US, either whole (with spines) or prepared (cleaned, spines removed, chopped). They are tasty cooked, and are used in many traditional Mexican dishes. Here is a quick, easy, and delisioso nopalitos recipe.

• 1 lb nopalitos (prickly pear cactus pads that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped)

•  Olive oil 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped 1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped

•  1 medium tomato, roughly chopped

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato. Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

*

Cheese Stuffed Breaded Fried Nopales (Cactus Paddles)  

4 tablespoons liquid maggi seasoning ¼ lb. chopped ham

asadero cheese, to taste. separated in strands

8 cooked nopales, each one slit lengthwise into two halves (paddle cacti)

2 eggs, slightly beaten 2 cups dry breadcrumbs cooking oil (for frying)

Mix first 3 ingredients and place this mixture between two nopal slices. You can also use just one slice, spreading filling on one side, rolling it and securing ends with a toothpick.  

Pass through beaten egg and then through bread crumbs.

Fry in hot oil and serve.

  *

Everyone is invited to send me their favorite cactus recipes to print in future newsletters.

************

MEETING

************

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Kingsville,Texas,at 6:00 p.m.at Los Cabos Restaurant. It is located at 1920 E. King Street, right by Hwy 77. Bring your family and friends. You may bring a door prize if you wish.  

I will be bringing spineless cactus pads for those willing to start a cactus garden now that Spring is approaching. Cactus grows quite fast and you will be enjoying cactus from your garden soon.

  See you in Kingsville,

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

Orange Cactus Flowers

Orange cactus flowers photo by Judy Hedding

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

February, 2014, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council met in Freer, Texas, for the January meeting. A report on the cookbook sales was given by Pat Curry. It appears that the cookbooks are really selling. More cookbook sales monies still need to be collected. Minnie Salazar reported that cookbooks are still needed in the Hebbronville, Texas, area.

Some of the council members asked about possible trips or tours for the council members. At some point in the past many trips to Mexico were offered. Now, however, it is not advisable to travel into Mexico. A report on tours and trips will be found at the end of this newsletter.

Socorro Aguilar was Yolanda Zapata's guest at the meeting. Yolanda also brought in money for dues for a new member, Fina Serna, who we welcome to the council.

A Bee's Prickly Dream from a New York Times article by Dave Taft.

The flowers of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) are evolution's answer to a bee's dreams. They are filled with pollen, abundant in season, and easy to locate. For humans, they are also stunningly beautiful, if ephemeral. Each satiny yellow bloom lasts about a day, opening broadly in the first hours of the morning when temperatures are still relatively cool, and closing again as the sun sets. A good-sized plant displays up to a dozen two-inch flowers every day from mid-June through early July in and around New York City, and is quite common in Texas, especially in the southern part of the state.

The cactus's flower is shaped like an open bowl, with dozens of pollen-tipped stamens. Both native bumble bees and introduced honey bees find the blossoms irresistible, and are a constant presence from the moment they open. Patience pays when observing the arrangement between these partners. Finding an open flower, a bee dives in, swimming through masses of pollen-laden anthers and vibrating its body rapidly to loosen the pollen grains. It turns out this activity is hardly necessary: prickly pear cactus stamens are “thigmotactic,” that is, they are mobile, and bend inward when stimulated. The stamens proactively bend in toward the bee, dusting its fuzzy coat with pollen. This cactus pollen is eventually combed off by the bee and packaged for transport to the hive.

You can try this yourself; carefully brush a pencil against the stamens of a newly opened prickly pear flower. The response is quite remarkable.

Opuntia Prickly pear cactuses thrive in sandy, rocky soils. Growing in full sun in well-drained soils, the plants can be found in bone-dry conditions, in sandy, rocky and otherwise poor soils, but they are very adaptable. I have encountered them thriving in areas where the water table is right at the soil's surface. The plant's paddle-shaped pads are unmistakable, and since there are no other cactuses native to the New York area, identification is easy. A cactus seems like an anomaly this side of the Mississippi, but the eastern prickly pear can be found from Florida north to Massachusetts, with outliers in Texas and Montana.

In the fall, as the weather cools, the cactus pads (actually modified stems) desiccate, and become rumpled, greenish-purple strips that lie flush against the ground. This behavior prevents water from freezing and expanding in the stems, ultimately killing the plant.

Lying prostrate also allows even small amounts of snow to cover the dormant cactus. Snow is a cold but efficient insulator, and temperatures under the snow hover at just about freezing, never far below. The same pads rehydrate and spring back vertically, only to sprout flower buds and new stems as the weather warms.

There is no discussing a cactus without at least some mention of spines. Merely modified leaves, the spines of the native prickly pear are accompanied by glochids, which are fine and hairlike. Don't let their size fool you; there are few things as irritating as these almost invisible spines lodged in the joints of fingers or other body parts.

MEDICINAL  - - (This following article was sent to me by Bill Prichard from San Antonio.)


Prickly Pear Opuntia species have been used by humans for thousands of years Besides being consumed as food or beverages, most portions of the plants have been used as medicine and in modern times have also been commercially prepared as capsules, drinks, pills or powders. Preparations of prickly pear are variously considered anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, galactogogue, hypoglycemic, antiviral and anti-oxidant. Preparations have been used to regulate weight, blood sugar, increase fiber intake and facilitate childbirth and are used in the treatment of asthma, fatigue, liver injury following alcohol abuse, corns, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspnea, gastritis, colitis and other gastrointestinal disorders, gonorrhea and syphilis, hypercholesterolemia, measles, nosebleed, obesity, snakebite, sore throat, vaginitis, and inflammation of the eyes, among other disorders. Heated poultices have been used to treat rheumatic disorders, erythema, chronic skin conditions, and applied to breasts to promote milk flow. The pulp of the pads has been used by many cultures as a dressing for burns, cuts, wounds, and fractures and is believed to deaden pain and promote healing. Glochids from the plant were rubbed into warts and moles to assist in their removal. Decoctions of the fruit are taken as purgatives. The cladodes are used in the treatment of whooping cough, as "anti-infective agents" and in the treatment of gastric ulcer. Recently preparations of prickly pear have been promoted as treatments for hyperglycemia, benign prostatic hyperplasia, alcohol hangover, acidosis, artheriosclerosis, diabetes and problems of the urinary system in women among other disorders.  

FOOD
FRUIT makes great jam, also taste good in pie (it really compliments other fruit). The FRUIT taste great blended for margaritas and I have make some killer salad dressings with the FRUIT as well.

PADS
The pads taste great pickled or in salads

EXTRA INCOME
I use to see Prickly Pear and make anywhere from 40 to 150 a month and if I potted them I made about 300 a month. Cheapest way to get pots is from landscapers, they often toss the pots plants are sold in. It's very easy to make those free pots look nice for just a few cents. I fill a bucket with concrete (no stones, I tape any holes on the inside of the pot, dip the pot into the concrete in the bucket. Remove, then add pea gravel or broken glass. I sell plants potted in those homemade pots for upwards of 25.00 each.

DYE
FRUIT makes a super great dye. The prickly pear I have produce redish/pink fruit. I have even used the fruit to dye bark mulch. The burgundy looks really nice with taupe and tan houses..and the fruit dye is 100% SAFE and ALL NATURAL.

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The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, February 13, 2014, at TCC member Yolanda Zapata's home at 1923 Rettye, Kingsville, Texas, at 6:00 p.m. Yolanda will furnish the meal. We thank Yolanda for her generosity. If you get lost, call Yolanda at (361) 592-0586. The March meeting will also be in Kingsville, at Sirloin Stockade.

Yolanda will have a tour guide at the meeting to discuss a possible trip to San Antonio to visit a rodeo. Questions about the trip will be answered, as well as other possible sites to visit.

 

Nos vemos en Kingsville,

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

 

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

January, 2014, Newsletter  

Cactus in Sonoran Desert Region Going High Tech.  

State representatives in Arizona are implanting Cacti around the state as well as additional wild plants with tiny microchips produced to resist poachers. They are trying to conserve and also shield plant life. The Saguaro Cactus, (which is the poster child for the cactus family) is discovered frequently within all Sonoran living landscapes. It makes this Cactus Type much more vulnerable amongst the possible poachers. These cactus rustlers steal and then resell the cacti to contractors and nurseries that specialize in southwestern landscape design.

Authorities also in Palm Desert, CA. an up market town 125 miles east of Los Angeles, say they have actually lost more than $20,000 worth of the plants over the last couple of months. Specifically valued is the golden barrel cactus, a small round sampling that can get 100 to 1000 dollars based on its size. Officials say the financial recession is mostly inciting the thefts allowing them to turn a profit on this type of plant vegetation.

The thefts dramatically soared up at the earlier part of this year as “The economy took a dive” said Spencer Knight, the city's landscape manager, with reports of desirable types vanishing from both municipal landscape designs and exclusive yards. “But just how do you advise one yard barrel cactus from one more? Even if we located it, we might not verify it was our stolen plant product.” Knight points out.  The complication motivated police as well as officials in the town of 50,000 to advise micro-chipping the cacti, a method due to start in the next 30 days.

The chip is twice the size of a grain of rice,” Mr. Knight said. “There's an injection tool for injecting it then the cactus seals itself over afterwards. Each cactus if believed to be stolen can be scanned with a hand held computer to read a bar code to find out who may have ownership of the plant.”

By placing these Radio ID Chips or as some call them, “RFID Tags” the same ones you can get for your family pets and animals for around $4 dollars, officials believe it will likely slow town thieves attempting to steal and sell these beloved icons of the desert. Each tag will be injected into the cactus by needle and should stay there for 70 to 200 year or the life of the   cactus   in most cases.

Warning Signs: Psychedelic Cactus / Cacti found within the US  

According to recent reports the Peyote and San Pedro Cacti are becoming a New Globe psychedelics fad. In the old days their usage was concentrated in the areas to which they are native. The Peyote cactus has been used throughout Mexico throughout a number of southwestern states including Texas, the Cactus can also be found within remote locations of the Andes mountains found in the United States.

Many believe the earliest recognized representation of these cactus's have been discovered on a tablet found in the country of Peru which researchers and scientist have dated to around 1300 B.C. The intro of the Peyote and San Pedro Cacti in to the UNITED STATE and also Canada, as well as its utilization by North American Indian tribes, had been created a lot more recent, starting at some point in the late 1800s and continuing to present day.

As with psychoactive mushrooms or as some call them, “Magic Mushrooms,” the Roman Catholic church at that time tried to get rid of the use of the Peyote and San Pedro cacti. Nonetheless, they were simply effective. The Indigenous American Church was established in 1918 to save Indigenous Americans' right to use these Cactus types .

Mescalineis a naturally developing psychedelic blend determined to be found in a number of these cactus types to give psychedelics abilities. Mescaline belongs to a substance family understood as phenethylamines. This makes it very specific from the other varieties of main psychedelics which belong to the indole family. DMT, Harmalinm, Psilocybin and LSD all are indoles as well. Several artificial “designer” psychedelics, such as elation (MDMA) and also 2C-B, are phenethylamines, as well as are associated with the chemistry of mescaline found within the Cacti.

Mescaline makes perceptual, intellectual, and psychological encounters that vary frequently amongst individuals based upon measurements, specifying, presumptions, character, as well as medicine past. The only reported lasting result of mescaline is a feasible prolonged psychotic state similar to that of overly suspicious schizophrenia. It is suggested that this might simply influence those who were in the past detected as emotionally ill.  

1. There are over 2,000 species of cacti, with various shapes and forms. Caldera cacti in southwestern US can overcome 20 m (66 ft) on height, while Rebutia cacti from Bolivia and Argentina are just several centimeters tall. Some cacti look like chandeliers or columns, others are flattened or oval, looking like ears (Opuntia). There are cacti looking like curled snakes. Some look like a barrel or a small boar, perfectly rounded. Other cacti look like starfish or wrinkled human faces covered by a white spiny raveled wool pile.  

The cactus stems are thickened, storing water, and the leaves are transformed into spines.  

2. Even the smallest cactus species have large roots, which can be very profound or superficial, absorbing water from the soil. Cereus cacti have white   flowers, while Opuntia species use to have red, pink, yellow or violet flowers. Some cactus flowers stand for several days, others die in just one day. Some cactus flowers open only at the sunset, others only in the daylight.  

3. Depending on the species, cactus's spines can be extremely fragile or terrible venomous spikes, several centimeters long.  

4. Cacti are pollinated by insects and hummingbirds. Some red cactus flowers spread a stenchy rotten meat scent, attracting insects.

5. The roots of a Mexican cactus, peyotl (Lophophora williamsii), were chewed by Aztecs for its hallucinogenic properties. The also made a type of infusion from these roots. Peyotl allowed the shamen to enter in trance. The psychoactive chemicals in peyotl are some alkaloids, especially mescaline. These properties of the cacti were also used by some Native Americans during the pre-Columbian era for anesthesia of the patients in case of operations.  

6. Cacti are real water reservoirs; their inner liquid is not pure, clear water but a thick viscous stuff, but perfectly drinkable, that saved many lives in the desert. It can be obtained easily by scratching an Opuntia or by making a hole into columnar cacti.  

7. The trunk of some cacti is used to make a type of Argentinian drum called bombo leguero. The wood of some cactus species is used for making walls, roofs and as reinforcement wood. The fruit of some cactus species, like Opuntia phaeacantha, can be eaten, being called prickly pear. The fruits of Cereus repandus from Peru are called cactus apple or tuna and are prickless. Syrup can be made from cactus fruits.  

8. Cactus spines can be used for sutures, after they have been first sterilized on hot coal.  

9. Cacti have periods of growth and blossom and periods of resting. During the growth, they prefer direct sun light, high temperatures and humidity (the plant will be watered often, but with a good drainage). Direct sun light will induce rapid growth and the development of longer and brighter spines. During the resting periods, the plants will be kept at cool temperatures, with reduced humidity (just one weekly watering) and in diffuse light.  

Cactus transplanting is made in March, using small pots containing a mix of garden soil, leaf litter, sand, vegetal coal, broken bricks and mortar. For transplanting them in larger pots together with other cacti, they are put together with their soil and the empty space is filled with soil or sand.  

10. Cacti can be bred via seeds (impossible in apartments) or stem cuttings. Cuttings' rooting is made in warm sand (20-21o C), with moderate humidity, after the cuttings have been left to rest for a week. This removes the danger of rotting during their rooting.

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MEETING

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The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Freer, Texas, on Thursday, January 9. 2014, at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be at Dairy Queen (361) 394-6151. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

Happy New Year,

 

J.T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

December, 2013, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council annual Cactus Cook-off was held on November 2, 2013, at Hebbronville , Texas , during the Jim Hogg County Vaquero Festival. We are happy to announce that it was a complete success. We had over 20 cactus recipe entries. The winners in the different categories were:

Main Dish:

1 st place - - - Yolanda Guevara

2 nd place - - - Yolanda Guevara

3 rd place - - - Emma Martinez

Salad:

1 st place - - - Emma Martinez

2 nd place - - - Minnie Salazar

Dessert:  

1 st place - - - Minnie Salazar

2 nd place - - - Gabriel Guevara

3 rd place - - - Estela Saenz

Miscellaneous:

1 st place - - - Minnie Salazar

2 nd place - - - Dora Mae Canales

3 rd place - - - Lauro Salazar

 

BEST OF SHOW

Emma Martinez

 

Thanks to members Lydia Canales and Pat Curry for tabulating the votes on the different entries. The judges had a difficult time deciding on the winners - - - all the entries were delicious. The public eagerly lined up after the judging to taste the food entries. We thank all who visited the cook off for their interest in cactus and for their positive comments about the contest.

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Well, the drought is no longer with us and we are grateful. It appears that we will not be burning cactus for the cattle this winter. Pastures are excellent and the cattle are nice and fat. Cattle prices are still great. The only problem facing the ranchers is replacing the cattle they had to sell during the long drought. With the high prices some ranchers are thinking of not selling young heifers so that they can rebuild the herd numbers. This Thanksgiving we gave thanks for all the blessings we have received. This includes giving thanks for the beneficial rains we received.  

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I've had some requests for cactus pads to start cactus gardens. A garden can be started in your backyard. Pads may be planted at any time. Water immediately after planting the pads. The pads can then be watered occasionally. Before long you can have new cactus pads growing in the garden.

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A cactus is any member of the succulent plant family Cactaceae. They are often used as  ornamental plants, but some are also crop plants.

Edible cactus is also known as nopales, 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. They can also be purchased at Walmart and HEB food centers.

Edible cactus is characterized by its fleshy oval leaves (typically called pads or paddles) of the nopal (prickly pear) cactus. With a soft but crunchy texture that also becomes a bit sticky (not unlike okra) when cooked, edible cactus tastes similar to a slightly tart green bean, asparagus, or green pepper.

Cactus pads contain beta carotene, iron, some B vitamins, and are good sources of both vitamin C and calcium.
 

As part of the cactus plant, the prickly pear is a fruit that is 2 to 4 inches long and shaped like an avocado. Its skin is coarse and thick, not unlike an avocado and it ranges in color from yellow or orange to magenta or red. Tubercles with small prickly spines can be found on the prickly pear's skin. This fruit's flesh, which ranges in color also from yellow to dark red, is sweet and juicy with crunchy seeds throughout.

The prickly pear can be diced like pineapple and used as a topping on yogurt or cereal or blended into a smoothie.
 

Cladode (a flattened stem resembling and functioning as a leaf)

Stems of Opuntia ficus-indica are traditionally used in Mexico to treat diabetes mellitus. A study with the traditional cladode cactus extract revealed that maximum effects on blood glucose and insulin were observed after oral  administration in a dose range of 6-176 mg/kg. An ethanol extract of the Opuntia ficus-indica stem was found to have a high amount of phenolics (180.3 mg/g), and antioxidant properties.

In a study, the mucilage of Opuntia ficus indica cladodes (stem) exerted a protective effect on rats suffered from ethanol-induced ulcer. In another study, topical applications of the polysaccharides extracted from the Opuntia ficus-indica   cladodes for six days showed a beneficial effect on the wound of rats. Polysaccharides with higher molecular weights were more effective on wound healing than the lower molecular weight polysaccharides. The healing effects of these polysaccharides may be related to the hygroscopic, rheologic and viscoelastic properties of these polysaccharides. Further, researchers also demonstrated the protective effect of the extracts of Opuntia ficus indica cladodes in cartilage alteration.

  RECIPE(S)

Cactus Scrambled Eggs

6 to 8 tender nopalitos, diced

1 tablespoon chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

4 large eggs 

1/3 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash of pepper

In a 10-inch skillet, cook cactus and onion in the butter until the onion is tender but not brown.

In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper with a fork. Pour the egg mixture over the cactus pieces and onion in the skillet. Cook without stirring over low heat until the eggs start to set on the bottom and sides of the skillet. Lift and fold the eggs with a spatula so that the uncooked part runs to the bottom of the skillet. Continue lifting and folding about 5 minutes more or until the eggs are set and cooked through but still glossy and moist. Serve hot.

CHRISTMAS PARTY

The annual Texas Cactus Council Christmas party is scheduled for Saturday, December 14, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at the Civic Center in Benavides, Texas. We will serve a potluck lunch provided by the Texas Cactus Council members. The different goodies that have been offered are below.

Turkey - - - Emma Martinez

Cranberry Salad --- Yolanda Guevara

Mashed Potatoes - - - Minnie Salazar

Deviled Eggs and Nopalito Relish - - - Dora Mae Canales

Yams - - - Natividad Vera Ice

Soft Drinks, Cups - - -J. T. Garcia

Those members not mentioned above may bring whatever they want for the category they wish. Or just surprise us with a delicious dish. We still need dressing, giblet gravy, paper plates, knives/forks, desserts, etc. Let me know what you will be bringing so I can report this to those who call regarding what they can bring.

If you wish to participate in the gift exchange bring a $10 gift. Ladies bring a lady's gift. Men will bring a man's gift. Guests may also participate in the gift exchange .

We will have live music by the Herrera Brothers.

If anyone has any questions, please call the Texas Cactus Council President, Emma Martinez, at (361) 442-3728.

Feliz Navidad!

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

Christmas Cactus

 

 

 

 

November, 2013, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council will hold the Texas Cactus Council Cook-off on Saturday, November 2, 2013, in Hebbronville, Texas, during the Jim Hogg County Annual Vaquero Festival.  The Festival is at the Hebbronville Pavilion on S. Highway 16 (Zapata Highway). Everyone is invited to bring an entry to the Cactus cook off. The recipe must contain cactus or cactus fruit. A recipe must be turned in as well as the dish itself. The written recipe and the dish must be turned in by no later than 12:00 noon on Saturday, November 2, 2013. DO NOT WRITE YOUR NAME ON THE WRITTEN RECIPE. The judging will start at 1:00.

The admission to enter the Vaquero Festival grounds is $5. Each TCC member who brings a food entry will get their admission paid by the Texas Cactus Council. Those who do not bring an entry will pay the admission themselves. Encourage everyone to bring an entry to the cook-off. Please bring a filled out registration form along with your food entry, or get an entry form once you get to the cook-off. Scroll down for a registration form. Use this for your entry.

The following four categories will be judged:

1) Main dish     2) salad     3) dessert     4) miscellaneous

Prizes will be awarded for 1st place ($50), 2nd place ($25) and 3rd place ($15) in each of the categories. Please bring small paper plates or napkins which will be used by the judges while they taste and judge your entry.  The public will be invited to taste the food entries after the judging is over. And again, Texas Cactus Council President Emma Martinez encourages everyone to bring a recipe or two or three to the cook-off. Texas Cactus Council members and everyone else are eligible to bring a recipe for the cook-off. Members should arrive by 10 a.m. to assist in setting up the tables.

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Texas Cactus Council

13 th annual Nopalito and Tuna Fruit Preparation Contest

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jim Hogg County Annual Vaquero Festival Zapata Highway, Hebbronville, TX

Registration Form

 

Name:_______________________________________________

Address:_____________________________________________

City:____________________ State:_______________________

Zip:__________ telephone #:____________________________

I will enter the food competition in the following categories:

Main Dishes: _______________ Desserts:__________________

Salads: ___________________ Misc.: _____________________

NO ENTRY FEE REQUIRED

The entries will be judged on appearance, texture, flavor, creativity and the use of cactus as the main ingredient. All entries must be accompanied by its recipe, which will be used to promote cactus cooking and may be included in the Texas Cactus Council Cookbook. Do not put your name on the recipe. A number will be assigned for identification purposes.

Recipes may be entered from any of the above categories.

Prizes: Best of Show (trophy) 1 st place: $50 2 nd place: $25 3 rd place: $15. (Prizes are for each category.)

(Downloadable Registration Form)

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Correction : The last TCC Newsletter mentioned that the Active membership dues were $25. This is incorrect. The amount for this membership is $20. To those who mailed in $25 member- ship dues, you will get extended time as members to compensate for the additional money sent in. My apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Everyone should make an effort to obtain pads of spineless cactus. They are easy to grow and fantastically easy to prepare for your favorite recipes. I've offered free pads to everyone. The offer is still being made. Let me know if you want some of these pads. You're welcome to come by to pick some up. If you wish I can also take some pads to the monthly meetings. Eating cactus is healthy. There is no cure yet for diabetes but cactus assists in reducing your sugar blood count. In addition cactus dishes are very, very tasty!

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The recipe below is printed again by popular request.

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RECIPE(S)

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NOPALITOS CON CHILE (Cactus Chile)

2 lbs cleaned and diced Nopales (tender cactus pads)
1 Onion -- sliced 1/8" thick
1/8 cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil
2 jalapeno chilis
2 Chili Serrano
1/2 bulb garlic
1 Cup Cilantro
Salt to taste

Clean and dice nopales. Chop onion into similar sized pieces and place in a large oiled skillet and begin to fry. Add garlic and chilis and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Serve over diced and toasted tortillas or bed of white rice.

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The November Cactus Cook-off will take the place of the monthly meeting. The December meeting is tentatively set for December 8, 2013. This will be our annual Christmas Party. More information about this will be provided in the December Newsletter. At that party, ladies will be asked to bring a gift for a lady ($10 value) and men will be asked to bring a man's gift. Be thinking about what food item(s) you can bring. Please call with your suggestions for the Christmas Party. Minnie Salazar will be in charge of providing the entertainment. Let me know what you will be bringing for the party. Place of party: Benavides Civic Center, Benavides, Texas, on December 8, 2013, 1 p.m.

See you at the cactus cook-off,

J. T. Garcia

BULLETIN : I just found out that long-time member of TCC, Bruce Kraatz, from Riviera. Texas, passed away on September 27th . He had been in ill health for quite a while. The TCC met several times in his restaurant, Baffin Bay Café. May he rest in peace.

Cactus Flowers

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

October, 2013, Newsletter

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Kathy Smith from Cato, Wisconsin, wrote to inform me that her husband, Eugene Piette had passed away. The obit for the long-time member of the Texas Cactus Council is below. Our condolences to Kathy.

Eugene M. Piette, age 77, of 12324 CTH JJ, Cato, died Monday, September 16, 2013, at Appleton Medical Center, Appleton.

He was born on July 16, 1936 in Appleton, son of Lorraine (Olson) Piette-Cummings and the late Henry Piette. Eugene was a graduate of Appleton High School . He then received his machinist certificate from Appleton Technical School and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree from the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh. Eugene served in the United States Air Force for four years. On April 29, 1995 he married Kathryn Smith at St. Mary Catholic Church, Appleton. Eugene was employed at Appleton Papers-Locks Mills for 30 years until his retirement. Eugene was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter #444. He took great pride as an active volunteer with the EAA Convention parking aircraft. Eugene was a certified master gardener in both the State of Wisconsin and Texas . Eugene loved classical music. For the past 25 years both Eugene and Kathy made the annual trip to Door County to attend the Peninsula Music Festival which is held in August. He was a member of St. Francis of Assisi .

Survivors include his wife: Kathy Smith, Cato; his mother: Lorraine Piette-Cummings, Manitowoc ; one brother and sister-in-law: Jim & Karen Piette, Crivitz; and one sister and brother-in-law: Janet & Pudge Rogers, Redgranite. Nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends also survive.  

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Cookbooks are Here!!

The Texas Cactus Council cookbooks have been received. Thanks to Pat Curry and Lydia Canales for getting this project going. Thanks also to TCC president Emma Martinez and Dora Mae Canales for their help. The cookbooks are just fabulous. The hard cover books should make great Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts, and they sell for only $15. The cookbook contains winning recipes for the last several years. TCC members may contact Pat Curry at (361) 256-3517 if they wish to assist us in selling the cookbooks. Cookbooks will also be passed out at the next meeting of the council. Again, thanks to everyone for their help.

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RECIPE(S)

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Pollo con Nopales (Chicken and Cactus)

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 fresh tomatillos, husks removed, medium diced onion, 2 cloves diced garlic, cilantro sprigs3
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded
2 cups blanched, tender nopales

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the chicken breasts in the boiling water until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Once cool, shred the chicken into small strands.

2. Fill the pot again with water and bring to a boil. Cook the tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, and nopales in the boiling water until the vegetables are all tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

3. Blend the tomatillos and jalapeno peppers in a blender until smooth; pour into the pot with the shredded chicken, garlic and onions over medium heat. Cut the nopales into small dice and add to the mixture. Add cilantro the last two minutes. Allow the mixture to simmer until completely reheated, about 5 minutes. Serve over white rice or in corn tortillas. Goes well with a cactus margarita that you can enjoy beforeeating.


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Potted Cactus Care

John Trager, curator of the desert collections at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, offers these five tips for growing cactus and succulents in containers:
1. Plant in a well-drained mix of 80% pumice and 20% compost.

2. Fertilize during the growing season, spring and summer.

3. Handle cactus carefully. Wear latex surgical gloves, which provide the dexterity you need without damaging the plant. If you have to handle larger specimens, use a piece of old carpeting or an old pair of pants. Best strategy: Carry them by the roots.

4. Along the coast, give the plants full sun. If you live inland, provide a little afternoon shade.

5. Water judiciously -- usually no more than once every one to two weeks, depending on the size of the container.

Prickly Pear Health Water

16 ounces prickly pears
48 ounces water:

Juice prickly pears with a juicer. Discard pulp, use for compost or feed to some animals.

Don't have a juicer? Cut prickly pear in half and scoop insides into a blender or food processor and puree. You can add a little water if you need to in order to get it moving.

Pour juice into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Pour 8 ounces of cold water into a glass and add ice cubes. Add 1 or 2 of these pretty ice cubes to the glass and drink to your good health!

Baked Prickly Pears

I got this at Ajo , Arizona 's 150th anniversary. It is credited to Mary Ann Heacock of Colorado Cactophiles. This looks like a delicious desert dessert!

3 prickly pears, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Gather large ripe fruit. Wash and slit to remove seeds. Preheat oven to 325- 350 degrees.

Spread fruits in a single layer in a buttered 8 inch pan. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix well with fingers.

Add lemon juice and stir well with a spoon. Sprinkle mixture evenly over fruits.

Bake 30- 35 minutes and serve warm with cream.

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The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Falfurrias once again at Taqueria Jalisco next to McDonalds on Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 6:00 p.m. The restaurant is on Hiway 281. They have a fabulous menu. Invite your friends and relatives. If you can, bring a door prize.

See you in Fal,

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

Note: Please renew your membership by sending in your dues to Texas Cactus Council, PO Box 423, Benavides, Texas 78341. If you’ve already done so, thanks. Dues: $25 active membership - - - $10 for associate membership. Make checks payable to TCC.

Echinocereus triglochidiatus - White Sands S. Central New Mexico, USA

Echinocereus triglochidiatus

 

 

 

September, 2013, Newsletter 

The following article is from Dr. Alberto Frati, Chief, Dept. of Internal medicine, Mexico City.

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We had a fantastic meeting at the South Texas Botanical Gardens, in Corpus Christi , on August 10, 2013. Over Sixty members and guests were present at the meeting. I offered a demonstration on extracting juice from prickly pears. Steps on planting cactus were also given to those in attendance. Copies of cactus recipes were given to everyone. Spineless cactus pads were passed to everyone. Thanks to TCC president, Emma Martinez, who also brought cactus pads to be passed out to the members and guests present. I brought a Cactus, chicken and noodles dish which everyone njoyed. Thanks to Natividad Vera who also brought a delicious cactus casserole. Several guests paid for a cookbook which will be ready for sale after September 1 st .

Many of those present had a lot of questions. They all got to taste cactus fruits (tunas) after I demonstrated how to peel and slice the fruit. Tunas are covered in spines. Luckily the tunas we buy at HEB, Wal-Mart and other fruit stands are available without the spines.

Cactus Pads - also called: Nopalitos and Cactus Leaves

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 fruit/vegetable in 1995. Texas A&M in Kingsville, TX has done extensive work on a cultivar designated as the 1308 which is spineless, resists cold weather and contains less mucilage. While young opuntia pads contain less mucillage, some work has been done on cactus mucilage as a possible dietary supplement to increase soluble fiber intake which has various health benefits.  
 
About 40,000 pounds of pads come into Texas each day from Mexico where they are available in any large grocery. 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.  
 
You used to have to go "South of the border, down Mexico way..." as the old song says , to enjoy Nopales or Cactus Pads. Burritos have found their way into our kitchens; so have tamales, refried beans, tacos, and hot peppers. Now we can also enjoy the soft but crunchy, tangy, and silky textured Nopales right here at home. If you do not like the slippery taste of Okra, Nopales may not be for you. If you are willing to sample this interesting vegetable which is often served in Mexico , choose medium sized, firm pads. Avoid purchasing limp dry , or soggy pads. Wrapped in plastic they should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.  
 
But, where ever you are, if you want to try a pad off your Opuntia, just chose a new tender pad of new growth. To clean Cactus Pads, take an ordinary kitchen peeler and remove spines and eyes. Wash well. Trim edge to remove bruised and dry parts and wash well again, washing off some of the sticky liquid the plant exudes, and put it into your favorite recipe. If you just want to taste it, you can dice it up to about the size of small green beans, and simmer in water or saute in butter for a few minutes. Salt to taste and enjoy.

Nopales can be eaten raw but are preferred cooked by most people. They can be steamed over boiling water for a few minutes and then combined with other foods. Favorites are Nopales with eggs, added to soups or chili, mixed into tortilla fillings, or even stuffed with cheese and deep fried. Experiment with them and learn to enjoy their unusual texture and taste.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, September 12, 2013, at Taqueria Jalisco, in Falfurrias, Texas , at 6:00 p.m. They are located at 1413 Hiway 281, right next to McDonald's. Their phone number is (361) 325-3094. Invite your family and friends. If you can, bring a door prize!

Nos vemos en Fal, 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

August , 2013, Newsletter

Cactus Herbal Remedies

Cactus is mainly known for its use in heart problems, and especially when emotional or nervous system imbalances are involved. The extract is used for heart palpitations, particularly in nervous individuals, heart neuralgia, angina pectoris, heart problems (such as congestive heart failure) associated with tobacco use, and for emphysema. Homeopaths use it as well for endocarditis, myocarditis, and angina pectoris. Cactus has a taste of BITTER and a temperature of COOL.

Benefits of Cactus Extract :

The use of cactus extracts in natural health is quite common. It was first used in 5000 BC by prehistoric groups as a pain aid. Since then it has grown in popularity for its many other additional health benefits.

In particular, this plant, also known as Hoodia, contains a high number of carbohydrate fibers called mucilage. These do not dissolve in water but absorb water.

Because of this property, cactus can also maintain proper glucose levels in the blood, which is why it works well as a treatment for diabetes.

Another benefit to aid humans is the pectin within the plant. Prickly pear cactus also contains pectin in high levels and these do dissolve well in water. As such, it becomes a thick liquid which is able to coat the stomach.

It is beneficial as a treatment for numerous stomach problems by offering a soothing feeling.

The cactus extracts available commercially have numerous additional benefits aside from those already mentioned.

For example, studies suggest it can help lower high cholesterol levels.

There have also been a few small studies showing the benefits to those who are feeling nauseous or have dry mouth, especially when caused by alcohol consumption.

It can also be of benefit to reduce inflammation in the body.

Another external application of Cactus Extract is to apply it topically, to treat pimples and inflammation of the skin.

In addition, it can help alleviate rheumatic and asthmatic symptoms, reduce burn pain, improve insect bites and relieve the pain of hemorrhoids.

********

RECIPES

********

Prickly Pear Margarita Recipe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup crushed ice
1 ounce freshly- squeezed lime juice
1 ounce undiluted frozen limeade
2 ounces Tequila
1 1/2 ounces Triple Sec
1 ounce Prickly Pear Cactus Juice*
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or corn syrup
Lime wedges for garnish

* Named for its pear-like shape and size, this fruit comes from any of several varieties of cacti. Also called cactus pear, the prickly pear has a melon-like aroma and a sweet but rather bland flavor.

In a blender, add crushed ice, lime juice, Tequila, Triple Sec, prickly pear juice, and sugar or corn syrup; cover and mix ingredients (a pulsating action with 4 or 5 jolts of the blender works the best). At this point, a taste test WILL be required (while it's not necessary, it is a requirement - you'll thank me later). Correct with additional sugar or corn syrup if it is too tart.

Serve in Margarita Glasses with coarse salt or Margarita Salt on the rims of the glasses and a lime slice, and serve immediately.

NOTE:   To create a salt-rimmed glass, take a lemon or lime wedge and rub the drinking surface of the glass so it is barely moist. Dip the edge of the glass into coarse or Kosher salt.

Makes 2 serving.

Prickly Pear Juice recipe

Yields: 2 servings

1 cup prickly pear juice
1 cup ice cubes
2 limes, freshly squeezed
1 (1-inch) chunk fresh ginger
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey)
2 tablespoons raspberry syrup
1 cup water, chilled
½ cup raspberries, placed in the freezer for at least 1 hour

Place all ingredients in blender and liquefy. Enjoy. Note: Add some tequila to spice it up.

********

MEETING

********

Th e Texas Cactus Council will have their August meeting on Saturday, August 10, 2013, at the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, 8545 S. Staples in Corpus Christi, Texas. I have been invited to make a presentation on Cacti you can plant and eat. I will explain how to extract juice from cactus pears, how to prepare cactus for use in different recipes, and how to plan a cactus garden in your back-yard. Special attention will be given to planting and caring for spineless cactus. Pads for the different spineless cactus will be distributed to those in attendance who wish to use these in their cactus gardens. The presentation will be between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. Admission to the Botanical Gardens is $7 per person ($6 for those over 60). Invite your family and friends. Bring your camera.

"You will also have the opportunity to visit the over 180 acre facility which has thousands of plants and wild life including the butterfly display. Venture into the delightful 2600 square-foot screened Butterfly House, and new Bromeliad Conservatory. Experience 2000 orchids, 300 breathtaking roses, quaint Hummingbird Garden, imaginative Sensory Garden with fascinating artscape, Arid Garden and colorful EarthKind Demonstration Trial Gardens. And during our eight warmer months, enjoy the fragrant tropical Plumeria Garden with elevated viewing ramp. Your visits to the Botanical Gardens & Nature Center in Corpus Christi will immerse you in serene beauty, followed by an adventurouswalk on the wild side' with 11 uniquely stunning floral exhibits and gardens shouting color, followed by quiet trails and boardwalk through identified native habitat and natural wetlands.  

This 180-acre showcase on Oso Creek offers a unique and varied take on botanical gardens-- beautiful new Exotic Parrots, or native wildlife in the new   Reptiles in Residents   exhibit; artistic decorative water features, or vast natural wetlands; majestic Rose Pavilion; or rustic Palapa Grande on scenic Gator Lake-- Corpus Christi's South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center will impress you with its unusual approach to environmental education through creative horticultural design, and fascinating naturescape of natural wetlands and trails through native mesquite forest. Definitely not your grandmother's botanical garden!

The Botanical Gardens & Nature Center is a Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail   site. Save some time for  Nature's Boutique in the Visitors Center, for unique gifts and ‘must haves'! We also host hundreds of school and adult tours, and rent our facilities to members for private parties." __Bontanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are about 3-4 miles from SPID on S. Staples.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

  Thanks to all who have sent in your membership dues.

Mammillaria shiedeana

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

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August , 2013, Newsletter

 

What Is Cactus Juice - What Are Its Benefits?

By   Charles J . Joseph

Cactus juice is derived from the fruit of a plant called the Nopal cactus. The main beneficial ingredients in this fruit are called Betalains. It is the presence of Betalains that makes the fruit so special.

Betalains are known to have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which make them extremely useful as a natural cure for various different health conditions. Studies are beginning to show that inflammation could be the root cause of a number of ailments in the body. A lot of emphasis is now being placed on effectively dealing with inflammation to cure a variety of illnesses. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of the Nopal cactus fruit make it a highly sought after organic source for health supplements.

Betalains were originally used as pigments due to their bright color and dyeing properties. In fact, the bright reddish pink color of the Nopal cactus fruit is due to the presence of Betalains. These compounds are powerful antioxidants which are known to detoxify the body and improve general health. It is claimed that there are 24 different Betalains known to man and all of these are found in the Nopal cactus fruit.

Nopalea Juice which is derived from the Nopal cactus fruit is used as a health drink for its nutritional and healing properties. Some of the health benefits of the cactus juice are listed below.

•  It increases energy in the body

•  It boosts the body's immune system

•  It protects the body against fluid retention

•  It reduce the risk of blood clotting

•  It flushes various toxins from the body

•  It protects the liver

•  It reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood

•  It protects against premature aging

•  It is a good source of dietary fiber

•  It contains minerals like calcium, vitamins A, K and C and various vital nutrients

Inflammation in the body often goes unnoticed. Muscle, joint, and body pains are most often caused by inflammation. The body's allergic reaction to different substances and breathing difficulties could also be caused by respiratory inflammation. Arterial inflammation can give rise to heart problems. Individual cells in the body can become inflamed and cause fatigue and tiredness. Most of these effects can be effectively countered by the natural healing properties of the Nopal cactus juice. The juice is available in various forms in the market today. Daily consumption of the cactus juice can provide pain relief and improve general health in the most natural way possible. NOTE: It is quite easy to extract the juice from the cactus fruit (tunas). I've shared this method with the Texas Cactus Council members but I'm repeating the process for those who may not know about it. Here it is:

•  Pick prickly pears (tunas) with kitchen tongs (pears have spines).

•  Collect tunas in bucket or basket.

•  Hose down tunas to wash out insects and dust.

•  Place tunas in freezer.

•  Place frozen fruit in colander or sieve over a bowl.

•  As fruit thaws out, the juice will drip into bowl.

•  Use potato masher or lemon squeezer to obtain more juice from fruit.

•  Collect juice. It may be frozen for later use.

•  Use it in your favorite recipes.

Tunas will be available soon. They are already turning red. The fruit will be ready to pick soon. Cattle love to eat the fruit as do birds, wild hogs and desert tortoises.

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RECIPES

********

Cactus Margarita

Lime wedge
Coarse salt
8 ounces white tequila
4 ounces Cointreau
4 ounces cactus pear juice
2 ounces Roses lime juice
2 cups ice cubes
Directions
Rub lime wedge around the rim of cocktail glasses and dip the rim into a saucer of coarse salt. Place tequila, Cointreau, cactus pear and lime juice and ice cubes in a blender and blend until frothy. Divide among glasses.

Grilled Cactus

To grill nopales, cut them from the wide, rounded outer edges toward the narrow base, but not all the way to the end, fanning out the cuts so that the paddles look fringed. Brush them with olive or vegetable oil and grill until soft and slightly charred. Grilled nopales are a requisite element of a   parrillada,   or Mexican mixed grill. Nopales can also be cut into strips, batter-dipped and rolled in breadcrumbs, cornmeal or flour, and fried like french fries. In addition, cooked nopales can be added to soups, stews and salads. They can be scrambled with eggs - a favorite Mexican Lenten dish - or used as a taco filling.

Creamy Nopales Dip

Ingredients

•  1 container (16 oz.) sour cream

•  1-1/2 cups Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise

•  2 cups freshly boiled tender, cactus strips, drained, patted dry and chopped

•  ½ cup crumbled cilantro

•  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

*

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, July 11, 2013, at El Charro Restaurant in Alice, Texas, at 6:00 p.m. The council had wanted to meet at the Oasis in Premont but the restaurant was booked on that date. Invite your family and friends. EL CHARRO RESTAURANT, ALICE, TEXAS (661-1409). You may bring a door prize if you wish.

J. T. Garcia

  Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

June, 2013, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council had a greet meeting at Pepper's Restaurant in Hebbronville, Texas, in May. Cookbook chairman Pat Curry announced that she had contacted a company that would print cookbooks for the council. After much discussion a motion to have 500 hard cover cookbooks printed carried. The sample passed around by Pat and Lydia Canales was very impressive. Everyone felt that the cookbook would be easy to sell. The cookbooks will be printed before the summer is over. Our thanks to Pat Curry and Lydia Canales for all the work done in planning for the cookbook.

Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens

I have been invited by the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens to make a presentation there on August 10, 2013. I will be talking about using cactus in recipes. I'm looking forward to this. I will be telling you more about it in coming Newsletters.

A Brief History of Cacti

Fossil evidence suggests that cacti have been part of the human diet for more than 9,000 years. The first cacti were introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus in the mid-15th century.  In the 17 th   century, plant study became a fascination and interest in cacti dramatically peaked. The cactus got its name from Carolus Linnaeus, a botanist who created a universal system of plant names in Latin and Greek.    His first choice for the prickly plant was the Greek word “kaktos,” meaning thistle. The English translation of that word is “cactus.” There are over 2,500 species of cactus recognized today. Although people have taken cactus seeds all over the world, these exotic plants originated in the Americas.

Native Americans had a myriad of uses for the cactus, many of which were ceremonial. Cacti were used to start and stop rainfall or wind, to assist in burial, and even to place curses.  Native Americans used cacti to make arrow shafts, shampoo, jewelry, brushes, wine, and face paint. They made the fruits and cooked flesh of many cacti a foundation of their diet, and used the fibers of the Agave plant (which is not a cactus) to make clothes, mats, bags, baskets, sandals, rope, twine, bracelets, musical instruments, saddle pads, blankets, and even paper.Cacti are used as sources of not only food, drink, and medicine, but for making sealants, caulking, building materials, and toys as well. One use is to produce Cochineal, a natural red dye used in the cosmetics industry in making lipstick.  It was this dye that colored the uniform of the British military, earning them the name “Redcoats.” One type of cactus, the Prickly Pear ( Opuntia ) was used for cattle fodder.  In Australia, ranchers planted it for that purpose – the plant did so well that it overran an area the size of Connecticut.

Cacti are stem succulents, a family of plants whose specialized anatomy allows them to survive severe drought conditions by storing water in the fleshy tissue of their stems, leaves, and roots.  In order to be classified as a cactus, a specimen must meet four requirements: it must be a perennial, it must be a dicotyledon (possessing a two-leafed embryo), it must produce single-celled fruit, and it must have an areole, the unique characteristic of the cactus variety.    The areole is a modified auxillary bud from which all growth takes place, including side branches, flowers, and spines. Cacti can be further divided into two categories: desert and rainforest.

Water is stored in the stem of the cactus, aided by flexible ribs which can expand and contract according to the amount of intake and use. Like the ribs and stem, spines help shade the body of the cactus from the sun and protect it from animals looking to access the plant's water supply.  Some cacti store up to 1,000 gallons of water, making them a valuable resource in their often arid climates. Although their bloom is often as brief as one day, cactus flowers are colorful and beautiful.

On the evolutionary scale, cacti are a fairly recent development. Yet with over twenty species on the endangered list – more than any other plant family – their value and beauty has proven to be unique and lasting.

********

Recipe(s)

********

Prickly Pear Lemonade

NOTE: Steeping the lemons rather than squeezing them is not only easier, it produces a more complex flavor, as the final juice includes lemon oil from the rind.

4 or 5 lemons 6 cups water ¼ to ½ cup sugar (or equivalent non-nutritive sweetener) ¼ cup prickly-pear juice or syrup ice

Scrub lemons and slice ¼-inch thick. Place in large heat-proof bowl or pitcher. Bring water to boil and pour over lemons. Stir in sugar. (Use less sugar if you'll be adding prickly-pear syrup, more if you'll use juice.) Let sit 4 hours. Strain off juice and add prickly-pear product. Taste and correct for sweetness. Refrigerate or serve immediately over ice.  

  Victoria's French-fried Cactus

   In this recipe the freshly cut and cleaned cactus pads are cut into french fry style strips 3/8" wide and rolled in a batter of milk and eggs then rolled through flour, cornmeal or a combination of both.  Frying in a skillet or deep fryer will give a deep gold/green color.   They are really great fresh out of the oil. Unbelievably delicious!

********

The cactus also known as a 'desert rose' is the most unique way to pep up your garden. They are available in wide variety from long vines, sturdy bushes to ones' with exotic flowers. Most of them do not require any special care. Living in desert conditions, these plants can adapt to almost any environment.

Barrel cactus: As the name suggests, they resemble the barrel. They have yellow flowers at the crown and pineapple shaped fruits. Unlike other cactus, they grow in the south direction. Hence they are also known as 'compass cactus'.

Pincushion cactus: These plants are small, rounded and have very small spines.

Totem pole: These are sturdy, strong and slender at the same time. They grow very slowly, but once mature, they can attain a height of 2-3 meters. They are expensive as compared to the other species.

Prickly pear cactus: They have small rounded stems. The most unique feature of this plant are its fruits. They are red in color and also edible.

MEETING


The Texas Cactus Council will again meet at Pepper's Restaurant at 6:00 p.m. in Hebbronville, Texas, on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Please invite your friends and family. Please bring a door prize if you can.

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

May, 2013, Newsletter


The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting at the Seven Sisters Ranch of TCC member Natividad Vera. Mrs. Vera was generous enough to provide the main dish and side dishes. Several members also donated other dishes, desserts and drinks.  We were glad to see our members from Cato, Wisconsin, Mr. Eugene Piette and his wife, and his mother Mrs. Lorraine Cummings. They are Winter Texans and are quite active in our council. Guests at the meeting were Estela Saenz and Esther Recio.

Mr. Piette invited the council to visit the Master Garden State Convention scheduled for October 17-19, 2013, in McAllen, Texas. We will be getting more information on this at a later date.

A cookbook committee was set up. They are Lydia Canales, chairman, and members Pat Curry, Emma Martinez and Dora Mae Canales. They will be meeting to discuss the next cookbook which should be printed soon.

A possibility of a tour for the TCC members will be planned with details to be provided later.

********


We have learned much about the different uses of cactus. Below is a description of the different ways that cactus is being used. It is a list from www.CactusMuseum.com.  

Carnegiea gigantea - (Saguaro)
Fruit pulp - which is processed into jelly and wine - is part of Tohono O'odham (Papago) Indians diet. Seeds are also ground and eaten. Birds, including Gila woodpeckers and elf owls, hollow out nests inside the plant.
Echinocactus sp. - (Barrel Cacti)
The spines of this genus were fashioned into phonograph needles and fishhooks.
Echinocereus enneacanthus - (Strawberry Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.
Echinocereus stramineus - (Straw-colored Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.
Echinopsis chiloensis - (Quiska)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.
Epithelantha bokei - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.
Epithelantha micromeris - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.
Escontria chiotilla - (Jiotilla)
This Mexican native produces edible fruits known as jiotilla.
Eulychina acidia - (Copado)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.
Ferocactus hamatacanthus - (Texas Barrel Cactus)
Juicy, brown fruit is used as lemons and limes.
Ferocactus wislizenii - (Candy Barrel)
Animals eat the fruit. Inside of stems and fruits used to make cactus candy.
Hylocereus undatus - (Pitaya, Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear)
Bright red or pink fruit with green scales is both attractive and edible. It is eaten raw or made into wine and other drinks.
Lophocereus schottii - (Senita)
Stem processed into drugs to fight cancer and diabetes.
Lophophora williamsii - (Peyote, Mescal Buttons)
Plant contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing visions.
Myrtillocactus geometrizans - (Blue Myrtle, Whortleberry Cactus)
Blue fruit resembling a blueberry - Garambullo - is edible.
Nopalea cochenillifera - (Nopal Cactus)
Plant used as a host for the female cochineal insect(Dactylopius coccus). Cochineal, a crimson dye, is processed from the body of this insect.
Opuntia acanthocarpa - (Buckhorn Cholla)
Pima Indians steamed and ate flower buds. Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.
Opuntia bigelovii - (Teddy Bear Cholla)
Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.
Opuntia ficus-indica - (Indian Fig)
The edible fruit of this cactus, commonly known as a tuna has a sweet taste similar to watermelon. Fruits also are processed into jams and jellies.
Opuntia leptocaulis - (Desert Christmas Cactus)
Fruit is a favorite food of birds.
Opuntia spinosior - (Cane Cholla)
Skeleton of dead plants used for making furniture.
Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum - (Hairbrush Cactus)
Indians used the bur-like fruit of this cactus as a hairbrush.
Peniocereus greggii - (Queen of the Night)
Edible root and fruit eaten by Indians. Poultice reportedly used for respiratory ills.
Pereskia aculeata - (Barbados Gooseberry)
The small, yellow fruit used in jellies and preserves. Fruit is juicy and slightly acidic.
Schlumbergera truncatus - (Christmas Cactus)
Perhaps the most commercially grown cactus. Its colorful blooms open from Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season.
Selenicereus grandiflorus - (Night-Blooming Cereus)
Stems and flowers processed into homeopathic medicine for urinary tract infections and angina. Reported to have a digitalis-like effect on the heart
Stenocereus gummosus - (Pitahaya agria)
Stems of this cactus were crushed and thrown into water by natives. Substances in the cactus act as a fish poison and stun fish. Natives using this method of fishing were all so happy to gather the abundant harvest.
Stenocereus thurberi - (Organ Pipe Cactus)
Fruit eaten by local Indians.
Trichocereus pachanoi - (San Pedro Cactus)
Plant contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing visions.

********

The Texas Cactus Council will meet at PEPPER'S in Hebbronville, TX on Thursday, May 9, 2013. at 6:00 p.m. Bring a friend and/or a relative. You may bring a door prize if you wish.


                                                                          J. T. Garcia

                                                                          Secretary/Treasurer

 

Tasajillo Blooms at the Ranch

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

April, 2013, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council welcomes its newest member, Irene Zapata from Kingsville , Texas . Irene was member Yolanda Zap-ata's guest at the March meeting. Welcome to the council, Irene. I'm sure you'll enjoy being a member. Thanks for the Capirotada, Yolanda. It was delicious!

Guests at the meeting were Estela Saenz and Esther Recio. They enjoyed the meeting and plan to come back to future meetings. Estela is from Benavides, Texas, and Esther is from Alice, Texas .

Cantankerous, yes, but delicious. COOKING The cactus paddles known as nopales are wonderful in a wide range of dishes -- and they're easy to prepare. May 19, 2004|Barbara Hansen| Times Staff Writer says “Prickly desert cactus sounds like the last thing you'd want to eat. But -- surprise! -- once the spines are off, cactus is juicy and tender, great in anything from salads and soups to main courses and even desserts. The variety we're talking about is Mexico 's nopal cactus -- prickly pear. You may have seen it right here in town, growing wild or in someone's backyard, a sprawling plant composed of oval "paddles. The more you search on the Internet the more you know about the popularity of the once lowly cactus. And we keep searching...

  CACTUS CACTUS CACTUS

These are what you eat. They're best when young, about the size of a hand or a little larger. Cut into strips and cooked, they look a bit like green beans. The flavor is delicate, not what you'd expect from a cantankerous-looking desert dweller.

For centuries, Mexicans have eaten nopales in everything from stews to salads and omelets. So embedded is the nopal cactus in Mexican culture that it appears on the flag and on coins. A cactus plant supporting an eagle holding a snake was, according to legend, the sign that led the Aztecs to found their capital, Tenochtitlan, on the site that is now Mexico City. (We've mentioned this before in prior newsletters).

Mexican cooks love to get creative with nopales. On a recent visit to the little town of Santa Rosa near Guanajuato, I came across a nopal liqueur, made by a women's co-op that has a shop on the main street. The women also make a sweet, firm paste, called ate, from cactus. It's cut into chunks, to eat like candy. In a health food store I spotted nopal cookies, and in Mexican pharmacies I've seen nopal shampoo. But that's not all this plant can do. Beside the paddle, the nopal cactus produces a fruit that is small and seedy, but sweet and delicious. In Spanish it's known as tuna, which naturally causes endless confusion among non-Spanish-speakers accustomed to tuna casseroles and tuna sandwiches. Imagine their shock at coming across an agua fresca (a sweet drink) or a paleta (a popsicle) -- made with tuna.

Here, nopales are in every Latino market, and sometimes they show up at farmers markets and well-stocked grocery stores. The paddles are sold whole, or you can find them cleaned of their spines, cut up and packaged. When shopping, look for nopales that are small, tender and bright green rather than large, thick and faded. Avoid any that are flabby and soft. Some markets provide tongs for picking up paddles that still have their spines. But don't worry if your market is tongless -- grab a plastic produce bag or two, and use them to shield your fingers.

Removing the spines is not difficult -- it just takes a sharp knife. Hold the paddle on a slant and slice downward, starting from the base, not the rounded top. Trim off the edge of each paddle, and discard the thick base. You can also try a sharp vegetable peeler, but you may have to go back with a paring knife to cut out some stubborn spines. As you work, grip the cactus with a potholder, dishcloth or thick glove.

Once you've mastered this procedure, you're ready to experiment, or copy the way local Mexican restaurants treat nopales. Cooked nopales remain slightly firm and resilient, unlike vegetables that soften when boiled too long. They keep well if cooked in advance, which is handy if you want to scramble eggs with nopales for breakfast.

Texas Cactus Council member Margaret Johnston has been away from the country for quite awhile. She says “I am in Provence , France , and there are loads of prickly pear all over the coast!  I am looking forward to coming back to Texas and getting into the painting of medicinal cacti again. I enjoy reading your newsletters”. Hopefully we'll get to meet Margaret soon when she gets back to San Antonio . She has plenty of knowledge on cacti. I am eager to meet her.

RECIPES

Cactus Fries

  • 2 small tender cactus pads with spines removed
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs - - 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin - - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour - - Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the cactus on a cutting board.  

Slice the cactus into strips approximately one-half inch in width.

Pour one cup of panko breadcrumbs into a large shallow bowl .

Add one-half teaspoon of cumin and one-quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the same bowl.

Combine the breadcrumbs, cumin and cayenne pepper with a whisk. Set aside.

Place three tablespoons of coconut flour in a separate shallow bowl. Season with a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. Crack two eggs and beat them..

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil. Set aside. Using your hands, dip one piece of sliced cactus in the bowl of beaten eggs.

Transfer that piece of cactus to the prepared bowl of coconut flour. Toss the cactus to evenly coat it in flour. Place the flour-coated cactus back to the bowl of egg and evenly coat it in a second layer of eggTransfer the cactus to the seasoned breadcrumb bowl and coat evenly with breadcrumbs. Place the coated cactus strip to the prepared cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the cactus fries and bake for an additional 10 minutes until they are crispy and golden.

Cool for five minutes before serving. Serve with avocado dipping sauce . which can be purchased at the store.

********

We finally received some rain (1 inch). But that's not all our little town received. We got a banging by a hailstorm damaging many homes and vehicles. No one in our town had ever seen the big size of the ice chunks, some as big as baseballs, while some people reported grapefruit size hail. I was lucky - - I lost only one window pane in my bedroom. The hail I saw was fist sized. I saved some in my freezer so my boys and daughter can see them when they come by.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Freer, Texas , on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at the ranch home of TCC member Natividad Vera, at 6:00 p.m. (3294 CR 406). From main street Freer (Hiway 44) turn north on hiway 59. Go 11 miles and turn left on 2359. Travel 2 miles and turn right on CR 406. You get to a mail box. Keep on going a few blocks. You will see a reddish brown brick home. Continue and stop at the beige brick home. You're now at the Vera ranch (Seven Sisters Ranch). Mrs. Vera will provide the main dish for us. She will be serving brisket . You can bring a side dish, dessert, salad, etc. if you wish. You can reach Mrs. Vera at (361) 394-7022 (home) or (361) 701-4266 (cell). You may bring a door prize if you wish.

Note: The members voted to meet at 6:00 p.m. from now on.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting in 7 Sisters! Bring a friend or a family member! Bring your camera! Bring a good appetite!

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

 

 

Rebutia muscula

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

March, 2013, Newsletter

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We welcome our newest member to the council. She is Pat Curry from Benavides, Texas. I'm sure she'll be a fantastic member of the council.

*

The plants known as cactuses, or cacti, are well suited for life in the desert. Their unique ability to store water allows them to flourish in arid conditions in which other plants could not survive. The cacti are flowering plants that belong to the scientific family Cactaceae, which includes more than 2,000 species.

Cacti are native through most of North and South America, but they grow chiefly in the dry regions of the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, and southern South America. A few species are found in tropical or subtropical areas of the world such as East Africa, Madagascar , and Sri Lanka . The plants may have been introduced to these areas. Most cacti grow in the ground, but several tropical species are epiphytes, growing on other plants. Others live on hard substances such as rocks.

Cacti are characterized by their adaptations to the harsh environments in which they live. Ordinary nondesert plants take up water from the soil by means of their roots and give off water through their leaves. This process is called transpiration. A cactus has no leaves or only very small ones that usually drop off as the plant matures. The cactus thus avoids a huge loss of water. The stem is fleshy and thick and can store a large amount of water. Its tough skin keeps the water safely hoarded. Photosynthesis occurs on the green surface of the stem. Cactus roots do not extend deep into the soil like those of other plants; instead they spread out near the surface. This enables the plant to absorb water from a wide area during the infrequent, light rains that occur in the desert.

With few exceptions, cacti bear tough, sharp spines. These spines help protect the plant from many desert-dwelling animals. The spines grow from small cushionlike tissues called areoles that are arranged in patterns on the surface of the plant.

The many types of cacti vary widely in appearance. One of the most impressive species is the saguaro   of Mexico , Arizona , and California , which may grow to a height of 50 feet (15 meters). Its stem and branches are like great spiny columns up to 2 feet (about 0.6 meter) thick. It has large white flowers and bears red, edible fruit. The common cacti known as prickly pears have round, flat stems and branches and yellow or reddish flowers. Their name refers to the edible, pear-shaped fruit produced by some species. Barrel cacti look like spiny barrels or globes and may reach a height of 10 feet (3 meters). The buttonlike peyote cacti have a spineless, soft body that is only 2 inches (5 centimeters) tall. Among the most beautiful cacti is the night-blooming cereus. Its waxlike blossoms open only for one night and wither when sunlight appears .

GREEN TIP: Keeping a potted cactus near your computer will help absorb the radiation that it emits.

We can all learn about many, many other cactus species by doing research on the Internet. The more you learn, the more you will search.

Note: The article above was used to teach young children about cactus. It can also be used to teach adults who are interested in cactus.

RECIPE

Cactus and Corn Salsa Recipe

•  1 teaspoon olive oil

•  2   nopales cactus   paddles, spikes removed or use spineless cactus if you're lucky to have it.

•  2 green tomatoes, cored and cut in half

•  1/2 large, white onion, peeled and cut into 4 chunks

•  2 jalapeños, red or green, more or less to taste

•  1 teaspoon olive oil

•  1 cup frozen corn or fresh sliced corn.

•  1 cup cilantro, stems removed

•  1 garlic clove, peeled

•  2 hot chili peppers, stems removed, more or less to taste

•  Juice from 1/2 a lime, about 1 Tbsp

•  2 Tablespoons tequila, optional

•  1 teaspoon dried oregano

•  Salt to taste   

Preheat oven to 425°F. Working with a large sharp knife with a fairly straight edge, scrape off any remaining prickles or nubs on the cactus paddles. Cut the paddles crosswise into 1-inch thick strips. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Place cactus, green tomatoes, white onion and jalapeños on the baking sheet in preheated oven for 12 minutes. The cactus should still be slightly crisp when pierced with a fork.

Heat a cast iron or stick-free skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat on the stove top. When the pan is heated, add frozen corn and spread out in an even layer. Do not stir the corn. Allow it to roast in the hot pan for about 2 to 3 minutes. The corn should become browned and roasted. You can check by gently flipping a few pieces with the corner of a spatula. When corn is browned, stir and roast for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Place corn in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the oven roasted vegetables in a food processor with the cilantro, garlic, lime juice, tequila, oregano and salt. Puree until nearly smooth, about 30 seconds. (Be careful when you remove the lid on the food processor—the heat released from the peppers will zoom up your nose and down your throat, so don't stand directly over the open food processor.)

Pour the salsa into a serving dish. Stir the roasted corn into the finished salsa. Allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips.  

*

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions Recipe

•  1 lb nopalitos, cactus pads that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped

•  Olive oil

•  2 large cloves garlic, minced

•  1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

•  1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped

•  1 medium tomato, roughly chopped

•  Salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato. Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

********

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, March 14, 2013, at the Oasis Restaurant, in Premont, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. The phone number for the restaurant is 348-3917. Invite your family and friends. You may bring a door prize if you wish. I will be passing out spineless cactus pads to those wishing to start a cactus garden or to add to their existing garden.

 

I'll see you in Premont!

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

Note: Thanks to those of you who have paid your membership

dues.

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

February, 2013, Newsletter

********

Although evidence for cacti in human diets goes back more than 8,000 years in present-day Mexico, worldwide consumption has developed only in the last few hundred years. Cacti were introduced into Europe in 1495 from the second trip of Christopher Columbus to the New World. Opuntia ficus-indica spread across the Mediterranean region in the sixteenth century, where it readily grew under the local semi-arid conditions. Also in the sixteenth century, Spaniards introduced Hylocereus undatus into the Philippines, whence it spread throughout southeast Asia. In the nineteenth century, it became established in Viet Nam and is now extensively cultivated in the Mekong Delta, where its tasty fruit with red peel and white pulp is called "dragon fruit." Also in the nineteenth century, the columnar Stenocereus queretaroensis was domesticated in Jalisco, Mexico. None of these species received much agronomic attention until the end of the twentieth century, and even then the money for research and development was meager. Both fruit crops and young cladodes used as vegetables require much hand labor. Although machines have been developed to remove the irritating small spines (termed "glochids") from cactus pears, many improvements in their cultivation await future research.

Note: Opuntia ficus-indica is the prickly pear cactus that we see all over South Texas.

Fruits of many cacti are edible. Indeed, the Seri Indians of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico consumed fruits from over twenty species, including those of the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea ), used by various Native Americans for fruits and wine. Fruits collected from the wild influenced the species selected for domestication. Such selections involved various species of Opuntia in Mexico, eventually leading to the presently planted cultivars.

Cactus pear. The fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica and a few other prickly pears are harvested in the summer from plants that are one to three meters tall. Harvest can be delayed by removing the early flowers, as is commonly done in Sicily, leading to a second harvest in the autumn that is more valuable per fruit due to lessened competition from other species. One-year-old cladodes can bear five to fifteen fruits each; terminal cladodes with fewer fruits tend to bear larger ones (over 150 g each), which command higher prices. After harvesting, the fruits must have the glochids removed mechanically, after which they are often packaged by color and weight. Fruits with red pulp are prized in the United States and certain European countries, whereas greenish pulp for mature fruits is generally preferred in Mexico. Although sold in supermarkets worldwide, fruits are also sold by street vendors, who slice the peel and provide the exposed pulp directly to the consumer. The relatively large seeds are a detriment to fruit consumption by many, but the seeds are harmless and readily swallowed by aficionados.

The country with the greatest land area devoted to cactus pear cultivation is Mexico. Annual production can be over fifteen tons fresh weight per hectare under intensive management. In Mexico, Sicily, Israel, and the United States, most production is from commercial plantations, whereas in other Latin American countries and in northern Africa, a large amount of the fruit is collected from hedges and other informal plantings.

Tender young cladodes (pads) about 10 to 15 cm long of Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia robusta, and a few related species are used in Mexico as nopalitos. About 6,000 hectares were cultivated for this purpose in 2001, and nopalitos are also prepared from plants in the wild or growing around houses, or as hedges. The raised portions of the stem containing spines and glochids are readily removed with a knife or by machine. The cladodes are then generally sliced or diced and blanched in a weak saline solution for a few minutes to remove excess mucilage. After draining, the material can be cooked, yielding a vegetable with a taste not unlike string beans or okra. Because of their high fructose and mucilage content, nopalitos are highly recommended for people with type II diabetes. Often the blanched material is pickled and used as a relish or in salads. More than thirty companies sold pickled nopalitos in Mexico in 2001, and this product is in supermarkets worldwide. We are lucky in the South Texas area to find available different varieties of spineless cactus. Se-
veral members of the Texas Cactus Council have called me asking for pads of these spineless cacti to start their gardens. The offer is still there. If anyone wants spineless cactus pads, just contact me. Now that Spring is almost here we can start with our cactus gardening.

Other uses of cacti range from candy made from the stems of barrel cacti that have been infused with a sugar solution to peyote from dried stems of Lophophora williamsii, used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. Flowers have been used for medicinal purposes and to make perfume. The seeds of cacti such as Opuntia ficus-indica have been dried, ground, and then used as a flavoring paste for cooking. Carminic acid, an important red dye for food coloring, can be extracted from dried cochineal insects that feed on Opuntia ficus-indica. Although most cactus pears are consumed fresh, sorbets and marmalades are also prepared from the fruits. The strained pulp of fresh fruits is used as a fruit drink or fermented to make wine. Fruits of cactus pears are also partially dried and sold in brick-sized blocks in Mexico. More than thirty brands of dried and powdered cladodes are sold in Mexico as a dietary supplement. The range of edible products from cacti is indeed great and their use is steadily increasing, as more people become willing to try new and natural foods, and growers search for crops that do not need irrigation.


Recalling The Joys Of Cactus

By JUANA VAZQUEZ GOMEZ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

I was born and raised in Mexico, the land of the cactus. More than landscape, the cactus played a role in the founding of the grand city of Tenochitlan, which became modern-day Mexico City. According to legend, the Aztecs were led to a place where, as their prophets predicted, an eagle sat atop a cactus devouring a snake. This is where they built their city. Since then, though without such drama, the cactus has been an important part of everyday Mexican life. The eagle devouring the snake on the cactus is emblazoned today on Mexico's flag and all its coins and government buildings.

*

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, February 14, 2013, at Dairy Queen, in Freer, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. The program will focus on starting your spring cactus garden. Tips on growing cactus will be offered by TCC president Emma Martinez, Natividad Vera, and J. T. Garcia. A recipe using STINGING NETTLE will be discussed. Nettle is called “ortiguilla” in Spanish. The plant is full of stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems. See recipe below.

Cactus and Nettles Recipe

1 cup of tender diced cactus

1 HEB bagful of stinging nettles
½ cup water (add more if needed)
(Use gloves and scissors to cut the nettle)
1 medium diced onion 3 garlic cloves (crushed) salt/pepper to taste
tomato sauce (optional)
Place all ingredients in saucepan . Cook in medium heat until cactus is tender.
You may add a cup of shrimp if you wish when the recipe is almost done.

 

J. T. Garcia
Secretary/Treasurer

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

December, 2012, Newsletter

********

The Texas Cactus Council annual Cactus Cook-off was held on November 3, 2013, at Hebbronville, Texas , during the Jim Hogg County Vaquero Festival. We are happy to announce that it was it was a complete success. We had a total of 24 cactus recipe entries. The winners in the different categories were:

 

Main Dish:

 

1 st place - - - Yolanda Guevara 2 nd place - - - Emma Martinez

3 rd place - - - Emma Martinez

 

Salad:

 

1 st place - - - L. A. Perez 2 nd place - - - Minnie Salazar

3 rd place - - - Jose Leandro Martinez

 

Dessert:

1 st place - - - Minnie Salazar 2 nd place - - - Emma Martinez

3 rd place - - - Ida Perez

 

Miscellaneous:

1 st place - - - Selia Zapata 2 nd place - - - Minnie Salazar

3 rd place - - - Ricky Guevara

 

BEST OF SHOW - - - - - - -Gabriel Guevara

 

Thanks to members Lydia Canales and Pat Curry for tabulating the votes on the different entries. The judges had a difficult time deciding on the winners - - - all the entries were delicious. The public eagerly lined up after the judging to taste the food entries. Visiting the cook-off were State Senator Judith Zaffirini and State Representative Ryan Guillen. We thank them for their interest in cactus and for their positive comments about the contest.

  ********

Well, the drought appears to still be with us. Pastures are getting dry and cattle will be needing supplement feed soon. Hay is quite expensive - - - about $80 per round bale. Ranchers are already hauling hay to their cattle. Others are thinking about just selling their cattle and avoid the worrying about the lack of green pastures. The prices at the cattle auctions are quite good. Hopefully rains will arrive soon. Ranchers are already getting their cactus pear burners ready. Cattle really enjoy eating cactus when dry times arrive. The cactus and hay and cattle cubes provide nourishing food to the animals. Some ranchers also provide tubs of molasses rich in vitamins and minerals for the animals. The molasses is licked up or bitten off and enjoyed.  

Unfortunately our TTC member who does our rain dances, James Williams, has moved out of town. Hopefully we'll find someone else to do our very needed rain dancing. A member was suggested to carry on this tradition, Leandro Martinez. I think we can convince him to do this.

*

I've had some requests for cactus pads to start cactus gardens. A garden can be started in your backyard. Pads may be planted at any time. Water immediately after planting the pads. The pads can then be watered occasionally. Before long you can have new cactus pads growing in the garden.

 

  *

Although evidence for cacti in human diets goes back more than 8,000 years in present-day Mexico, worldwide consumption has developed only in the last few hundred years. Cacti were introduced into Europe in 1495 from the second trip of   Christopher Columbus   to the New World. Opuntia ficus-indica   spread across the Mediterranean region in the sixteenth century, where it readily grew under the local semi-arid conditions. Also in the sixteenth century, Spaniards introduced Hylocereus undatus  into the Philippines, whence it spread throughout southeast Asia. In the nineteenth century, it became established in Viet Nam and is now extensively cultivated in the Mekong Delta, where its tasty fruit with red peel and white pulp is called "dragon fruit." Also in the nineteenth century, the columnar Stenocereus queretaroensis was domesticated in Jalisco, Mexico. None of these species received much agronomic attention unil the end of the twentieth century, and even then the money for research and development was meager. Both fruit crops and young cladodes used as vegetables require much hand labor. Although machines have been developed to remove the irritating small spines (termed "glochids") from cactus pears, many improvements in their cultivation await future research.

  *

Dry Ideas : What better for Southern California scenarios than a thirst-quenched garden? A cactus oasis is no barren landscape.

March 15, 1997   |   JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS , SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Martin Colver suggested installing a cactus garden in an unused area of his parent's Costa Mesa backyard, his father, Frank, was uncertain. Planting the cactus would mean removing a 25-year-old pomegranate tree. Once his son installed the garden, however, Colver's reservations quickly disappeared. "The resulting garden is really worthwhile," said Frank Colver. "Until my son put the cactus garden in, we rarely used that space. Now we sit out there more than any other area of the yard. (Click on title for the rest of the article.)

*

RECIPES

Red Snapper & Nopalitos in Cilantro Sauce


1 (15-ounce) jar nopalitos (or 12 fresh)- - diced
4 red snapper filets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste  

Rinse and drain the nopalitos. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Nopalitos with the cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place snapper filets in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with the Nopalitos mixture. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until the filets are cooked through. Serves 4. Enjoy a margarita or a favorite wine with this.

*

The annual Texas Cactus Council Christmas party is scheduled for Sunday, December 16, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. at the Civic Center in Benavides, Texas. We will serve a potluck lunch provided by the Texas Cactus Council members. The different categories of goodies are below.

Ham - - - Selia Zapata

Sandwiches - - - Minnie Salazar, Emma Martinez , Linda Gonzalez

Chips/Dip - - - Mogie & Greg Ramirez, Yolanda Guevara, Ida Perez, Dora Mae Canales,

Cabbage,Veggies Lydia Canales,

Paper Goods - - -Betty & George Newman

Desserts --_ Yolanda Zapata, Natividad Vera, Alicia Garza Saenz

Drinks & Ice - - - Ray Espinosa

Those members not mentioned above may bring whatever they want for the category they wish. Or just surprise us with a delicious dish.

If you wish to participate in the gift exchange bring a $10 gift. Ladies bring a lady's gift. Men will bring a man's gift.

We will have live music by the Herrera Brothers.

If anyone has any questions, please call the Texas Cactus Council President, Emma Martinez at (361) 442-3728.

Feliz Navidad!

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

October, 2012, Newsletter

******** 

We had a great meeting on September 13, 2012, in Kingsville , Texas at the home of Texas Cactus Council member, Yolanda Zapata. As always, Yolanda went out of her way to provide a wonderful meal, turkey and dressing, side dishes and delicious desserts. Our thanks to Yolanda for hosting the meeting and providing the meal.

The cactus cook-off was discussed. It is scheduled for Saturday, November 3, 2012, in Hebbronville, Texas, during the Jim Hogg Vaquero Festival at the Pavilion on Hiway 16 (Hiway to Zapata,Texas) . Everyone is encouraged to bring a dish containing cactus or cactus fruit juice. Please bring a written recipe. Monetary prizes will be provided to the winners of the cook-off in the four different categories. The entry must be received by no later than 12:00 o'clock noon. Judging will start at 1:00 o'clock.

What is the nutritional Value of Cactus?

For over 7,000 years fresh Nopal has been consumed for its many nutritional qualities, only recently in the last 20 years has science truly been interested in the investigation of this remarkable medicinal plant.  Nopal  Verde (opuntia-indica)  or green Nopal has recently been recommended in a vast array of circulation, heart and digestive disorders. Below are a number of the most recent findings.

Colon Cleansing:  Treatment and Prevention of Colon Cancer .

Nopal contains both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers.  The insoluble dietary fiber in Nopal (more commonly known as roughage), absorbs water and gently hastens food through the digestive track and contributes to regular bowel movements.  In addition the presence of insoluble fibers in the colon help to dilute the concentration of potential carcinogens that may be present.  Soluble fibers also contribute to regularity.  Furthermore NOPAL is a gentle alternative to psyllium for those with a sensitivity or allergy to psyllium.

Nopal Powder has rapidly become one of the principal forms for consuming Nopal in many countries around the world. The reason for this is three fold.

1.) The ever increasing international demand  no longer makes it feasible to transport vast quantities of fresh Nopal by air or sea. 

2.)  Customer preference in consumption requires a more pharmaceutical  approach to packaging for wider acceptance

3.)  Shelf life and nutritional value are extended through the dehydration process.

Hyperlipidemia (High cholesterol/ Fat levels): Known to reduce cholesterol.   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.

Arteriosclerosis: Blocked arteries are prevented.  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:  Reduces and eliminates gastro problems.  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: Detoxifies and aids in prevention of various illnesses.  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.

Obesity:  Fiber Rich.  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 ): Very important in Diabetes II patients. 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.

Nopal the Medicinal Plant . By Miguel Angel Gutierrez

"The Nopal has been used as a medicinal plant and is a hallmark vegetable in the Latin American diet. Various studies have demonstrated Opuntia's ability to affect blood glucose and hypercholesterolemia. The intake of prickly pear pectin decreases plasma LDL levels, increases expression of apolipoprotein receptor expression, increases hepatic LDL turnover, and affects cholesterol homeostasis in guinea pigs. Prickly pear pectin, however does not affect absorption of cholesterol in guinea pigs. The prickly pear cactus demonstrates the ability to decrease blood glucose levels as well the hyperglycemic peak during glucose tolerance testing. In addition, Opuntia has demonstrated the ability to control experimentally induced diabetes. Similar studies, along with domestic surveys have prompted international evaluation of the prickly pear cactus to determine its ability to regulate glucose utilization. Currently, homeopathic industries have begun to incorporate Opuntia into supplements intended to help regulate plasma glucose levels."

  RECIPES

Nopales in Chipotle Sauce: Nopales en Chipotle Adobado

The mild flavor of nopales makes them ideal for combining with more strongly-flavored ingredients, such as chipotles in adobo. This recipe, from San Luis Potosí, is a quick, easy and flavorful vegetarian dish.

•  2 pounds nopal pads, cleaned and diced

•  1 pound tomatillos, husked and roasted on a dry griddle or comal

•  1/2 medium white onion, peeled and chopped

•  2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

•  2 canned or homemade chipotles in adobo sauce

•  1/2 large white onion, peeled and chopped.

•  1 tablespoon corn oil - - salt

Place the nopales in a large pot with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomatillos, garlic and chipotles in a blender and puree.

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in the oil until the onion is transparent. Add the puree and the nopales, stir and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with white rice, beans and warm tortillas.

OCTOBER MEETING

We will meet at Strickland's Restaurant in Falfurrias on October 11, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. Bring a door prize.

J. T. Garcia

 

Hedgehog Cactus Flower

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

September, 2012, Newsletter

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The Texas Cactus Council will hold the Texas Cactus Cook-off on Saturday, November 3, 2012, in Hebbronville, Texas, during the Jim Hogg County Annual Vaquero Festival.  The Festival is at the Hebbronville Pavilion on Texas Highway 16 (Zapata Highway). Everyone is invited to bring an entry to the Cactus cook off. The recipe must contain cactus or cactus fruit. A recipe must be turned in as well as the dish itself. The written recipe and the dish must be turned in by no later than 12:00 noon on Saturday, November 3, 2012. The judging will start at 1:00.

The following four categories will be judged:

Main dish      salad       dessert      miscellaneous

Prizes will be awarded for 1st place ($50), 2nd place ($25) and 3rd place ($15) in each of the categories. Please bring small paper plates or napkins which will be used by the judges while they taste and judge your entry.  The public will be invited to taste the food entries after the judging is over. And again, Texas Cactus Council President Emma Martinez encourages everyone to bring a recipe or two or three to the cook-off.

*

Cultivated prickly pear grown for food

The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus fruit, cactus fig, Indian fig or tuna in Spanish, is edible, although it has to be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer is not properly removed, glochids can be ingested, causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue, as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin. Native Americans , like the Tequesta , would roll the fruit around in a suitable medium (e.g. grit ) to " sand " off the glochids. Alternatively, rotating the fruit in the flame of a campfire or torch has been used to remove the glochids. Today, parthenocarpic (seedless) cultivars are also available.

Cactus figs are often used to make candies , jelly , or drinks such as vodka or lemonade. Opuntia ficus-indica has been introduced to Europe, and flourishes in areas with a suitable climate, such as the south of France , southern Italy , Sicily , where they are referred to as fichi d'India or ficurinnia (Indian figs), and Sardinia , where they are called figumorisca (moorish figs), along the Struma River in Bulgaria , in southern Portugal and Madeira , where they are called tabaibo , figo tuno or " Indian figs ", and eastern and southern Spain , as well as Gibraltar where they are known as chumbo or higo chumbo (" chumbo fig"). In Greece , it grows in such places as Corfu and its figs are known as frangosyka (Frankish (i.e. Western European) figs) or pavlosyka (Paul's figs). The figs are also grown in Cyprus , where they are known as papoutsosyka or babutsa (cactus figs). The prickly pear also grows widely on the islands of Malta , where it is enjoyed by the Maltese as a typical summer fruit (known as bajtar tax-xewk , literally 'spiny figs'), as well as being used to make the popular liqueur known as bajtra . In Egypt, it is known as teen shouky . The prickly pear is so commonly found in the Maltese islands that it is often used as a dividing wall between many of Malta's characteristic terraced fields in place of the usual rubble walls. The prickly pear was introduced to Eritrea during the period of Italian colonization between 1890 and 1940. It is locally known there as beles and is abundant during the months of late summer and early autumn (late July through September). The beles from the holy monastery of Debre Bizen is said to be particularly sweet and juicy. In Libya , it is a popular summer fruit and called by the locals Hindi , which literally means Indian .

In Egypt , Libya , Saudi Arabia , Jordan and other parts of the Middle East , prickly pears of the yellow and orange varieties are grown by the side of farms, beside railway tracks and other otherwise non-cultivable land. It is sold in summer by street vendors, and is considered a nice refreshing fruit for that season.

Tungi is the local St. Helenian name for cactus pears. The plants ( Indian fig opuntia ) were originally brought to the island by the colonial ivory traders from East Africa in the 1850s. Tungi cactus now grows wild and organically in the dry coastal regions of the island. Three principal cultivars of tungi grow on the island: the 'English' with yellow fruit; the 'Madeira' with large red fruit; and the small, firm 'spiny red'.

The young stem segments, usually called nopales , are also edible in most species of Opuntia . They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales ( eggs with nopal), or tacos de nopales . Nopales are also an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine .

In folk medicine and research

Close-up image of prickly pear fruit.

Apart from the large spines, note the glochids (the fine prickles, or bristles) that readily dislodge and may cause skin and eye irritation.

Most species of Opuntia contain a range of alkaloids in variable quantities, such as substituted phenethylamines . Identified compounds that may have biological activity include 3-methoxytyramine , candicine and hordenine , as examples The Sicilian prickly pear contains betalain , betanin and indicaxanthin , with highest levels in their fruits. Some species of Opuntia have been investigated in preliminary research. One study on O. megacantha raised concern about toxic effects on the kidney and extracts of O. streptacantha may inhibit alpha-glucosidase activity. The gel-like sap of prickly pears might be useful as a hair conditioner . In Mexican folk medicine , its pulp and juice have been used to treat numerous maladies, such as wounds and inflammations of the digestive and urinary tracts.

RECIPES

Early Morning Nopalitos

•  6-8 tender diced nopalitos (cooked in water for 1/2 hour)

•  4 tomatoes finely chopped

•  1/2 onion, chopped

•  3 tbsp olive oil

•  1 slice of sausage 2 inches long

In a skillet, fry the chorizo first, without burning, then add the tomato and onion, then when hot crush all ingredients with a mortar to release their juice. Put back on the fire and when it starts to boil, add the cooked nopales.  You can add eggs if you wish. Cook briefly, and enjoy for breakfast served with flour tortillas.  

Nopalitos with cream Cheese

6 - 8 diced tender spineless cactus pads

•  8 oz cream cheese 1/4 diced onion salt/pepper

•  1 chile jalapeno   2 tomatoes

First cook the nopales in a little water with salt and pepper.  
Separately, fry the chopped onion in a little oil. Meanwhile, using a blender, grind the peppers and tomatoes with a little water and add it to the onion and cook two minutes.  Then, add the nopales and let boil one minute.  Then add the cheese and it's ready to enjoy.

*

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, September 13, 2012, at the home of TCC member Yolanda Zapata. Yolanda will provide the dinner (turkey & dressing) for the meeting. Her address is 1923 Rettye, Kingsville , Texas 78363. You can locate the map on Google or follow these steps. If you're coming from Alice, Falfurrias, Benavides, etc.: Go East on General Cavazos Blvd. (Walmart is on the right of the street). Turn left on Shelly Blvd. Turn right on Palm Dr. Turn left on Rettye. If you're coming from Highway 77, exit on West General Cavazos Blvd.

The hospital will be on your left. Continue driving until you get to Lowes (on your right).Turn right on Shelly Blvd. Turn right on Palm Dr. and turn left on Rettye. If you get lost call Yolanda at (361) 720-0586 or call me at (361) 207-0966. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m.

You may bring a door prize if you wish.

For the program, TCC president Emma Martinez will talk to the council on the Texas Cactus Council cook-off.

Nos vemos en casa de Yolanda,

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

Thanks to all of you who have sent in

your Texas Cactus Council

membership dues.  

 

August, 2012, Newsletter

********

The Texas Cactus Council met in Hebbronville , Texas , in July. TCC member Yolanda Zapata introduced her guest, Josefina Serna from Kingsville . Member Maria Garza's guest was Aida Garza.  

Texas Cactus Council president Emma Martinez, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the meeting. The program was on using cactus in landscaping projects. She brought several varieties to give to the members. I also brought several pads of different cacti. Minnie Salazar and Ida Perez brought in cactus from their gardens. To pass out to the group. Those members who have not yet started to use cactus in their gardens are eager to get started.

The council was told that they could also use plants which require less water in their cactus gardens. Cactus requires very little water. Over-watering will kill the cactus.

A number of bushes or shrubs are also well suited to low water gardens. Many of them have beautiful, sweet smelling flowers, and some of them can be trained to climb as vines. These flowering plants include: forsythia, butterfly bush, boxwood, camellia, dogwood, yew, honeysuckle, gardenia, jasmine, lavender, privet, pittosporum, azalea , mock orange, lilac , flowering quince, and currants.

Use your imagination and you can come up with beautiful, colorful blooms surrounded by cactus and succulents.

President Martinez indicated that we will try to have the annual cactus cook-off perhaps in October during the Fiesta Del Rancho in Concepcion , Texas . We will try to obtain permission from the Fiesta committee to have the cook-off there. We'll give you details later.

PRICKLY PEAR OVERVIEW

Prickly pear cactus is a plant. It is part of the diet in Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. Only the young plant is eaten; older plants are too tough. Prickly pear cactus is also used for medicine.

Prickly pear cactus is used for type 2 diabetes , high cholesterol , obesity , alcohol hangover, colitis , diarrhea , and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It is also used to fight viral infections .

In foods, the prickly pear juice is used in jellies and candies.

Most research on this product has been performed in Mexico by one research group.

How does it work?

Prickly pear cactus contains fiber and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestine. Some researchers think that it might also decrease cholesterol levels, and kill viruses in the body.

RECIPE

Stuffed Cactus Pads

6 large, but tender, cactus pads. Use spineless pads if possible

6 tablespoons of cubed sharp cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)

1 onion finely diced

2 carrots - - diced

1 red bell pepper - - diced

2 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons bread crumbs (or use flour)

1 diced jalapeno - - remove seeds for milder taste
cooking oil
salt/pepper to taste

Slice cactus pads length-wise on one side only (you will leave a pocket for stuffing). Boil pads 15 minutes. After cactus pads are cooked, drain them. Let them cool. Stuff the pads with diced onion, carrots, bell pepper and diced jalapeno. Use tooth picks to keep filling in pads. Dip filled pads in the beaten egg and shake bread crumbs (or flour) on pads. Fry pads in cooking oil until golden brown.

********

And the drought in our area continues. More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated disaster zones, the Department of Agriculture reported, blaming excessive heat and a devastating drought that's spread across the Corn Belt and contributed to rising food prices.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared disaster zone designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states Wednesday because of damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.

The states are Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming .

Nearly three-quarters of the nation's cattle acreage is now inside a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country's hay acreage, the agency reported. Most of Texas has been hit hard by the drought.

USDA researchers added that an average of 37% of the nation's soybeans were last week ranked from very poor to poor, the lowest quality recorded since a massive drought in 1988.

Nearly half of America 's corn crop was also rated very poor to poor, while 57% of its pastures and range land were similarly graded.

This year's harsh conditions suggest that food prices next year could surge by as much as 4.5%, the agency reported.

"It's the most severe and expensive drought in 25 years," USDA economist Timothy Park said.

As the hot and dry weather persists, farmers face potential losses in spite of federal crop insurance meant to soften the blow to U.S. agriculture.

The price of milk, cheese and other dairy products is also expected to surge, while ranchers face steepening feed costs.

"When I was a kid in the '50s ... it got real dry, but nothing like this," said Marvin Helms, a 70-year-old farmer and rancher in central Arkansas who was compelled to sell his beef cattle after being short on feed.

His thousand acres of farmland near Arkadelphia include corn and soybeans, which Helms says is normally sufficient to sustain his family and provide for his cattle.

"We've got some insurance on the crops, but it's not enough," he said. "It will help, but it won't pay the bills."

Still, economists say the extent of federal insurance coverage -- which includes about 85% of the nation's crop acreage -- will help protect farmers against catastrophic income losses.

"Today's safety net is going to protect a lot more of those producers than in the past," said USDA Deputy Chief Economist Robert Johansson. "Though it's hard to say the what effect will be on an individual producer, because a lot of times, these crop producers are also producing livestock."

In an effort to bolster assistance, the USDA expanded emergency disaster assistance Wednesday to allow for haying and grazing on 3.8 million acres of protected conservation areas, once considered off-limits.

The agency also reported that crop insurance companies have agreed to allow for a "short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012," giving farmers an extra 30 days to make payments without interest penalties on their unpaid premiums.

MEETING

The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Freer, Texas , on Thursday, August 9, 2012, at M&M Restaurant located at 217 S. Main. The meeting starts at 6:30, but we can come earlier to place our dinner orders earlier. The phone number at the restaurant is (361) 394-1309. Invite your friends and relatives.

You may bring a door prize if you wish.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

 

July, 2012, Newsletter 

Once again, a drought is upon us. The little rain that we have received has come in very small amounts. Pastures are dry and livestock and wild animals are suffering. Ranchers are feeding their cattle and will soon start burning cactus. Some rain has fallen in the Corpus Christi area. We thought we would be getting plenty of rain from Tropical Storm Debbie, but the system veered northward and then went into Alabama and Florida where up to 20 inches of rain was received. We may have to wait for another depression and tropical storm to bring us the needed rain, but we certainly don't want damaging winds and extensive flooding. We may have to call our in-house rain maker (Texas Cactus Council member James Williams) to perform one of his famous rain-making routines. Are you ready to help, James?

*********

RECIPES

Making jelly with Psyllium

I know that psyllium was recommended for a high fiber diet, and that it would make a liquid very thick in a short time. I tried it with cactus fruit (tuna) juice and it made a nice jelly.  

I've made a couple of batches and decided to give the ingredients for a basic jelly and let the user experiment and add according to taste. You can use sugar to your taste or use non-calorie sweeteners.

You can also try it using any other juice you might have. Share with us the recipes you develop.

  *

Wild prickly pears are now quite plentiful. You can see them in the pastures in their beautiful red and purple colored fruit. I have already told you how to remove the juice from the fruit.  

Basic tuna jelly (cactus fruit)  

2 cups prickly pear juice

5 level tablespoons Psyllium

•  Bring the juice to a boil and let cool (This is probably not essential, just seemed like a normal thing to do).

•  Sprinkle in the Psyllium while stirring.

•  Let it set (takes about 15 minutes).

•  Taste and decide if you want to add a flavor or sweetener.

•  Stir your choice in - - - next time do it at step 2.

Note: You can buy Psyllium Husks Powder at HEB, Wal-Mart, Walgreen's, etc. It's an all-fiber supplement that promotes regularity and supports heart health.  

NOTE: This recipe was developed and shared with us by two members of the Texas Cactus Council, Rob and Agnes Maier. It has been printed before in our newsletterand are printing it again for the benefit of those who may not have read it before. Thanks, Rob & Agnes!

********

Market Watch: Elevating the cactus pear

New varieties find a wider market. (Los Angeles Times, 2011)   

The cactus pear is the Rodney Dangerfield of the fruit world, beloved by immigrants from parts of Latin America and the Mediterranean basin but largely ignored by most consumers in the United States. That may be changing, however, as the leading domestic cactus pear producer, Salinas-based D'Arrigo Bros., has introduced four new, greatly improved varieties — orange, red, purple and green — that are firmer, sweeter and juicier than the traditional variety it has marketed for the last 80 years. They're starting to be sold today and are well worth searching out.

It's the culmination of an ambitious 17-year fruit breeding project, headed by two renowned cactus scientists, one of which is Dr. Peter Felker, who was very instrumental in getting the Texas Cactus Council started at Texas A&M University, Kingsville . And as part of an effort to get the word out, the famously secretive D'Arrigo company has cracked the door open to provide information about one of the most fascinating but little-known fruit industries in California.

Of the hundreds of species of cactus, at least 30 are cultivated for their fruit, but the most important by far is the cactus pear of commerce, Opuntia ficus-indica, which originated in Mexico and has been cultivated there for at least 9,000 years. Christopher Columbus brought the first cactuses to Europe in 1495 on his return from his second trip to the New World, and within a century plants of cactus pear — given the ludicrous name of "Indian fig" because they came from the Indies and supposedly looked like figs — had spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. They particularly flourished in Sicily in arid districts with steep, rocky soil, so much so that by the mid-19th century cactus pears ranked third after grapes and olives among fruit crops on the island.

****** 

Margaret Johnston Begins Botanical Art Project for Naturapathy

Margaret Johnston, a member of the Texas Cactus Council, recently spent six months in Cape Town, South Africa, studying native medicinal plants. A naturopathic doctor and educator, she has combined her interests in naturopathy and botanical illustration.

Joining the Botanical Artists Association of South Africa (BAASA) at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was a foot in the door to all kinds of botanically related activities. It allowed her into the Gardens whenever she wanted to continue her studies. Margaret will return for another six months in the coming year to continue her work on the naturopathic botanical art project she started this year.

Ms. Johnston hopes to expose the prickly pear to people too through various means. Hopefully she will join us for the July meeting to tell us about her work. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

******** 

We were happy to have a guest at the June meeting. She is Lois Bradshaw from Kingsville, Texas. Thanks to member Yolanda Zapata for bringing a cake, St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. Thanks, Yolanda!

The July meeting of the Texas Cactus Council will be in Hebbronville, Texas, on Thursday, July 12, 2012, at Pepper's Restaurant ((361) 527-4444), at 6:30 p.m.

You may bring a door prize if you wish. All members are encouraged to bringpads from your cactus garden to share with those who want to start their cactus gardens or to help those who lost their cactus to the heavy freeze last year. I will be bringing several pads of the different spineless varieties which are ideal for nopalitos (tender cactus) for your

.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

Flowering Desert Cactus Plant clipart

t

 

June, 2012, Newsletter

Cactus Commerce boosts Morocco

In Cosmetics industry

It is just after dawn in the hills above the Moroccan hamlet of Sbouya and a group of women are walking through the thousands of cactus plants dotted about on the hillside, picking ripe fruits whenever they spot the tell-tale red hue.

But these woman are not simply scraping a living out of the soil. The cactus, previously eaten as a fruit or used for animal feed, is creating a minor economic miracle in the region thanks to new health and cosmetic products being extracted from the ubiquitous plant.

This prickly pocket of the semi-arid south of the country around the town of Sidi Ifni is known as Morocco's cactus capital. It is blessed with the right climate for the 45,000 hectares (111,000 acres) of land that is being used to produce prodigious numbers of succulent Barbary figs.

Every local family has its own plot and, with backing from the Ministry of Agriculture, the scheme to transform small scale production into a significant industry industry is under way.  

Some 12m dirhams ($1.5m) have been pledged to build a state-of-the-art factory that will help local farmers process the ripe fruits. The move is expected to help workers keep pace with the requirements of the French cosmetics industry which is using the cactus in increasing numbers of products.

Lucrative

Izana Marzouqi, a 55-year-old member of the Aknari cooperative, says people from the region grew up with the cactus and did not realize its true benefit.

"Demand for cactus products has grown and that it is because the plant is said to help with high blood pressure and cancer. The co-operative I belong to earns a lot of money selling oil from the seeds to make anti-ageing face cream."

Each member of the Aknari cooperative can pick between 30 and 50 pallets of the fruits in a morning during the season which lasts from July to December. Many of them also work in the factory a short distance away where the fruit is peeled and then the pulp is separated and used to make jam.

The seeds which are ground to produce an oil are the most lucrative part of the plant. The oil is used in more than 40 cosmetic products, and sells at a very high price as a pure skin oil. It takes approximately a ton of the tiny seeds to make a liter of oil.

Parts of the stem are ground into a powder, the flowers flavor vinegar and the pulp of the fruit has been found to lower cholesterol. Nowadays very little is left over for animal feed.

Cactus Brand

Keltoum Hammadi, who runs the Aknari co-operative, says that some of the processes are secret.

"In the cosmetics industry rivals never let the competition know their sources.

"All I can say is that we are working with a number of European laboratories to develop the use of the cactus for slimming."

Keltoum Achahour, manager of Saharacactus in the Sidi Ifni area, explains that her company is collaborating on other new products.

"We are a sort of umbrella for a number of women's cooperatives," she explains. "By forming a group and incorporating we can protect the cactus, create a brand and ensure we get a fair share of the vast sums of money that the international cosmetics industry spends on research and development."

The figs are being used to produce a wide range of products. Exact figures are hard to come by, with each cooperative having its own speciality. Their activities range from making soap to pickling leaves cut into strips, from packing top quality fresh fruits for use within Morocco, to selling on the road side from buckets to lorries that roll up in town early in the morning. Consequently the exact size of the industry remains difficult to measure.

Boost for Women

At present only 20% of the fruits grown for commercial use is processed in the region. The vast majority is still bought in bulk by outsiders who cream off the highest profit. They can buy a box and sell it for 5 times as much. But with greater financial involvement from the government, it is expected that within two years more than 75% of the production will be processed by the townspeople of Ait Baamram. The industry is expected to grow by more 20% next year alone.

More than half of the land suitable for cactus production has yet to be involved in any commercial activity and with 9,000 plants per hectare (or acre) there is still a lot of room for expansion.

It is also an industry that has won women a lot of freedom. Sayka Hafida, a member of the Aknari cooperative, says that her life has been transformed by this organic, naturally occurring plant.

"We still use the cactus leftovers for animal feed and we eat the fruit when it is fresh, and dry it for times when the plants don't produce.

"But I could never have imagined that I could get such a good income from it. You don't have to be educated to work in the factories.

"Our children are feeling the benefits. There is much more money around and it is women who are earning it."

NOTE: While many products developed in our country contain cactus, not enough time and effort has been devoted to cactus and its many uses. And it's not because of a shortage of cactus. We have plenty of cactus, especially in the southwest part of the country. We perhaps need government sponsored seminars to get the movement started. Such activity in the cactus industry could help the economy by creating jobs and products that could benefit us greatly.

We already know about the benefits of cactus for our health. Phytochemical investigation of Opuntia reveals 17 amino acids, eight of which are essential. Studies are being conducted to substantiate the medicinal value of the nopal. Research has shown that Opuntia can stabilize blood sugar levels and is especially effective against type II diabetes. It is also used in the fight against high cholesterol and the battle of the bulge. Apparently nopal prevents excess blood sugar from converting into fats and has an LDL-lowering effect. (LDL, low-density lipoprotein, is the "bad" cholesterol and the one to keep low, while HDL, high-density lipoprotein, is the "good" cholesterol.)

Nopal is full of vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, and fiber. Because of the high content of insoluble fiber (cellulose and lignin), many people use Opuntia products to aid digestion and monitor regularity.

You may associate Opuntia with its introduction and aggressive spread throughout Australia where it quickly out-competed and overgrew other native plant species. Since no native predators existed to put this growth in check, biological controls eventually had to be implemented. Cactoblastus cactorum, a moth and natural Opuntia predator, was deliberately introduced into Australia to control the Opuntia population, a method known as "integrated pest management." Introduction of alien species is always risky, but perhaps if the benefits of Opuntia had been realized in the 1920s, the plants could have been harvested instead of being destroyed by C. cactorum.

Although much research still needs to be done, Opuntia has tremendous commercial potential for foods, cosmetics, and medicines. The prickly pear cactus has come a long way from being considered a pest.

********

The Texas Cactus Council will meet at Jerry's Diner in San Diego, Texas, on Thursday, June 14, 2012, at 6;30 P.M. Invite your friends. You may come earlier if you want to place your dinner order earlier. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

 

Thank you,

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

Cactus with Blooms clipart

 

 

May, 2012, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting at the ranch home of TCC member Natividad Vera in Seven Sisters north of Freer, Texas, on April 12, 2012. The home is beautifully landscaped with wonderful, colorful blooming plants. A collection of cacti pictures was on display on a bulletin board close to the pool. Everyone enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by Mrs. Vera. Many great side dishes, including charro beans, Spanish rice, salads, cake, etc. were also available. Javier Morales and his wife, Elvia, were guests at the meeting. Javier cooked pan de campo (ranch bread) on his cast iron skillets on mesquite coals in the backyard. Some of the members could not wait and took some pan de campo, added butter and polished several pieces before dinner was served. Needless to say, the pan de campo was delicious. Our thanks to all who brought side dishes to the dinner meeting and a great big THANKS to Javier Morales!

The council will meet at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens on a tour planned for Saturday, May 12, 2012. The Botanical Gardens are located several miles from Corpus Christi on Staples St. Staples is located between the two malls (La Palmera and Sunrise). Just drive south until you get to the gardens. There is an admission fee which is about $6. The Texas Cactus Council will pay the admission fee for the members. Non-members will have to pay the fee on their own.

It is suggested that you bring comfortable walking shoes and perhaps mosquito repellent. The Gardens contain a Butterfly Center with hundreds of different butterflies. They may schedule a lady bug release . We will also enjoy the succulent garden.

Please be there by 9:00 a.m. We will start the tour at about 9:30. If you get there late, you will have to pay the admission fee on your own. You may bring a sack lunch if you wish. Others may want to drive over to get a meal close by.

If you've never been to the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens, you are in for a pleasant time.

The South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center is one of Corpus Christi's five major attractions, and a leading South Texas nature tourism destination.

Venture into the delightful 2600 square-foot screened Butterfly House, and new Bromeliad Conservatory. Experience 2000 orchids, 300 breathtaking roses, quaint Hummingbird Garden, imaginative Sensory Garden with fascinating   artscape , Arid Garden and colorful EarthKind Demonstration Trial Gardens. And during our eight warmer months, enjoy the fragrant tropical Plumeria Garden with elevated viewing ramp. Your visits to the Botanical Gardens & Nature Center in Corpus Christi will immerse you in serene beauty, followed by an adventurous ‘ walk on the wild side ' with 11 uniquely stunning floral exhibits and gardens shouting color, followed by quiet trails and boardwalk through identified native habitat and natural wetlands.  

This 180-acre showcase on Oso Creek offers a unique and varied take on botanical gardens-- beautiful new Exotic Parrots, or native wildlife in the new   Reptiles in Residents   exhibit; artistic decorative water features, or vast natural wetlands; majestic Rose Pavilion; or rustic Palapa Grande on scenic Gator Lake-- Corpus Christi's South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center will impress you with its unusual approach to environmental education through creative horticultural design, and fascinating naturescape of natural wetlands and trails through native mesquite forest.   Definitely not your grandmother's botanical garden!

The Botanical Gardens & Nature Center is a   Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail   site. Save some time for   Nature's Boutique   in the Visitors Center, for unique gifts and ‘must haves'! We also host hundreds of school and adult tours, and rent our facilities to members for private parties.

RECIPES

Cactus Stew

1 lb beef or pork (or chicken)... browned and simmered for 1/2 hour covered
Add in one diced onion, diced carrots, corn and what else ya got
garlic, peppers and salt to taste... cook until done,
add cilantro, cumin and peppers and black pepper to taste...
Add in a half pound of prepared diced cactus, add chili powder and tomato sauce.

Cook until done .... serve over rice.

Red Cactus Delight

•  1 1/4 c, cactus fruit (tuna) juice

•  3 c whole   frozen raspberries

•  3/4 c   limeade   frozen concentrate 1/2 c   triple sec

•  3/4 c Jose Cuervo   gold tequila 4 c crushed   ice

•  sugar 1   lime , sliced

•  Combine all but the last 2 ingredients in a blender and blend until slushy, adding more ice if necessary.

•  To prepare glasses, moisten rim with lime slice and dip in a plate of sugar.

•  Fill glasses and garnish each with lime wheel slices. Enjoy. If needed, get a designated driver.

Cactus Sorbet

  • 4 Ripe Cactus   pears 1 Cup   strawberries , chopped
  • 3 Ripe   plums , peeled, chopped 2/3 Cup   sugar
  • 2/3 Cup Spring water
  • Peel cactus pears.
  • Place in blender, process until smooth.
  • Press mixture through a sieve, reserve pulp and juice, throw away the seeds.

•  Place the puree in a saucepan with 3/4 cup strawberries, plums,sugar and water.

•  Bring to boil, stirring .

•  Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes (or) till it is reduced by about 1/4.

•  Place in shallow flat pan, cover, refrigerate, cool for about 1-1/2 hours, then place in freezer for about 1 hour until firm.

•  Break up mixture, place in bowl and beat until slushy, then continue until the mixture is smooth.

•  Fold in the strawberries, return to pan, cover, freeze overnight until nice and firm.

•  Serve in clear crystal dessert bowls.

You will notice that several of the recipes above call for cactus fruit. Most of the cacti has bloomed and you can see the green cactus fruits (tunas) on the mature cactus pads. Hopefully they'll be ready for using in your favorite recipes soon (maybe June or July). We should have a pretty good crop of prickly pears out in the pastures this year.

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The June, 2012, meeting of the Texas Cactus Council is scheduled for the second Thursday in June at Jerry Diner in San Diego, Texas. Please invite your friends, relatives and acquaintances to the meeting.

We will not need a door prize for the tour of the Botanical Gardens. Encourage everyone to join us at the Gardens for a great experience.

See ya at the Gardens,

J. T Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

 

 

April, 2012, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council met for the March, 2012, meeting in Freer , Texas, at the home of TCC members Ida & Abel Perez. The meal was excellent as were the side dishes brought in by some of the other members. Guests introduced were Sarita Garcia and Javier and Elvia Morales. TCC president Emma Martinez introduced some cactus art work. One was a cactus pad with a design of an animal head carved on the cactus pad. The pad was planted on a pot. A lot of possible art activities were discussed.

TCC member Eugene Piette announced that the Master Gardeners Conference is scheduled for October, 2013. in McAllen, Texas, at the McAllen Community Center at Ware & 83. The Texas Cactus Council will possibly have a booth at the conference. A main concern of the Master

Gardeners is a disease that has affected the orange tree orchards and caused a lot of losses to the citrus business. Mr. Piette will provide more information on the Master Gardeners for use in the Newsletter.

The possibility of the TCC visiting the Corpus Christi Botanical Garden was discussed. This should be a very interesting trip. The Botanical Gardens contain a great variety of plants from this area and others. President Emma Martinez will look into the possibility of obtaining a bus for this trip. Some of the members indicated that they would rather drive there themselves.

Our thanks to Abel & Ida Perez for hosting the March meeting.

RECIPES

Cactus breakfast burrito

This is one of my favorite recipes, the cactus mixes very well with these ingredients and tastes very good.

Take the prepared and diced cactus and add to some potatoes that are already pretty well cooked with your favorite spices including garlic and onions.  After a minute or so add a couple of fresh eggs to the mix and scramble all together well.  Heat some tortilla shells and spoon the mixture into the shells, add salsa, roll up and enjoy.

You can also place the cactus, potatoes, etc. on a warm flour tortilla and make delicious tacos. Add picante sauce and share with your friends and neighbors.

********

An article by Willem Van Cotthem regarding feeding cactus to cattle is below:

Are we speaking about the spiny Opuntia ficus-indica (Prickly Pear cactus) or about the spineless variety of it ?

I am convinced that there is no reason whatsoever to introduce this cactus (neither the spiny, nor the spineless variety) in agricultural lands or in rangelands, where sufficient fodder can be produced with a huge number of species. However, when it comes to deserts or desert-like areas, where almost nothing is growing that is really edible for the cattle, I believe that the spineless Opuntia ficus-indica is a fantastic solution for the nomadic herders or the refugees in their camps.

It is obvious to me that the spiny prickly pear is an aggressive invader, as no animal or human being will easily touch the paddles full of very sharp spines.  Where the species appears, it will continue its growth undisturbed and flourish abundantly.  On the contrary, the spineless variety will eagerly be eaten by many animals.  Some poor families in Brazil do even cook the paddles to make a fine soup.  The fig- or pear-like fruits are eaten all over the world, even those of the spiny varieties.

Leaflike paddles of the spineless Opuntia ficus-indica are ued as cuttings. They swiftly produce a number of young racket-like paddles which can be fed to the livestock, leaving one or two paddles on the cutting to keep the plant growing.

When I first visited the extremely dry Nordeste Province in Brazil and discovered the splendid Opuntia plantations, I understood the importance of these enterprises.  Local smallholders are growing this cactus, cutting the racket-like paddles and feeding them to their cattle, or drying them in the sun before grinding them into a powdery meal, which is also used as fodder.

If the Brazilians in the desert-like areas of the Nordeste are continuously extending their spineless cactus plantations there must be a number of good reasons to do so: for them it is not a noxious, invasive weed, but a source of juicy, vitamin-rich fodder.

********

The Texas Cactus Council has a new member. She is Margaret Johnston from San Antonio, Texas.

"Hello members!  I am a botanical illustrator looking to paint the hylocereus cactus with flower and fruit (the dragon fruit cactus)...I live in San Antonio and need to know if anyone knows where i can find this cactus near-by...I am becoming a new member and look forward to meeting everyone...thank you!" __Margaret Johnston

I have told Ms. Johnston that my family has some dragon fruit cactus. It may be a slightly different variety. The photos Margaret shared with me show the cactus with drooping branches covered with beautiful fruit. The cactus that we have has strong, very tall upright branches. All dragon fruit cactus blooms only at night. Bats and moths are busy during the night pollinating the blooms. Margaret will be busy learning more about this cactus. She'll be sharing her findings with us.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet in Freer, Texas, on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at the ranch home of TCC member Natividad Vera, at 6:30 p.m. (3294 CR 406). From mainstreet Freer (Hiway 44) turn north on hiway 59. Go 11 miles and turn left on 2359. Travel 2 miles and turn right on 406. You get to a mail box. Keep on going a few blocks. You will see a reddish brown brick home. Continue and stop at the beige brick home. You're now at the Vera ranch. Mrs. Vera will provide the main dish for us. You can bring a side dish, dessert, salad, etc. if you wish. You can reach Mrs. Vera at (361) 394-7022 (home) or (361) 701-4266 (cell).

J.T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

`

Dragon Fruit cactus

 

 

March, 2012, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council met in Alice, Texas, at El Charro Restaurant, for the February meeting. It was announced that Yeturo R. Reddy, TCC member from India had announced that he would probably come to our meeting in either March or April. We hope that Mr. Reddy will be with us soon. He'll probably let me know when he will come.

TCC president Emma Martinez will be asking members of the Texas Cactus Council to present programs at our meetings. Programs will hopefully be on cactus related subjects. The Internet is full of valuable information on cactus which can be presented at meetings. The programs can also be on personal experience in growing cactus and sharing the benefits of using cactus. A program can be presented by a single TCC member or by two or three members. Many members have a vast collection of photos of cacti from trips made or from their own gardens. Suggestions form the membership will be sought on topics to be presented.

RECIPES

Stuffed Cactus Pads (Nopales Rellenos)

When preparing cactus (nopal) pads, make sure you wear gloves to avoid the   agüates   or tiny thorns. (Or use spineless cactus if you're lucky to have it). Use a potato peeler or small paring knife to remove them.

12 tender cactus (nopal) paddles

3 C. water

6 slices of Manchego or Panela cheese

1/4 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 clove garlic

Salt to taste

1/2 C. flour

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 C. oil  

Boil the nopales in the 3 cups of water with the garlic, onion and salt. Drain. On each of 6 nopal pads place a slice of cheese and 3 or 4 pieces of onion. Top with another nopal pad, 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.

MEDICINAL USES OF CACTUS

Some of the information below has been mentioned in the newsletter before. 

Sharp painful spikes. Grows in the most arid and sunny regions on Earth. This is your average cactus plant. Of the different plants that offer medicinal and nutritional benefits to human health, such as the neem tree or the aloe vera plant, the cactus species is rarely, if ever thought of, as having any health benefits. Cacti are mostly ornamental plants, with their unique and novel appearance and easy-peasy maintenance. But there are some species of cactus that are useful in the field of health and medicine. In this article, learn about the medicinal uses of cactus plants as well as nutritional benefits of the same.


Cactus Plants That Aid in Health and Medicine

All cactus plants aren't edible. The two main cactus species that are medically useful and suitable for human consumption are:

The Prickly Pear or Opuntia

A tangled mass of vibrant green, spiky paddles protruding from a stem and attractive red, orange or yellow bulbous fruit are two key characteristics of this cactus species. The prickly pear cactus is also called the paddle cactus and belongs to the Opuntia genus of cacti. They are also a distinct cactus species, due to their dual spike system, fixed spines and prickly glochids. The leaves or pads of cactus are called nopales and the fruit is called tuna or pear. On peeling the outer skin, the pear can be eaten raw or cooked to make jellies and sweets. The paddles are used in Mexican cuisine like a vegetable.

Eating the nopal or pad of the prickly pear cactus has the following health benefits:

  • The nopal contains pectin, a bio-chemical component that reduces cholesterol levels in the body.
  • Pectin is a useful chemical for diabetic patients, as it helps curb insulin cravings. So the prickly pear's high pectin content makes it nutritious for diabetics.
  • Nopal is a good source of vegetarian protein that aids with water retention in the body. It is also useful for vegetarians looking to supplement their protein levels.
  • Nopal is an excellent source of fiber and hence aids in digestion by regulating the body's bowel functioning. It also aids with water absorption.
  • These fleshy cactus pads are storehouses of nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, B6 and K. They also contain high levels of calcium and magnesium.
  • Just like the nopal, the pear or tuna also contains a lot of fiber in its flesh. So like other fibrous vegetables and fruits, better digestion and a satiated appetite makes both parts of the prickly pear, perfect diet aids in curbing hunger pangs.

Medical benefits of the prickly pear nopal include:

  • Treating constipation and acting as a natural laxative
  • Strengthening the immunity of the body
  • Reducing and preventing inflammation in muscles along the body, from those in the gastrointestinal tract to the muscles in the bladder
  • Reduces cholesterol levels in the body
  • Stabilizes glucose and insulin levels in the body
  • Acts as a source of anti-oxidants
  • Helps treat gastric ulcers
  • Can be applied topically to heal wounds, scrapes and insect bites
  • Helps in reducing the effects of drinking too much alcohol
The Pitaya Fruit

Prickly pear isn't the only fruit-bearing cactus species. Several cactus species, the Hylocereus genus being one example, grow a large, unusual looking fruit called a pitaya or a dragon fruit. Though a native Central American plant, such cacti are also grown in South Asian countries such as Thailand , Indonesia , Malaysia and the Philippines . Depending on their area of growth, pitayas are red or yellow skinned with bright red or white inner flesh. They have vibrant green leaf-like growths protruding from their outer surface. The seeds and flesh can be eaten raw, without the skin of the fruit. You can also make pitaya juice or wine. The health benefits of cactus species bearing the dragon fruit are listed below:

  • This fruit is low in calories but fibrous in content, making it ideal food for dieters. It is also rich in poly-saturated fats, which are healthy fats needed by the body.
  • It is rich in minerals and vitamins like Vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Eating this fruit is said to encourage the release of toxins and harmful chemicals from the body.
  • It also controls and aids in regulating blood sugar levels in patients of diabetes.
  • It is a valuable source of natural anti-oxidants.
  • This fruit is quickly absorbed and metabolized by the body, when eaten, so the pitaya can be used as a natural Vitamin C supplement instead of a pill.
  • It has a reducing effect on cholesterol and blood pressure levels in the body, hence proving its usefulness for those suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.

In summation, the above medical uses of the cactus species, illustrates a characteristic of nature that man should be grateful for: whatever the plant, there is some hidden value or benefit that is useful for man. Even the spiky cactus.

By Rave Uno

 

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, March 8, 2012, in Freer, Texas , at 6:30, at the home of TCC members Ida & Abel Perez. Their address is 5106 Highway 16. It's two miles south from the intersection of Highway 44 and 16. If you're coming from this intersection, the home will be on the right. The name “ L. A. Perez” is on the gate. There may be some balloons at the entrance. If you get lost, call Ida at (361) 394-7058. They will serve brisket and trimmings. Someone volunteered cornbread and cactus/green bean casserole. Drinks and ice have also been promised by another member. You may bring a side dish, dessert, etc. You may also bring a door prize if you wish. Invite your friends and relatives.

 

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

  FLOR DE NOPAL, PRONTO HABRA TUNAS

Prickly pear should be blooming soon!!

 

February, 2012, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting in Falfurrias, Texas, in December, at the home of members Gabriel and Yolanda Guevara. The meal for the evening was fantastic. We had a great turnout of members. Several contributed dishes for the party. After the meal Gabriel introduced Ramiro Sanchez , a local musician, well-known to many. He entertained us to some songs including his own composition “ La Mujer Que Deje”. The old-time favorites brought back memories to many of those in attendance. Our thanks to Mr. Sanchez for his music. Thanks also to the Guevaras for providing their beautiful home and a fabulous meal. Muchas gracias to the other members who brought side dishes.

Market Watch: Elevating the cactus pear

New varieties find a wider market.

LOS ANGELES TIMES article

The cactus pear is the Rodney Dangerfield of the fruit world, beloved by immigrants from parts of Latin America and the Mediterranean basin but largely ignored by most consumers in the United States. That may be changing, however, as the leading domestic cactus pear producer, Salinas-based D'Arrigo Bros ., has introduced four new, greatly improved varieties — orange, red, purple and green — that are firmer, sweeter and juicier than the traditional variety it has marketed for the last 80 years. They're starting to be sold in grocery stores today and are well worth searching out.

It's the culmination of an ambitious 17-year fruit breeding project, headed by two renowned cactus scientists. And as part of an effort to get the word out, the famously secretive D'Arrigo company has cracked the door open to provide information about one of the most fascinating but little-known fruit industries in California.

NOTE: ONE OF THESE SCIENTISTS IS DR. PETER FELKER, HONORARY MEMBER OF THE TEXAS CACTUS COUNCIL. PETER WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN STARTING OUR COUNCIL WHICH WAS INITIALLY CALLED “TEXAS PRICKLY PEAR COUNCIL” This happened when Peter was doing research at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (formerly Texas A&I University).

Of the hundreds of species of cactus, at least 30 are cultivated for their fruit, but the most important by far is the cactus pear of commerce, Opuntia ficus-indica , which originated in Mexico and has been cultivated there for at least 9,000 years. Christopher Columbus brought the first cactuses to Europe in 1495 on his return from his second trip to the New World, and within a century plants of cactus pear — given the ludicrous name of "Indian fig" because they came from the Indies and supposedly looked like figs — had spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. They particularly flourished in Sicily in arid districts with steep, rocky soil, so much so that by the mid-19th century cactus pears ranked third after grapes and olives among fruit crops on the island.

A Sicilian immigrant to California, Marco Rancadore, introduced cactus pear farming at the turn of the 20th century to San Jose, where for several decades commercial development was limited to supplying the demand from local Italian immigrants familiar with the fruit. In 1926, Rancadore sent a shipment of "prickly pears," as they were then called, to the East Coast, where they found a much larger market among the Italian American population, and production expanded.

By the 1920s, there were several growers. Stephen D'Arrigo, who had immigrated to the East Coast at age 17 in 1911 and later started growing vegetables such as broccoli and fennel (familiar from his homeland but then barely available in America) in San Jose, became one of the distributors shipping cactus pears east in the late 1920s; in 1930 he registered a trademark, Andy Boy, depicting his 6-year-old son, Andrew. When Stephen died in 1951, Andrew took over running the family company, which he still heads today, at age 87, taking a particular interest in the firm's cactus pears.

Cactus pear cultivation in the Santa Clara Valley went through several cycles of contraction and expansion in the Depression, World War II and the postwar years. As development in the area increased and land became more valuable, Marco and Sal LoBue, the grandsons of Rancadore, moved most of their production south to Gilroy. In 1968, the LoBue family was ready to give up growing cactus pears, but Andrew D'Arrigo made a deal over drinks at a bar to buy the business, including the production orchards.

A few years later, D'Arrigo changed the name of the product from "prickly pears," which he thought sounded off-putting, to "cactus pears." As labor became scarce he stopped the traditional practice of wrapping each fruit in tissue paper. And in the 1980s he moved his plantings to the Gonzales area southeast of Salinas.

  RECIPES

Grilled Cactus Pads

Tender cactus pads will soon be available in your backyard garden with the coming of Spring. This is an easy recipe which can be a delicious side dish.

cactus pads

olive oil

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. If you're lucky enough to have the spineless variety you'll save a lot of time. 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. You may brush oil and add your favorite spices to the pads. Thicker leaves may take slightly longer to grill. Continue brushing the pads with oil occasionally while grilling. Serve hot.

Quail and Cactus

4 quail cut in half 4 tender diced cactus pads free of spines olive oil medium diced onion and 2 garlic cloves (crushed) I medium diced tomato several sprigs of cilantro cumin (optional)

Place quail in pan with hot olive oil. Cover pan with lid. Cook in medium heat, turning quail every 3 minutes. When quail appear to be half done add all other ingredients. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle cumin and salt & pepper. Poke quail with a fork. When tender, they're ready.

Human and Animal Uses for Cacti
A Work in Progress

Carnegiea gigantea - (Saguaro)
Fruit pulp - which is processed into jelly and wine - is part of Tohono O'odham (Papago) Indians diet. Seeds are also ground and eaten. Birds, including Gila woodpeckers and elf owls, hollow out nests inside the plant.

Echinocactus sp. - (Barrel Cacti)
The spines of this genus were fashioned into phonograph needles and fishhooks.

Echinocereus enneacanthus - (Strawberry Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.

Echinocereus stramineus - (Straw-colored Hedgehog)
Edible fruit tastes similar to strawberries.

Echinopsis chiloensis - (Quiska)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.

Epithelantha bokei - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.

Epithelantha micromeris - (Button Cactus)
Edible fruit enjoyed by birds.

Escontria chiotilla - (Jiotilla)
This Mexican native produces edible fruits known as jiotilla.

Eulychina acidia - (Copado)
Chilean cactus used in the manufacture of rainsticks.

Ferocactus hamatacanthus - (Texas Barrel Cactus)
Juicy, brown fruit is used as lemons and limes.

Ferocactus wislizenii - (Candy Barrel)
Animals eat the fruit. Inside of stems and fruits used to make cactus candy.

Hylocereus undatus - (Pitaya, Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear)
Bright red or pink fruit with green scales is both attractive and edible. It is eaten raw or made into wine and other drinks.

Lophocereus schottii - (Senita)
Stem processed into drugs to fight cancer and diabetes.

Lophophora williamsii - (Peyote, Mescal Buttons)
Plant contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug capable of inducing visions.

Myrtillocactus geometrizans - (Blue Myrtle, Whortleberry Cactus)
Blue fruit resembling a blueberry - Garambullo - is edible.

Nopalea cochenillifera - (Nopal Cactus)
Plant used as a host for the female cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) . Cochineal, a crimson dye, is processed from the body of this insect.

Opuntia acanthocarpa - (Buckhorn Cholla)
Pima Indians steamed and ate flower buds. Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.

Pack rats use fallen joints for protecting nests and for camouflage.

Opuntia bigelovii - (Teddy Bear Cholla)

Opuntia ficus-indica - (Indian Fig)
The edible fruit of this cactus, commonly known as a tuna has a sweet taste similar to watermelon. Fruits also are processed into jams and jellies.

Opuntia leptocaulis - (Desert Christmas Cactus)
Fruit is a favorite food of birds.

Opuntia spinosior - (Cane Cholla)
Skeleton of dead plants used for making furniture.

Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum - (Hairbrush Cactus)
Indians used the bur-like fruit of this cactus as a hairbrush.

Peniocereus greggii - (Queen of the Night)
Edible root and fruit eaten by Indians. Poultice reportedly used for respiratory ills.

Pereskia aculeata - (Barbados Gooseberry)
The small, yellow fruit used in jellys and preserves. Fruit is juicy and slightly acidic.

Schlumbergera truncatus - (Christmas Cactus)
Perhaps the most commercially grown cactus. Its colorful blooms open from Thanksgiving and through the Christmas season.

Selenicereus grandiflorus - (Night-Blooming Cereus)
Stems and flowers processed into homeopathic medicine for urinary tract infections and angina. Reported to have a digitalis-like effect on the heart

The Texas cactus Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 9, 2012, at Charro Restaurant, 1011 W. Front St., Alice, Texas. Their phone number is (361) 661-1409. You may come earlier if you wish. If you can, bring a door prize.

Secretary/Treasurer

J. T. Garcia

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

 

 

January, 2012, Newsletter

We start the newsletter with some sad news. Sylvia Anna Eckroat, long-time member of the Texas Cactus Council, passed away on December 11, 2011, in McAllen,Texas. She was 98. Her late husband, Frank Eckroat, was also a very active member of the Texas Cactus Council. For many years they brought oranges from their orchard for the members of the council during November or December. Sylvia is survived by her son, Louis Eckroat, also a member of the council, and a daughter. Numerous grandchildren also survive her. May she rest in peace. (Click here for her complete obituary!)

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Although we're in the middle of winter, it's time to start planning our garden. We've had our share of dry weather and know the devastation caused by not enough rain. An alternative to face the problems brought about by droughts is to start on a cactus garden right in your yard. While many of us already have some cacti in our yards some have not planted any. And planting cactus in the garden needs no special care. In fact, cacti planted in the backyard can be neglected and it will do as well as cactus that is faithfully cared for.

Cactus Landscaping – Types of Cactus For The Garden

Cacti and succulents make outstanding landscaping plants. They require little maintenance, grow in a variety of climates, and are easy to care for and grow. Most will even tolerate neglect. These plants are also well adapted to potted environments, making them excellent candidates for growing indoors as well.

Types of Cacti

Cacti vary in size, color, shape, and growing habits. They may grow in upright columns, spreading clumps, or spiny balls. They might even be found cascading over large rocks or in hanging baskets. Cacti are available in numerous varieties too, many of which produce stunning flowers. While many types of cactus are native to desert climates, most will tolerate a number of growing conditions. This versatility makes cactus landscaping possible nearly anywhere.

Some popular types of cacti found in landscape settings include the prickly pear cactus . This is known for its broad, flat prickly stems, of which the tips turn coral colored in bright sun. The fruit is very useful in our recipes and is readily eaten by many birds.

The barrel cactus is another, which resembles spine-covered barrels. The cholla cactus has thin round stems and is quite attractive when used as a focal point within the landscape.

Resembling a small pincushion with its tiny spines sticking out from its round ball-like shape, the pincushion cactus makes an interesting addition to the garden.

Totem pole cactus plants are characterized by their large height and spineless column shape.

The organ pipe cactus grows in clusters that look similar to its name-organ pipes.

Cactus Landscaping Tips

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.

Growing Cactus Outdoors

When growing cactus outdoors, choose a sunny, sloped location whenever possible. Locating cactus on a slope allows for better drainage, which is vital when dealing with these plants.

Depending on the types of cactus chosen, beds should be about 6-12 inches deep with well-drained soil specially formulated for cactus plants. This can be purchased or mixed yourself using two parts potting soil, two parts sand, and one part gravel. Cactus plants also enjoy a moderate layer of mulch such as pebbles, rocks, or similar substance.

Once established, cacti require little maintenance and very little, if any, water.

For those wanting to start on their garden but have no cacti to start with, let me know. I have several varieties including spineless cactus which I'll gladly share with you.

 *

We will be asking member James Williams to continue with his rain dances. The drought has been rather hard on everyone and every little dance step could help.

 *

The next meeting of the Texas Cactus Council will be at the home of TCC members Gabriel & Yolanda Guevara on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Their home is on 100 S. Albina St. in Falfurrias, Texas.

If you're coming from Alice or Kingsville, Texas, on Highway 281, turn right on Highway 285 in Falfurrias. You then turn left on Negri St., then a right on Blucher St.  After the right turn on Blucher go one block and turn right on
Albina St and the house is on the left.

If you're coming from Hebbronville, Bruni, etc. on High 285, turn Right on Negri St. then a right on Blucher St.  After the right turn on Blucher go one block and turn right on Albina St and the house is on the left.

If you're coming from the Valley on 281, turn left on Hwy . 285, left on Negri St and right on Blucher St. After the right turn on Blucher go one block and turn right on Albina St and the house is on the left. You can't miss their large, beautiful home on 100 S. Albina St.

 

Gabriel & Yolanda will provide the main course (brisket & beans). Some members of the Texas Cactus Council have volunteered some side dishes, etc.:

Emma Martinez - - - potato salad

Minnie Salazar - - - fruit salad

Ida Perez - - - cake

Dora Mae Canales - - - cake

J. T. Garcia - - - soft drinks & ice

According to the council bylaws, we meet at 6:30 p.m. However, the hosts have asked that you come earlier if you wish to eat earlier. I'm sure Gabriel will be entertaining us. He is a very talented musician. If you have any questions, call me at (361) 207-0966 or president Emma Martinez at (361) 442-3728. You may bring a door prize if you wish.

Click here to watch a short video of the Christmas Party 

Nos vemos en Falfurrias.

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR

May it bring Peace, Joy,

Great friendships and continued

Good Health!

  If any of the Texas Cactus Council members have any suggestions for articles for the Newsletter, please send those ideas in.

 

  Thelocactus bicolor ssp.

Schwarzii

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

December, 2011, Newsletter

Beth Zies, Texas Cactus Council member from Seguin, Texas, has developed another delicious concoction made with cactus fruit. It is the CACTUS SOUR MIX . Her company already prepares Cactus Margarita Mix and Cactus Daiquiri Mix.

Cactus Sour™ Mix

The whiskey sour evolved from the practice of combining citrus and spirits to prevent scurvy among sailors in the British Navy in the 1700s. At its most simple, the modern whiskey sour is simply whiskey, lemon or lime juice (or a combination of the two) and sugar. Cactus Sour Mix™ adds a little sweet prickly pear and a little sour cranberry flavor for a Southwest twist to the classic.

National Whiskey Sour day was observed on August 25th.

Beth's website is www.cactusmargarita.com . Her phone number is (830) 379-7062. With all the holiday parties coming up, this website is the place to visit.

********

The council had a very good meeting in November at Jerry's Diner in San Diego , Texas. We were happy to see our members from Wisconsin at the meeting, Eugene and Kathy Piette and his mother Lorraine Cummings. They are winter Texans who live in Alamo, Texas . Glad you all were at the meeting, folks.  

Leandro Martinez spoke on feeding cactus to cattle during the winter months. George Newman stated that he has burned cactus for cattle using kerosene as fuel. Later he used cactus burners which used butane or propane gas. I showed the group a modern pear burner which has a spark switch which gets the burner going. It, too, uses propane which dispenses the gas through a 25 foot hose. Everyone had interesting questions about using cactus as cattle feed. At this time, many ranchers are burning the spines off cactus to feed their livestock since we have had a very, very, long drought and there is not enough grass or vegetation for the animals. It is rather late for any coming rains to bring any grass but rains will bring lots of useful winter vegetation for the animals. TCC member James Williams will continue to perform his rain dances in the hopes of bringing the needed precipitation to our dry area. Good luck, James.

*

As you know, we were blasted with a very cold winter last year which resulted in much damage and destruction to our cactus. To avoid such losses again, plan to protect your potted cacti by covering it or bringing it indoors. We usually do not get much damage to our cactus gardens in South Texas but last year's cold weather was rather severe. Of course, in northern areas, protection for the cactus is very important. Keep you ear on the weather reports and be prepared. Many cactus lovers will plant pads of their favorite cactus in pots and bring these indoors to assure that they will still have that cactus for the coming year.

*

Schlumbergera is a genus of cactus from the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil . Plants grow on trees or rocks in habitats which are generally shady with high humidity and can be quite different in appearance from their desert -dwelling cousins. Most species of Schlumbergera have stems which resemble leaf-like pads joined one to the other and flowers which appear from areoles at the joints and tips of the stems. Two species have cylindrical stems more similar to other cacti. In Brazil, the genus is referred to as Flor de Maio (May flower), reflecting the period in which they flower in the Southern Hemisphere.

This genus contains the popular house plants known by a variety of names including Christmas Cactus , Thanksgiving Cactus , Crab Cactus and Holiday Cactus , which are Schlumbergera cultivars , and flower in white, pink, yellow, orange, red or purple. (The Easter Cactus or Whitsun Cactus, which may also be called a Holiday Cactus and has vivid scarlet flowers in the most commonly grown form, is now placed in the genus Hatiora .) The cultivars of Schlumbergera fall into two main groups:

The Truncata Group contains all cultivars with features derived mainly from the species S. truncata : stem segments with pointed teeth; flowers held more or less horizontally, usually above the horizontal, whose upper side is differently shaped from the lower side (zygomorphic); and pollen which is yellow. They generally flower earlier than members of the Buckleyi Group and although common names are not applied consistently may be distinguished as Thanksgiving Cactus, Crab Cactus or Claw Cactus.

The Buckleyi Group contains all cultivars with at least some features clearly showing inheritance from S. russelliana : stem segments with rounded, more symmetrical teeth; more or less symmetrical (regular) flowers which hang down, below the horizontal; and pollen which is pink. They generally flower later than members of the Truncata Group and are more likely to be called Christmas Cactus.

As you decorate your home for the Christmas season, you may consider getting some Christmas cactus. They are already available at Wal-mart and most other nurseries. It is a beautiful cactus which can last for many, many years.

RECIPES

Red Snapper & Nopalitos in Cilantro Sauce

10 tender diced cactus pads - - 4 red snapper filets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the nopalitos. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Nopalitos with the cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice , salt and pepper. Place snapper filets in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with the Nopalitos mixture, Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until the filets are cooked through. Serves 4.

*

Grilled Cactus Pads

cactus pads and olive oil

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 pads over charcoal or wood fire for 10 to 12 minutes on each side. Thicker leaves may take slightly longer to grill. Brush pads with oil occasionally while grilling. Serve hot.

*

Candied Cactus

3 cups cubed cactus

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

Vegetable coloring, if desired.

Use prickly pear cactus or cactus from your garden. Singe spines and cut off green layer with a sharp knife. (or use spineless cactus if you're lucky to have it) Cut into 1 inch slices and soak overnight in cold water. Drain and cut into 1 inch cubes. Make a syrup of sugar, water, orange and lemon juice, add cactus and cook until syrup is nearly all absorbed, being careful to prevent scorching. Tint syrup with vegetable coloring, if desired. Enjoy!

Christmas Party

The annual Texas Cactus Council Christmas party is set for Sunday, December 11, 2011, at the Benavides Civic Center starting at 2:00 p.m. and ending at approximately 5:00 p.m. If you wish to participate in the gift exchange, women must bring a woman's gift and men must bring a man's gift ($10 value). Members may invite a guest to the party.

The guests may also bring a gift if they want to take part in the gift exchange . Members are asked to label whether the gift is for a man or a woman.

TCC Vice-President Minnie Salazar contracted with Oscar Herrera who will provide music for the Christmas party. Thanks, Minnie.

NOTE: Since we will be receiving Christmas gifts at the Christmas Party, there is no need to bring any door prizes for this meeting.

The food for the Christmas party will be provided by the members. The members listed below will be bringing the item listed by their names. Please bring serving spoons for the food you will bring. Members are asked to stay after the party to clean up the place. The council does not have to pay for the use of the Civic Center , but we do have to clean up.

Emma Martinez - - turkey

Ray Espinosa - - ham

Ida Perez - - Cake & yams

Natividad Vera - - dressing

Ofelia Garza - - green bean casserole

Minnie Salazar - - mashed potatoes

Alicia Garza Saenz & Betty/ George Newman - - paper goods, knives & forks

Yolanda Zapata - - cranberries & cake

James Williams - - cake

Maria Dolores Perez - - drinks

Evangelina Kujawski - -drinks

Dora Mae Canales - - dessert

Texas Cactus Council - - Hillcrest tamales J. T. Garcia - - gravy, rolls, ice

Minnie Casas - - dressing

We need more side dishes & desserts. For those members who have not yet indicated what they will bring, please call Texas Cactus Council President Emma Martinez and let her know what you will contribute for the party. Emma can be reached at (361) 442-3728. By doing this she will be able to tell the callers what has already been promised for the party.

We're looking forward to seeing everyone at the Christmas party.

May this Christmas be a time of joy for everyone.

May the Good Lord provide us with our

everyday necessities as we proceed with our daily activities,

and may He also continue to

give us the good health so necessary to carry on.

The January, 2012, meeting will be in Falfurrias, Texas, at the home of Yolanda and Gabriel Guevara (2nd Thursday in January). They have a beautiful home and I'm sure we'll be treated to great music provided by Gabriel, who is a very talented musician.

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

 

 

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

November, 2011, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council met in Kingsville, Texas, for the October meeting at the home of TCC member Yolanda Zapata. Vice-President Minnie Salazar presided at the meeting in absence of TCC president Emma Martinez, who was out of state on that date. Yolanda served a wonderful 7 course meal at her beautiful home. The beverage provided was made with prickly pear juice and other ingredients. The food was enjoyed by all. Guests at the meeting were Pat Curry, Fred & Olivia Rodriguez, Michiko Tokuno, George & Eva Perez, and Arnoldo H. Perez, Sr. A bingo-like game called chalupa was enjoyed by the group. The game cards contain numbers & pictures. Winners received prizes provided by the members of the council. We thank Yolanda for her generosity in providing us her home and a great meal for the monthly meeting. Mil gracias, Yolanda.

Several of the guests showed an interest in joining the Texas Cactus Council. Dues are $20 per year per member.

  *

The cactus that was damaged by the severe icy cold weather last winter is slowly but surely coming back. Most of my spineless cactus was destroyed but I managed to locate some of the cactus pads at the bottom of the cactus plants which I planted. They are showing progress and are doing well. They should be about three or four feet tall by next summer. The dead cactus trunks had to be pulled out and thrown away. Among the spineless cactus, I have the 1308, Zapata, Luther Burbank, and Nopal Prieto. Other spineless cactus I have are Especial de Villanueva and Algerian cactus. I also have several fruit cacti which are also spineless. 

I was finally able to burn prickly pear cactus for the cattle. We did get a very small amount of rain which provided green grass and weeds and enabled us to burn the cactus despite the burn ban we still have in the county. I carry water with me in the truck in case some of the dry grass and weeds catches on fire. I have not encountered any problems yet.  

The numerous wild turkeys and quail are enjoying the corn from the deer feeders. Some of these deer feeders are kept active year round, so the birds, hogs and deer are happy and probably fat. The hunters have been trapping hogs and sometimes have to release them because they don't have time to slaughter and skin them. If any of you want a hog or two, let me know. I'll call you when some are in the traps and you can come over, slaughter and take them.  

New members of the Texas Cactus Council are amazed at the many uses of cacti - - as food, as cattle feed, for medicinal uses, etc. The following information has been presented in the TCC Newsletter before but since many questions are still being asked about the uses of cactus, we are providing it once again.

CACTUS. Cacti are succulent perennials that are native to arid and semi-arid regions and are cultivated extensively, except where freezes regularly occur. The land area devoted to cactus cultivation in 2001 was about 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres), mostly for fodder, and over half of which was in northern Africa and northeastern Brazil. Cacti are also cultivated in over twenty countries for their fruits, which commercially fall into three categories: cactus pears, which are the fruits of the prickly pear Opuntia ficus-indica and certain other cacti with flat stems (cladodes), and represent over 90% of the cactus fruits sold; pitahayas, which are the fruits of vine cacti in the genera Hylocereus and Selenicereus; and pitayas, which are the fruits of columnar cacti. Young cladodes are consumed as a vegetable (nopalitos), particularly in Mexico. Nearly all cacti employ a photosynthetic pathway known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), in which the stomates (shoot pores that allow CO 2 entry) open primarily at night, when temperatures are lower and water loss is lower than for the overwhelming majority of plants, whose stomates open during the daytime. The best known edible CAM plant is pineapple, which is cultivated on about half as much area as cacti. Because of their lower water loss, cacti and other CAM plants thrive in dry regions (and also require little or no irrigation when cultivated in other regions.

Cookin' with Cacti

Research is available on the benefits of eating cactus for controlling diabetes. While there is still not a cure for diabetes, consumption of cactus can help control the disease. There are hundreds of recipes available on preparing cactus as main dish, salads, beverages, etc. And people are finding out that cactus is quite delicious. The Texas Cactus Council has published several “Cooking with Cactus cookbooks”. Anyone can go to the internet and search for cactus recipes. You can try the recipes as presented or you can make ingredient adjustments and come up with a totally new (and perhaps better) dish.

Everyone is encouraged to send me your recipes so that I can place them in the Newsletter and share them with rest of the council.

RECIPES

Nopales Rellenos (Stuffed Cactus)

Bake cactus pads until they get soft. Cut a pocket on each pad and fill with your favorite cheese . Dip cheese filled cactus pads in beaten eggs. Place pads in a bag of flour, salt and pepper. Shake bag. Place flour-coated pads in pan with hot oil and fry both sides. You can also fill the pads with diced onions, crushed garlic, cumin, etc. along with the cheese.

Serve with charro beans & Spanish rice. And of course, a margarita on the side.

*

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions

1 lb nopalitos, (tender cactus pads) that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped

Olive oil - - - 2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped

1 medium tomato, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato. Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

*

Prickly Pear Margarita

1/2 cup crushed ice
1 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce undiluted frozen limeade
2 ounces Tequila
1 1/2 ounces Triple Sec
1 ounce prickly pear cactus juice *
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or corn syrup
Lime wedges for garnish

* Named for its pear-like shape and size, this fruit comes from any of several varieties of cacti. Also called cactus pear, the prickly pear has a melon-like aroma and a sweet but rather bland flavor.

In a blender, add crushed ice, lime juice, Tequila, Triple Sec, prickly pear juice, and sugar or corn syrup; cover and mix ingredients (a pulsating action with 4 or 5 jolts of the blender works the best). At this point, a taste test WILL be required (while it's not necessary, it is a requirement - you'll thank me later). Correct with additional sugar or corn syrup if it is too tart .

Serve in Margarita Glasses with coarse salt or Margarita Salt on the rims of the glasses and a lime slice, and serve immediately.

*

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at Jerry's Diner in San Diego , Texas . The restaurant is around the block from the courthouse. They have a great menu and a private meeting room. The quail plate is fantastic! The program will be on pear burning for cattle. Ranchers at the meeting will be asked to tell us about their experiences with feeding cattle with cactus. A pear burner will be demonstrated. and a question and answer session will follow. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m.

Please invite your friends and neighbors. Bring a door prize if you wish.

Nos vemos en San Diego,

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

plbyap1s.gif - 5.8 K

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

BenavidesConnect@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/benavidesconnect

 

October, 2011, Newsletter

The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting at the September, 2011, meeting at El Charro Restaurant in Alice, Texas. For show and tell, TCC member John Smolik, from Kingsville, Texas, brought in an unusual oriole's nest attached to a palm leaf which had fallen off the tree. The delicately woven nest was securely attached to the palm leaf. Orioles are among the better nest builders in the bird world. Our thanks to John for his very interesting presentation.

Pat Curry from Benavides, Texas, was a guest at the meeting. Guests also included Mr. & Mrs. Rafael Espinosa from Freer, Texas. 

I presented a program on how to extract juice from prickly pears (tunas). Once the juice is collected, it can be used in a variety of recipes including beverages, mixed drinks, desserts, etc. For those members who were unable to attend the meeting the steps for extracting juice are below. Obviously many are not able to attend the meeting since they are from all over the United States. We also have some members from Mexico, Australia and India.  

  1. Pick prickly pears (tunas) with kitchen tongs (pears have spines)
  2. Collect tunas in bucket or basket.
  3. Hose down tunas to wash out insects and dust.
  4. Place tunas in freezer.
  5. Place frozen fruit in colander or sieve over a bowl.
  6. As fruit thaws out, the juice will drip into bowl.
  7. Use potato masher or lemon squeezer to squeeze more juice from fruit.
  8. Collect juice. It may be frozen for later use.
  9. Use it in your favorite recipes.

There are not too many tunas left in South Texas , perhaps due to the drought, or maybe hungry animals have eaten them. If you have them in your area, you are lucky. If you send me your tuna juice recipes I'll gladly print them in the Newsletter.

A big thank you to Yolanda Zapata for the wonderful cake she brought for dessert for the meeting. It was delicious.

TCC President Emma Martinez announced that we would have the Annual Christmas Party in December at a place to be determined. Emma will also try to organize a possible tour somewhere in the state. Some of the members will offer suggestions which will be shared with the council.

Our thanks to all those members who have renewed their membership in the council.

*

History of Cactus Use

Although evidence for cacti in human diets goes back more than 8,000 years in present-day Mexico, worldwide consumption has developed only in the last few hundred years. Cacti were introduced into Europe in 1495 from the second trip of Christopher Columbus to the New World. Opuntia ficus-indica spread across the Mediterranean region in the sixteenth century, where it readily grew under the local semi-arid conditions. Also in the sixteenth century, Spaniards introduced Hylocereus undatus into the Philippines , whence it spread throughout southeast Asia . In the nineteenth century, it became established in Viet Nam and is now extensively cultivated in the Mekong Delta, where its tasty fruit with red peel and white pulp is called "dragon fruit." Also in the nineteenth century, the columnar Stenocereus queretaroensis was domesticated in Jalisco, Mexico. None of these species received much agronomic attention until the end of the twentieth century, and even then the money for research and development was meager. Both fruit crops and young cladodes used as vegetables require much hand labor. Although machines have been developed to remove the irritating small spines (termed "glochids") from cactus pears, many improvements in their cultivation await future research. Fortunately many spineless varieties of cactus have been found and used.

Cactus pear. The fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica and a few other prickly pears are harvested in the summer from plants that are one to three meters tall. Harvest can be delayed by removing the early flowers, as is commonly done in Sicily, leading to a second harvest in the autumn that is more valuable per fruit due to lessened competition from other species. One-year-old cladodes can bear five to fifteen fruits each; terminal cladodes with fewer fruits tend to bear larger ones (over 150 g each), which command higher prices. After harvesting, the fruits must have the glochids removed mechanically, after which they are often packaged by color and weight. Fruits with red pulp are prized in the United States and certain European countries, whereas greenish pulp for mature fruits is generally preferred in Mexico. Although sold in supermarkets worldwide, fruits are also sold by street vendors, who slice the peel and provide the exposed pulp directly to the consumer. The relatively large seeds are a detriment to fruit consumption by many, but the seeds are harmless and readily swallowed by aficionados .

Tender young cladodes about 10 to 15 cm long of Opuntia ficus-indica , Opuntia robusta, and a few related species are used in Mexico as nopalitos. About 20,000 acres were cultivated for this purpose in 2001, and nopalitos are also prepared from plants in the wild or growing around houses, or as hedges. The raised portions of the stem containing spines and glochids are readily removed with a knife or by machine. The cladodes are then generally sliced or diced and blanched in a weak saline solution for a few minutes to remove excess mucilage. After draining, the material can be cooked, yielding a vegetable with a taste not unlike string beans or okra. Because of their high fructose and mucilage content, nopalitos are highly recommended for people with type II diabetes. Often the blanched material is pickled and used as a relish or in salads. More than thirty companies sold pickled nopalitos in Mexico in 2001, and this product is in supermarkets worldwide.

Other Uses

Other uses of cacti range from candy made from the stems of barrel cacti that have been infused with a sugar solution to peyote from dried stems of Lophophora williamsii , used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. Flowers have been used for medicinal purposes and to make perfume. The seeds of cacti such as Opuntia ficus-indica have been dried, ground, and then used as a flavoring paste for cooking. Carminic acid, an important red dye for food coloring, can be extracted from dried cochineal insects that feed on Opuntia ficus-indica. Although most cactus pears are consumed fresh, sorbets and marmalades are also prepared from the fruits. The strained pulp of fresh fruits is used as a fruit drink or fermented to make wine. Fruits of cactus pears are also partially dried and sold in brick-sized blocks in Mexico. More than thirty brands of dried and powdered cladodes are sold in Mexico as a dietary supplement. The range of edible products from cacti is indeed great and their use is steadily increasing, as more people become willing to try new and natural foods, and growers search for crops that do not need irrigation.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, October 13, 2011, at the home of TCC member Yolanda Zapata. Yolanda will provide the dinner for the meeting. Her address is 1923 Rettye, Kingsville, Texas 78363. You can locate the map on Google or follow these steps. If you're coming from Alice, Falfurrias, Benavides, etc.: Go East on General Cavazos Blvd. (Walmart is on the right of the street). Turn left on Shelly Blvd. Turn right on Palm Dr. Turn left on Rettye. If you're coming from Highway 77, exit on West General Cavazos Blvd.

The hospital will be on your left. Continue driving until you get to Lowes (on your right).Turn right on Shelly Blvd. Turn right on Palm Dr. and turn left on Rettye. If you get lost call Yolanda at (361) 720-0586 or call me at (361) 207-0966. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting in Kingsville, Texas, on October 13 th . You may bring a door prize if you wish.

  Nos vemos pronto,

 

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

Orchid Cactus

 

September, 2011, Newsletter

********

Visiting Texas - - Seeing Red

We've mentioned cochineal in the past. Our thanks to Texas Cactus Council member Louis Eckroat, from Mission , Texas , for sending in this interesting article.

*

Early travelers who visited our part of the world wrote without exception that this was a land blessed with natural resources.

One of those resources which early Texans sought to exploit was a color. Red.

Before the discovery of aniline dyes in the 1850s and 60s, the world was a pretty drab place for average people. The means for coloring your world were rare and expensive. Especially red.

So what was the source of this Texas red?

Go find some prickly pear cactus. You're looking for pads covered with a white fluff.

Dig into the fluff and you will find a small insect. His name is Cochineal. Pull him out. Now squeeze him between your fingers. You will find them covered in a vivid red.

That's carmine or carminic acid. From the sixteenth century till those cheap, bright anilines came along, the world was crazy for it.

Col. Juan Almonte, on his inspection tour of Texas before the Revolution, noted that there was much potential for the development of the cochineal industry. The twice yearly crop was already being gathered and hauled to Laredo to be sold, ultimately, to agents of the British crown.

What did the Brits want with these bugs?  They were what made the Red Coats red.

They also supplied the red for Indian blankets and war paint. It colored the crimson sashes of Texas Army officers.  And, when the Lone Star flag was adopted in 1839, the red field was bug red. This was nothing unusual. The red stripes on just about every American flag before the Civil War were dyed with cochineal.

It was even used in medicine.  In 1854, Josiah Camillis Massie, a physician and planter residing near Channelview, produced the first medical book written in Texas: A Treatise on the Eclectic Southern Practice of Medicine. With its pages he included a prescription for treating whooping cough in infants and children. It contained cochineal...along with ammonia, licorice, ipecac and opium.

Despite it's potential, the cochineal industry never reached its potential in Texas . The Oaxacans had developed cultivation secrets, but were not eager to share them, especially after that whole independence business. Then came the aniline rainbow, and the cochineal industry died. Or went to sleep.

Over the last several decades demand has grown steadily. People in search of natural and environmentally friendly colorants have rediscovered cochineal. Only now it is more likely to be found in your mouth than on your clothing.

Read the ingredient label on a box or can from your pantry. If you see Natural Red #4, (or just 'natural coloring' in a red tinted product,) that is our little friend.

Is it time for Texas to take part in the new cochineal boom? Maybe someday Landmen will be on the hunt for bug leases.

  *

I had been trying for years to locate Dr. Peter Felker who was with Texas A&M, Kingsville. He had moved to a job in Argentina. He was very instrumental in cactus research at Kingsville. He organized a meeting in the late 1980's where he presented his findings to many, farmers, ranchers and others interested in cactus. This led to the beginning of the Texas Prickly Pear Council. The council later changed the name to Texas Cactus Council since it wanted to study all kinds of cactus besides prickly pear. I remember when a group of us (including Dr. Felker) made a trip to Saltillo, Mexico, to look at the cactus there (mainly fruit cactus). This was around 1991. We brought back quite a load of cactus pads. Some of us still have some of that cactus, which is freeze tolerant in our South Texas area. Temperatures get to 10 degrees in the Santa Rita mountains in the Saltillo area.  

Anyway, I finally was able to locate Dr. Felker through an acquaintance in Florida. He's now a cactus research scientist with D'Arrigo Brothers in California and like Dr. Felker says, “I breed cactus with D'Arrigo Brothers”.

Peter says, “ We made some hybrids between the native O lindheimerii and a commercial fruit cactus 1281 when I was in Texas. We evaluated those progeny in Argentina and found some that were thornless and true hybrids. They also have much greater cold hardiness than the O ficus indica and much greater productivity than O ellisiana.  I have attached a few papers. These clones are available from the USDA Opuntia germplasm center in Parlier California. I suggest it would be good for the TPPC to get some of them and start to multiply them for ranchers”.

I am going to ask Peter to help us order some of these clones from the USDA germ plasm Center in California. I'm sure other members of the council would also be willing to get involved with the clones and other fruit cacti we might be able to obtain through Peter.  

I also mentioned to Peter that we were looking for a fertilizer for our fruit cactus.

He responded:  

"For fertilizing cactus for fruit production, we think the best fertilizer is potassium nitrate which is 13-0-44. This is very good since the pads need 1.2 % N and 4% K and the fertilizer is in the same ratio. If you  sprinkle about  half a pound of this around the base of the plants the fruit production will greatly increase in numbers and size."  

Some of the members had voiced their concern that the fruit cactus wasn't producing much fruit. This fertilizer should help. Another point that I need to make is that we have to replace the older cactus plants which tend to get hollow with age. Simply get a pad from the cacti you want to re-start and plant it. You have the beginning of a new plant. And you will have the very same plant you are replacing.

********

Recipes

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Jalapeno Cactus Cheese Dip

1 (8 ounce) container dairy sour cream
1/2 cup jalapeno or French onion sour cream dip
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded La VacaRica brand Asadero cheese

1/4 cup diced canned jalapenos, drained
1 cup cactus (diced and boiled)
1-1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Combine all ingredients; mix well.
2. Chill several hours.
3. Serve with blue corn chips.

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Nopalito Cheese Appetizers (Josefina Howard)

Sandwich a slice of queso fresco (or other soft, mild white cheese such as Fontina), between two thin, tender nopales. Grill, turning with tongs. Cut into slices and serve with warm corn tortillas. Your favorite cheese may be used instead.

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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.

Grilled Cactus with Red and Green Sauces (Cuisine of the Water Gods)

For red sauce, combine water, plum tomatoes, toasted (seeded and deveined) dried chiles and white onion. Cook until soft; puree. For green sauce, puree husked tomatillos, white onion garlic, Serrano chiles, cilantro and water. Season sauces to taste. Brush whole nopales with with oil and brown on griddle. Serve with grilled scallions, sliced avocado, shredded string cheese, thinly sliced queso fresco, and the red and green sauces. Nopal Pocket Sandwiches: A unique presentation and easy to make ahead. Cut a slit in cactus pad as you would in a pita. Stuff with spiked, chile-spiced chicken or duck meat. Rub with cumin oil and grill until hot throughout. Serve with a pineapple relish.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, 2011, in Alice , Texas , at El Charro Restaurant in Alice , Texas . You may bring a door prize. Their phone number is (361) 661-1409. Hope to see you all there.

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

  August, 2011, Newsletter

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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 (Brownsville, Texas) 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, TX . 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.
During Lent, Garza said, people prepare them with either salmon or tuna croquets. At other times of the year, they can be prepared with pork, hamburger or turkey meat. “And then of course you add all the spicy kind of ingredients like tomato, onions, chiles,” she said.

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, Garza said.
“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.”
 

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Although we lost many of our cactus plants in the garden with the winter freeze, others have come back up and are doing well. Most of us lost our Algerian cactus (with the beautiful waxy looking, shiny, large pads). However, some of mine did survive and are doing quite well. I promised to save some pads for Minnie S. If any one else wants Algerian cactus pads, let me know. I also have some of the spineless (Zapata, 1308 and Luther Burbank). I won't be at this next TCC meeting. I'll be at my younger son's wedding in Las Vegas that week. But I'll take some cactus pads to the September meeting.

Also known as prickly pear , cactus fruit is commonly used as an additive in processed jellies, teas, juices and alcoholic beverages. It is also used medicinally to treat skin and intestinal ailments. Traditionally, American Indians, Mexicans and Koreans have used it to treat burns, indigestion and diabetes .

The flowers of the cactus fruit contain the most usable medical components. Research shows that cactus fruit flowers contain quercitin, rutin, beta-sitosterol, penduletin, leteolin, kaempferol, isorhamnetin-glucoside and piscidic acids. The skin also contains essential nutrients , such as iron, calcium , mangesium and selenium. The pulp contains additional antioxidants , including flavanoids and carotenoids .

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Recipes

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Despite the drought in most of Texas , prickly pear cactus still has produced plentiful cactus fruit (tunas). The following recipe uses the juice of the prickly pear fruit.

How do we get the juice from the tuna? It's quite simple. We've mentioned it before in the newsletter, but we'll mention it again. Using kitchen tongs, collect tunas from the prickly pear plants (remember that the fruit is covered with sharp spines). Place the tunas in a container and rinse them well to remove dust and insects. Place the washed tunas in a container and place them in the freezer until they are totally frozen solid. Remove the frozen tunas and place them on a colander. Set the colander on a pot on your kitchen counter. As the tunas thaw out, the juice will drain into the pot or container. Use the juice to make jelly, your favorite beverage or dessert. See the recipe below.  

NATALIE'S PRICKLY PEAR BBQ SAUCE

1 ¼ c. prickly pear nectar or juice
¾ c. frozen apple juice concentrate
½ c. diced green bell peppers
½ c. apple cider vinegar
½ c. red chile paste or 1 t. red chile powder or less
2 T. fresh roasted green chiles
1 T. diced fresh jalapenos
1 envelope unflavored gelatin or 1/16 t. xanthan gum (health food store)
4 t. soy sauce & pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients & simmer 20 mins. until thick. Use on any type of meat or freeze for later.

STIR-FRIED CACTUS With TOMATOES and HERBS

1 lb edible cactus, small and thin, prickers removed
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/2 small red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 pint small, ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper

  • 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.
  • 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.

The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, August 11, 2011, in Freer, Texas , at Dairy Queen at 6:30 p.m. A program will be presented by James Williams and Myra . You may bring a door prize if you wish.

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

 

 

July, 2011, Newsletter

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The Texas Cactus Council had a great meeting in June in Bruni, Texas, at the home of TCC member Adriana Rivera. Adriana and her husband, Hector, were
very gracious hosts providing the Texas Cactus Council members a wonderful
dinner. The barbecue was delicious as were the desserts. They have a beautiful
home and they welcomed everyone with open arms. After the meeting we were entertained by music provided by TCC member Gabriel Guevara. Gabriel brought his piano organ and delighted everyone with wonderful old favorites. Assisting Gabriel with the singing were several members of the council. Again, thanks to Adriana for all the goodies and Gabriel for his entertainment.

Among the business session of the meeting, the council elected a vice-president to replace Joe Martinez, who passed away earlier this year. TCC member George Newman nominated Minnie Salazar as vice-president. The council voted unanimously to elect Minnie as the new vice-president. Congratulations to Minnie on accepting the position.

The Texas Cactus Council is happy to announce our newest member of the Texas Cactus Council. She is Maria Esmeralda S. Garza from Hebbronville, Texas. Welcome, Maria, to the council!

Council president Emma Martinez brought up the Annual Cactus Cook Off. Cook Off chairman Lydia Canales announced that we had difficulties at the last one we had in Hebbronville. We had been having the cook off in conjunction with the Jim Hogg County Vaquero Festival in Hebbronville, Texas. The difficulty came about because the festival was moved to the outskirts of town where facilities for the cook off were unavailable. A suggestion was made that maybe we could have the cook off in Concepcion, Texas, at the annual FIESTA DEL RANCHO festival, where we’ve had it in the past. Some members offered to check with the Concepcion festival committee about the possibility of having our contest there. We’ll hopefully get a report soon.

The contest provides the opportunity to everyone to bring in dishes containing cactus or cactus fruit (tunas). Each one bringing in a dish must also bring a written recipe. The main ingredient must be cactus or cactus fruit juice. There are four categories that are judged. They are Main Dish, Dessert, Salad, and Miscellaneous. Each category wins a prize for 1st ($50), 2nd ($25) & 3rd ($15) place. A Best of Show is also selected. This winner receives a Best of Show certificate. Everyone is encouraged to bring an entry for the contest. More details will be provided in future newsletters.

The drought situation remains unchanged. The little rain we received in May was not enough and the county burn ban still does not allow us to burn cactus for our cattle. We continue to feed hay and cattle cubes. What’s really helping the cattle now is that we have a great crop of mesquite beans. These are the bean pods of our mesquite trees which are very nourishing to the livestock. And very soon we’ll see the cows with what appears to be lipstick as they feed on the colorful cactus fruit which is now beginning to ripen. The red mouths of the cows will be very noticeable to all. These tunas are also very nourishing for the livestock.

According to a news report I heard, all of Texas may be declared a disaster area because of the drought. The government may provide low interest loans to ranchers and farmers. We will continue to pray for rain. The only chance we have of burning cactus for cattle during the drought is right after a rain shower where the danger of wild fires is diminished. Here’s an observation I found on the Internet :

With his invention of the Blackwell Pear Burner in 1914, John Bunyan Blackwell helped change prickly pear cactus from foe to friend. His hand-held burner singed the thorns from cactus, thereby making it edible by cattle when feed was scarce. According to Bunyan’s son Loyd of De Kalb, “Cattle love hot cactus as if it were a chocolate bar.”

“The cattle soon learned that the roar of those burners meant food,” observed rancher Robert Kuykendall of Tilden, Texas, in 1964. “They’d come running, so hungry they’d eat the cactus as hot as they could stand it.”

In the early days, the burners sold for $12.50, the same price as a cow, says Loyd, who worked for the family business for 31 years. Eventually, the Aeroil Company of New Jersey bought out the Blackwell Company. (Aeroil no longer makes the machines, but Reeves Roofing Equipment Company in Helotes, Texas, makes propane weed burners and pear burners under the Reeves Company name).

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Recipes

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GRILLED MEXICAN SHRIMP WITH PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS


30 (medium to large) shrimp (peeled and deveined)
2 tbsp. chili garlic paste, available in oriental markets
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juice of
1 tbsp. peanut oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 oz. hearts of palm, sliced
1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. prickly pear cactus fruit vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Marinate shrimp overnight in the chili garlic paste, cilantro, lime juice, peanut oil, salt and black pepper. Grill shrimp until cooked all of the way through, about three minutes on each side. While grilling the shrimp: add the cactus and hearts of palm with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

PRESENTATION:

Place the cactus fruit vinaigrette and hearts of palm salad in the middle of the plate. Arrange shrimp around it.

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PRICKLY PEAR VINAIGRETTE

2 prickly pear cactus fruit
1/2 banana
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juice of
1/2 lime, juice of

Peel skin off of prickly pears and the banana and put the fruit into a blender. Add the honey, vinegar, lemon and lime juices and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. If too sweet for your tastes add more vinegar. If too tart add more honey. If too thin add more banana. If too thick add a dash of apple juice. Strain through a fine sieve before serving.

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Red Snapper & Nopalitos in Cilantro Sauce

2 cups cooked nopalitos, diced
4 red snapper filets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Nopalitos with the cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place snapper filets in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with the Nopalitos mixture, Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until the filets are cooked through. Serves 4.
Suggestion: Have a nice cold margarita before enjoying this meal.

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Joan’s Cactus Cake

1 Stick Margarine (½ Cup)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
¾ Teaspoon Cloves – ground
2 Cups Cactus – cooked and diced
1½ Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Cup Raisins
1 Cup Pecans
2 Cups + 1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda (Heaping)

Mix all ingredients. Pour into a greased 7” [18 cms] Angel food cake pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350°.

Joan Von Thun (Shelbyville, Missouri) [A 1st Place Desserts Category winner]

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Thanks to all those members who have mailed in or brought in their dues. If you look at your mailing label on your newsletter you will find a date right next to your name. This is when your membership dues are due. If there is no date by your name, you haven’t paid dues in a very long time.

The next meeting of the Texas Cactus Council will be on Thursday, July 14, 2011, at Pepper’s Restaurant in Hebbronville, Texas, at 6:30 p.m. Invite your friends and relatives. You may come early if you’d like to place your dinner order earlier. You may bring a door prize if you wish. Pepper’s is located at 402 E. Galbraith. Their phone number is (361) 527-4444.

The meeting for August, 2011, is planned for the second Thursday, in Freer, Texas. James Williams will be in charge of the program on that date.

See ya at Pepper’s,

J. T. Garcia
Secretary/Treasurer

Let’s make prickly pear jelly!

 

June, 2011, Newsletter

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We had a good meeting in Freer, Texas , in May. We were happy to see our rain dance man, TCC member James Williams. He was thanked for having helped in bringing the necessary rains. All the members got involved in making rope out of yucca leaves. We had learned the technique on this on our trip to Rancho Lomitas sometime in March. Everyone was amazed at the idea - - making rope with yucca leaves.

Cacti played in important rule in the survival of ancient peoples in the Americas, because of the harsh, dry lands it was an excellent source of food (esp. fruits), fibre, building material etc., etc. Along with this they quite often played a religious part as well e.g. Peyote, a medicinal role, or legendary role e.g. the Mexican Flag with it's design of an eagle perched on an Opuntia, as foretold to the peoples of where they should build their new city/empire.

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Opuntia - Fruits (tuna - especially O. ficus-indica) are eaten, as are pads once spines scrapped or burnt off. Of course, we now brag about our spineless varieties of cacti. Their use is recorded way back into history and has become mythical.

Pads of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia species) were cleaned of their spines, split in half, warmed and used to treat rheumatism, asthma, earaches, and hemorrhoids. Pads could also be used as a poultice for insect bites, snakebites, burns, rashes, sunburn and minor abrasions. The juice of the prickly pear was used for minor rashes, sunburn, and windburn.

The Hopi used roots of cholla cactus (Opuntia species) to treat diarrhea, and Navajos used cholla to treat arthritis.

Early settlers in west Texas , cultivated large prickly pear cactus fences around their homesteads to fend off wild animals. Opuntia, which can survive drought, is a useful food for cattle, sheep and goats especially the specially hybrid spineless forms.

Cochineal, an insect that produces a red dye, was a very important industry before the advent of synthetic dyes, and was "cultivated" on the opuntias, the plants and insects were also were brought back to Europe for this purpose.

Because of Opuntias' importance it is found around the world, due to human intervention, like Sicily, Canary Islands and throughout the Mediterranean, Africa and Australia (where it is now considered a pest/noxious weed).

Carnegiea gigantea (saguaro) - Provides homes for wildlife like woodpeckers. The fruit is a food source for Indians and seeds ground up provided a flour. The skeleton of the plant can be used for building and the cactus ribs were used as splints for broken bones.

It was of such importance to some tribes that they based their annual calendar around the life and seasonal cycle of the saguaro.

Lophophora williamsonii (peyote) - has a chemical similar to LSD called mescaline. Members of the Native American Church are permitted to use peyote in religion under the US constitution.

Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro) - like peyote above, contains chemicals of a hallucinatory nature.

Both of the above (plus other cacti containing hallucinogens) played an important part in (religious) ceremonies dating back many thousands of years (maybe 6-7,000 years) and are represented in many drawings, statues, carvings etc. of a religious/sacramental nature.

Fish hooks were made by ancient peoples from the spines of cacti.

Fruits of Pachycereus, Opuntias, Carnegia, Stenocereus, Mytrillocactus, Echinocereus, Ferrocactus, Hylocereus, and Mammillaria are/were all eaten.

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We finally got some rain, but not enough. But we won't complain. The grass and weeds are about 6 to 8 inches tall and the cattle and the ranchers are happy. And best of all, cattle prices are very good. The “burn ban” is still in place, so we cannot burn cactus for the cattle. Hurricane season starts June 1 st and this sometimes brings good rainfall, hopefully without damaging winds.

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Recipes

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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.

  • 6 large tender nopal cactus pads, cleaned
  • 1/4 medium white onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
  • salt to taste
  • 6 slices manchego, jack or gouda cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup corn oil

Place the whole cactus pads, 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 butter flying 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 pads 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 .

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Nopales in Chipotle Sauce: Nopales en Chipotle

The mild flavor of nopales makes them ideal for combining with more strongly-flavored ingredients, such as chipotles in adobo. This recipe, from San Luis Potosí, is a quick, easy and flavorful vegetarian dish.

  • 2 pounds nopal pads, cleaned and diced
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and roasted on a dry griddle or comal
  • 1/2 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 canned or homemade chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 large white onion, peeled and chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

Place the nopales in a large pot with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomatillos, garlic and chipotles in a blender and puree.

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in the oil until the onion is transparent. Add the puree and the nopales, stir and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with white rice, beans and plenty of warm tortillas for making tacos.

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21 Indicted in Rare Cactus Thefts

A four-year undercover investigation has resulted in the indictment of 21 people on charges of stealing rare cactuses and selling them for up to $15,000 each, federal officials announced Thursday. The investigation, which included federal agents running a phony nursery operation, uncovered the theft of thousands of protected plants in the desert, said Stephen M. McNamee, U.S. attorney for Arizona .

Cactus Extract Eases Hangovers, Study Says

A study has found that an extract of prickly pear cactus can prevent a severe hangover. The 55 adults in the study who received the extract of Opuntia ficus indica instead of a placebo before getting drunk reported milder hangovers, according to the research conducted at Tulane University in New Orleans and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study was funded in part by a firm that markets a product with the same extract.

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The TEXAS CACTUS COUNCIL will meet at the home of TCC member Adriana Rivera on Thursday, June 9, 2011. Her home is located one mile before getting to Bruni , Texas , on Hiway 359 from Hebbronville , Texas . The home will be on the left side of the highway. It's a white and pink brick home. You do not have to bring anything. Adriana and her husband, Hector, will provide the meal, which will consist of barbecue and trimmings. The meeting starts at 6:30, but come earlier if you wish. They'll have balloons and streamers to mark the location. Hope to see all of you there. If you get lost, call Adriana at (956) 286-6663.

James Williams will present the program for the meeting. His topic will be on cactus art. He will show us how to sketch cactus. We're all looking forward to this.

See you in Bruni,

J. T. Garcia Secretary/Treasurer

 

May, 2011, Newsletter

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The Texas Cactus Council had a fantastic time on their tour of Hillcrest Tortilla, Inc. in Hebbronville, Texas , on April 16, 2011. The flour tortilla company has a new facility on Highway 16 south of town.The company is owned by Mr.& Mrs. Bryan Gonzalez, Jr. We were amazed at the modern equipment to produce the very popular and great-tasting tortillas. The equipment mixes the ingredients, makes the dough balls, spreads out the tortillas, and places them on a conveyor belt while they cook. No preservatives are used.The workers place the tortillas in their packages once the tortillas cool down. The packages are labeled with a “use by” date. Another machine places the ties on the packages. We all had the opportunity to sample the piping hot tortillas with butter. They were simply delicious! I pictured hot tortillas with peanut butter and jelly. mmmmmm.

The company also makes tamales. We observed the machine that does this in operation. The corn dough covered meat, cream cheese and jalapeños, beans, etc. comes out of a pipe. The machine itself cuts the dough and filling. The workers merely place the weiner-shaped goodies in a moist corn husk and wrap it. The tamales are then cooked. I suggested to Mrs. Gonzalez that she should try making nopalito tamales. I've always made them and they are very good. They are always willing to try something new. Maybe they'll try this.

A buffet table full of delicious food was there for us. We all pigged out on the freshly made tamales, buñuelos (a tortilla dough pastry), watermelon, an assortment of drinks and, of course, tortillas. They were nice enough to offer our members door prizes which were passed out through a drawing. And guess what? Bags full of their delicious tortillas and buñuelos were given to all of the TCC members! Our thanks to the Gonzalez family and their son, Bryan Gonzales III for their kindness, generosity and attention. We'll never forget this tour. To the Texas Cactus Council members who were unable to come on the tour, you missed a great event. Thanks also to Minnie Salazar for making the arrangements for the tour to the tortilla company.

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Some may remember a time when red dye was blamed for all manner of problems; a time when red M&Ms became candy non gratis . In the wake of the red dye scare, some manufacturers turned to a new, but actually quite old, red coloring -- cochineal. Cochineal, also know as carmine, is made from a scale insect that lives on the pads of prickly pear cactus. If you pluck a bit of the white, cottony substance frequently seen on prickly pear cactus and squish it between your fingers, you will release the vibrant red pigment produced by the insects (and your fingers will be stained for a bit). The white exterior is the covering generated by the bugs to protect their bodies. Cochineal has been used to create a red dye for hundreds of years. Indeed, there was a time when cochineal was second only to gold as Europe's most desired import from Mexico and Middle America .

When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th Century, they were impressed with the vivid red dye being skillfully produced by natives who nurtured the insect-covered cactus, protecting it from weather and animals. The Spanish began exporting the cultivated cochineal to Spain in massive quantities which created huge profits for the country until 1777 when a French naturalist smuggled cochineal-infested cactus pads to Haiti . From there, cochineal production expanded to South America , India , Portugal , and the Canary Islands.

The traditional method of obtaining the dye is to remove the insects from the cactus pads, dry them in the sun, and then grind into a powder. About 70,000 cochineal insects produce one pound of the powder. Carmine is a more purified refinement of the cochineal dye.

As new synthetic dyes were developed, demand for cochineal began to wane in the late 1800s, and although in the 1900s it began to appear as a food coloring in pork sausage, candies, jams, maraschino cherries, as well as in lipstick and rouge, by later in the 1900s cochineal was all but replaced by synthetic dyes. That is, until the red dye scare reared its head. Today, cochineal has re-emerged as a safe alternative food dye and is again being cultivated in the Canary Islands, Peru , and Mexico . Cochineal is currently used in some red, pink or purple candy, yogurt, ice cream, beverages, and other foods, as well as in drugs and cosmetics

Until recently, manufacturers in the U.S. were not required to list cochineal and carmine as specific ingredients in their products, but in response to public protest by certain groups including vegans and those observing Kosher or Halal dietary restrictions, the FDA began to look into the issue in January, 2006. Beginning January, 2011, the FDA will require all foods and cosmetics using cochineal to explicitly state its presence in the ingredient list.

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Well, the severe drought is still with us in most of Texas . Here in South Texas we haven't had rain in quite some time. Some ranchers are already feeding cactus to the cattle. BUT - - the burn ban is still in effect in most of the area, so many ranchers are afraid to burn cactus for their cattle. So they depend on hay, cattle cubes, molasses, etc. which can really add to the ranch expenses. And so again, we're asking TCC member James Williams to perform a rain dance at our next meeting. We'll encourage some of the ladies to join him in this performance. We should get some rain after that.

The prickly pear cactus in the wild is quite colorful with their beautiful blooms, orange, yellow and the rare red-flowering Opuntia. The drought has not bothered the prickly pear cactus. It's doing quite well producing the beautiful blooms and tasty tender pads.

Strawberry cactus is also quite spectacular in their fuchsia (vivid redish, pinkish Purple) or magenta blooms. The fruit, when it ripens in June and July, is delicious - - tasting somewhat like strawberries.  

The cactus plants that we lost during the cold freezing days in winter were trimmed and the dead parts removed. Although some were completely destroyed, some have sprouted. We should have the cactus plants back to normal soon. And we'll be purchasing more at the nurseries to replace the ones we lost.

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NOPALITOS OR NOPALES

Nopalitos - Cactus, or Nopal, is a typical sight in the Mexican landscape. It is not strange that it should find its way into the local cuisine. The use of Nopalitos has its origins in the Roman Catholic observance of serving meatless dishes during Lent; now they are a part of everyday cooking. The paddle, or tender pads, of the plant (called prickly pear in the U.S. ) are eaten as a green vegetable in Mexico . The best young shoots are packed fresh, pickled or preserved. Sliced for convenience, their use lends itself to a variety of dishes, such as traditional nopalitos salad or soup. Combined with seafood, omelets, quiches, and casseroles, nopalitos adds a delicious and authentic flair.

It is believed that one of nopalitos (nopal cactus) properties is a natural diabetes and cholesterol medication, and its also used in the treatment of obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, skin ailments, and viral infections.

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Recipes

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NOPALITOS AND LIME SALAD

2 cups diced, boiled nopalitos
1½ cups tomato wedges
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 cup julienned jicama
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh cilantro

Combine nopalitos, tomato wedges, avocado and jicama in a medium serving dish. Combine oil, lime juice, sugar, cumin and salt. Pour over nopalito mixture and mix well. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Chill and serve. Serves 6.

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Texas Cactus Council president Emma Martinez announced that we need to find a new vice-president for the council, since the vice-president-elect, Joe Martinez, passed away. The nominating committee will bring a nominee to one of our meetings soon. She also stated that the state had already issued the council an identification number. We will be working on the non-profit status next. Thanks, Emma, for all the work you've done to achieve this.

  ********

The next meeting of the council will be in Freer, Texas , at Dairy Queen. The meeting is on Thursday, May 12, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. The program will be presented by J. T. Garcia. He will explain how to make rope from the yucca leaves which we learned at the Rancho Lomitas tour in March. This will be for the benefit of those members who were unable to be on the tour to Rancho Lomitas.

The June, 2011, meeting will be at TCC member Adriana Rivera's home in Bruni, Texas . Details in the next newsletter.

  J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer  

Prickly Pear & fruit

 

April, 2011, Newsletter

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The tour to Rancho Lomitas in March was fantastic. All of us climbed into the trailer, sat and listened to Mr. Benito Treviño, tour guide and owner of the ranch.

As we rode around the ranch we would make frequent stops to see a particular plant which Mr. Treviño would describe in detail. A very interesting plant shown was the yucca, which has large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers They are native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of North America, and are quite plentiful at Rancho Lomitas. The blooms are edible. The petals can be placed on sandwiches or cooked in other dishes and casseroles. Flowers were passed out to all the members who had the opportunity to taste the great tasting blooms. Another thing made with the long, stiff, yucca dagger-like leaves is rope. The tour guide heated some of the sharp leaves on a small propane stove on the trailer. Heating the leaves makes them pliable. Strips were cut from the softened leaves and passed around to all the

Texas Cactus Council members and guests. The strips were tied together making a long rope. The ends were held together and were twisted or braided to make them stronger. The ends can again be held together and twisted to make a stronger rope. In years past, hay stacks were held together with yucca rope.  

The ranch has a nursery full of native plants, including grangeno, Texas ebony, cedar elms, cenizo, anacua, manzanita, chilipiquin, Texas lantana, scarlet sage, wild olive, guajillo, chapote, guayacan, etc. etc. Most of the plants are sold at a very reasonable price - - usually under $3.

The bird-watchers in the group had a great time watching a variety of birds, including curve-billed thrasher, Altamira oriole, green jay, Audobon's oriole, wrens, finches, etc. 136 species of birds are found there. For those who like to follow butterflies, a total of 110 have been identified. For those interested in making a tour to the ranch, go to rancholomitas.com for a detailed description of what you can see and do there.

Thanks, Mr. Treviño, for guiding us through the ranch.

*

Many members have called regarding the damages caused by the ice storms this winter. Many cactus gardens were totally destroyed. My cactus garden was no exception. While the cactus plants were killed and eventually toppled to the ground, many of them are already sprouting from the bottom roots. (I'm already harvesting cactus from some of the spineless cacti which did not receive that much damage). And we all know how fast cactus grows. The plants should be back to normal by this summer. For those who suffered total losses, don't worry. Go to your nearby cactus nursery and purchase what you need. Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Sutherland's, etc. all have vast supplies of cactus. I see many cactus gardens in many homes in the Corpus Christi area. I'm sure most of these people in your communities would be glad to give you a pad or two if you ask. Don't over-water them and be sure they get plenty of sunlight. I'm sure we'll all be smiling again soon.

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Recipes

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Mexican pintos with cactus

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 large flat cactus leaves (nopales)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 slices onion

•  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 leaves, 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.

Cactus Mexican Style

  • 1 lb cactus pieces
  • 1 small tomato
  • 1/4 small white onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (remove seeds if you want it less spicy)
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 1/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1) Steam the cactus until softened.

2) Drain the cactus.

3) Chop and fry all the ingredients except for the Monterrey Cheese.

4) Combine fried ingredients with the cactus and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

5) Top with cheese before serving .

*

Other uses of cacti range from candy made from the stems of barrel cacti that have been infused with a sugar solution to peyote from dried stems of Lophophora williamsii , used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. Flowers have been used for medicinal purposes and to make perfume. The seeds of cacti such as Opuntia ficus-indica have been dried, ground, and then used as a flavoring paste for cooking. Carminic acid, an important red dye for food coloring, can be extracted from dried cochineal insects that feed on Opuntia ficus-indica . Although most cactus pears are consumed fresh, sorbets and marmalades are also prepared from the fruits. The strained pulp of fresh fruits is used as a fruit drink or fermented to make wine. Fruits of cactus pears are also partially dried and sold in brick-sized blocks in Mexico . More than thirty brands of dried and powdered cladodes are sold in Mexico as a dietary supplement. The range of edible products from cacti is indeed great and their use is steadily increasing, as more people become willing to try new and natural foods, and growers search for crops that do not need irrigation .

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Tortillas may not be a part of daily life in other parts of the state, but here in South Texas, there is a very good chance that you enjoyed one today. And in Hebbronville, Texas, where Bryan Gonzalez, Jr. manufactures his culinary delight, they're perfect. With thousands of cheerful customers throughout the state, Hillcrest Tortillas is finding a niche on retail shelves and restaurants around the area.

“It's a combination of fine ingredients and no preservatives that give us a consistent homemade taste” said Bryan, who begin the business in the back kitchen at Hillcrest Grocery a little more than 10 years ago. Because they use no preservatives, the company has no concern competing against larger tortilla companies – that offer tortillas with preservatives – for the simple fact that the taste doesn't compare to what they offer.  

Recently, the business has settled into a new 7,200 sq. ft. facility to increase production capabilities and allow for growth in new products such as the addition of tamales. Their factory is one of the few in South Texas who are making tamales year round under state inspection, which allows them to wholesale the product to new and existing customers.

The Texas Cactus Council will tour the Hillcrest Tortilla Company on Saturday, April 16, 2011, starting at 11:00 a.m. The tortilla factory is on Hiway 16 on the outskirts of Hebbronville on the way to Zapata , Texas . Please invite all members and friends to come over and enjoy the presentation and tour of the place.  

We will all meet at Pepper's at 402 E. Galbraith, in Hebbronville, for lunch after the tour. Pepper's phone number is (361) 527-4444.

 

Nos vemos en Hebbronville,

J. T. Garcia

Secretary/Treasurer

(361) 207-0966

garjo60@stx.rr.com

 

 

 

March, 2011, Newsletter

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We start the Newsletter with some sad news. Joe Martinez, immediate past president of the Texas Cactus Council, has passed away. He died Thursday, February 17, 2011 at McAllen Medical Center . He was 74. Born in Alice , Texas , he was formerly of McAllen and had lived in Alamo for the past two years. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Joe was owner of Enjoyable Tours and for many years took groups of Winter Texans and Texas Cactus Council members to visit different parts of Mexico including Cancun, Copper Canyon, Tampico, Real De Catorce, Parras, Bustamente, San Luis Potosi, Chihuahua, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, Saltillo, Mazatlan, etc.

He is preceded in death by a son, Thomas Michael Martinez, and his parents, Tomas and Eloisa Martinez.

Joe is survived by his wife, Marisol Martinez of Alamo; two sons, Jose Damacio Martinez of Alamo, Jose Conrado (Nora) Martinez II of Alice, Texas; two daughters, Mayra Martinez of San Juan, Anna L. (Thomas) Flynn of Houston, Texas; nine grandchildren; two sisters, Lucila Reynolds of Alice, Rita (David) Jasso of Austin, Texas; a brother, Guadalupe T. (Mary Alice) Martinez of Alice, Texas; and a daughter-in-law, Lydia Martinez of Alice, Texas.

Funeral service was at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, February 19, 2011, at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Pharr . Interment took place at 4:00 p.m. at Lara Cemetery in Alice, Texas, with military honors. Our condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.

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The Texas Cactus Council met in Falfurrias, Texas, for the February meeting. TCC member John Smolic had a very interesting program on cacti and succulents. He brought several different plants which he described and passed out to the members as door prizes. He talked about the damage to plants from the cold weather and ice. Many succulents have to be replaced and some cacti will produce new growth once the warm weather sets in. John mentioned that succulents and cactus need very little water. Over-watering will destroy the plants. In other business, the council decided to change its meeting date from the 3 rd Thursday to the 2 nd Thursday of the month. It was also decided everyone in attendance at meetings would be eligible to receive a door prize even if they do not bring a door prize themselves.

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Recipes

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Chicken Stew with Nopales

  • 6 or 8 nopales pads
  • 1 cut-up chicken - - 2 cups water
  • 3 fresh jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 diced tomato
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • I can tomato sauce

Simmer chicken parts in salted water until tender. Add prepared nopales sliced into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, in a blender combine the garlic, jalapenos and some water. Puree until smooth. Add diced tomato, onion, cumin, tomato sauce and puree to chicken. Cook until done. Salt and pepper to taste.

*

With the Lenten Season almost upon us, it is time to come up with some great recipes for the Pre-Easter luncheons and dinners. The recipes below are quick and tasty.

Cactus/Tuna Sandwiches

1 can tuna fish - - 1 cup diced, cooked tender cactus - - mayonnaise to taste-- dill relish - - ½ cup finely diced celery stalks - - - 1 Tbsp diced onion (optional) - - sliced American cheese (or your favorite)

Mix all ingredients. Toast bread and place a slice of cheese on it. Add tuna/cactus mix on bread.. Make Sandwiches. (You do not have to toast bread). Enjoy.

*

And here's another recipe for Lent:

Cactus/Salmon Patties

1 can salmon - - - 2 eggs - - 1 cup diced cooked cactus - - 1 small diced onion - - 2 crushed garlic cloves - - salt/pepper - - cooking oil

Mash salmon. Add all other ingredients . Mix well. Shape patties with hands. Place them on hot oil on medium heat. Turn when brown. Suggestion: Serve with steamed broccoli and white gravy.

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Cactus Landscaping

Cactus landscaping showcases these sun-loving plants. This low-maintenance landscape design makes for a fascinating and enjoyable pastime. Start with a sunny location and sandy soil with good drainage; no areas should be boggy or have any standing water. Varieties of cactus can be purchased from nurseries or retail stores. Check the growing conditions in your area and select your cacti according to those factors. Plant cactus anytime throughout the year. Place most of your cacti in their permanent positions because transplanting a mature cactus is extremely difficult.

Border your cactus beds with rocks or bricks. This design is similar to a raised bed. Create a wall and then fill it full of cactus-friendly soil. This creates improved drainage and ideal growing conditions for your cacti. Growing cacti in raised areas in the landscape prevents standing water issues such as cacti rot. Place large rock slabs or boulders in the center of the landscape to make a contrasting focal point. Large sculptures, covered wagons, old wagon wheels or a piece of an old pole fence also add interest. Feel free to add succulents and other sun loving plants that need less water in your landscape.

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In lieu of our monthly meeting, the Texas Cactus Council is having a super FIELD TRIP and HISTORICAL TOUR scheduled for Saturday, March 19th, to Rancho Lomitas in Starr County. Rancho Lomitas, a 177 acre ranch, is entrusted to the preservation of the thorny brush wilderness. Our hosts, Mr. & Mrs. Benito Trevino will welcome us at their ranch and share with us valuable information about the ranch's extensive collection of South Texas native plants.

Benito Trevino, a well-known ethno botanist will impart his knowledge while we ride through the ranch on a specially designed trailer. Because of his devotion to preserving the South Texas ecology, Benito is in great demand as a speaker. He appears often on television, speaks to various groups and his presentations are a big hit at nature festivals. He is noted for his wit and extensive knowledge concerning the role native plants play in our South Texas eco-system. He notes that historically our native plants serve as a valuable resource for humans, wildlife and domesticated animals. Some plants are an excellent food source, others are used for medicinal purposes, as shelter material, for landscaping and much more. We might add that one resource, prickly pear cactus (our council's main emphasis) is at the forefront of the ecological chain. We will learn about the edible, medicinal and poisonous plants which we will see as we ride along on a covered trailer. Bring your own refreshments as none are available.

If you are traveling through Hebbronville , Texas , we will meet at FAMILY DOLLAR at 9:15 and leave at 9:30. We will arrive at CARO'S RESTAURANT in Rio Grande City by 11:00 for lunch. Caro's is located on Main St (Hwy 83). Pass Roque Guerra's School, stay on the East lane then turn back on West 83. Caro's is on the right.

If traveling from Kingsville to Falfurrias (S. 281). go to Rachel, Texas, turn right on 755 to Rio Grande City . Instructions to get to the ranch will be given at the restaurant.

We need to be at the ranch by 1:30 for the tour which starts at 2:00 o'clock through 4:00. The admission to Rancho Lomitas is $15 per person. The Texas Cactus Council will pay the admission fee for its members. Everyone else will pay their own way.

If you have any questions, call me at (361) 207-0966, or call the president of the council, Emma Martinez, at (361) 661-0454 – home, or (361) 442-3728 – cell. Please call at these same numbers to let us know if you are going to attend the field trip so we can notify Mr. Trevino how many will be there. Thanks.

J. T Garcia
Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

Fruiting Cactus

 

February, 2011, Newsletter

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The Texas Cactus Council has elected new officers. They are:

Emma Martinez - - Joe Martinez - - - -Vice-President

George Newman - - - -Three year Director

Alicia Garza Saenz & Dora Mae Canales - - Two year Directors

Lucila Reynolds & Josie Slonaker - - One year Directors

Congratulations to all. The Texas Cactus Council By-Laws can be found in the council's website By-Laws.

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The very cold weather was all over South Texas . Extremely icy conditions were present and the result was many broken water lines, much damage to our cactus and in some locations loss of electrical power. The cactus pads were frozen solid and they broke and fell to the ground. Most will sprout once the warmer weather gets here. The cold-tolerant cactus did not suffer much damage. For those cactus enthusiasts who had much damage they will have to start from scratch. Luckily, cactus grows quickly in our South Texas area and we'll all be in good shape very soon. Prickly pear in the wild did not suffer much damage. They will soon start to bloom and continue their cycle. Ranchers are continuing to purchase feed for their livestock and will continue to do so (and burn cactus) until the green pastures are with us again.

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Prickly Pear Cactus Production

The genus Opuntia includes the prickly pear, bunny ears, and beaver tail cacti. It is also called cactus pear and Indian fig ("Figadindi" in Italian). You may have been intrigued by the seemingly erratic growth of the prickly pear cactus, with its pads protruding at all angles; or you may have avoided it because of its sharp, barbed spines and tiny stickers. Everyone, however, can appreciate the prickly pear's large but delicate and colorful blooms and the sweet, succulent fruit.

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.

While the prickly pear cactus is native to the United States, Mexico, and South America, it grows well in many areas of the world, including Africa, Australia , and the Mediterranean. In some areas of South Africa and Australia , it has become a notorious weed. It will grow at elevations ranging from sea level to 15,000 feet. Large commercial plantations thrive in Mediterranean areas, and the fruit is an important agricultural crop of Sicily. In California, the D'Arrigo Bothers plantation is located in Gilroy, off Heckler Pass Road . (Note: Dr. Peter Felker, who did research on cactus for many years at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, works for D'Arrigo Brothers as a research scientist.

Like most plants that thrive in a wide variety of areas, the prickly pear is tolerant of varied soils, temperatures, and moisture levels. The plants grow best in a sunny position in well-drained sandy loam with some protection from cold winter winds. Plants benefit from applications of a balanced fertilizer during their spring-through-fall growing period and, with excellent drainage, can tolerate almost as much water as any other cultivated plant. They are, however, drought tolerant once established. The plants provide great cover for wildlife such as quail, wild turkeys, some doves, roadrunners, etc., where their nests are well protected by the big pads and many spines.

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Recipes

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NOPALITOS CON CHILE (Cactus Chile)

2 lbs cleaned Nopales
1 Onion -- sliced 1/8" thick
1/8 cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil
2 jalapeno chilis
2 Chili Serrano
1/2 bulb garlic
1 Cup Cilantro

Tomato sauce - - Salt to tast Clean and dice nopales. Chop onion into similar sized pieces and place in a large oiled skillet and begin to fry. Add cactus, garlic, tomato sauce and chilis and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Add cilantro and stir. Serve over diced and toasted tortillas or bed of rice. (Note: Remove seeds from chilis if you do not want dish very hot).

*

CACTUS GUMBO

1 1/2 c. chopped cactus
3 tsp. butter
1 can tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 c. water
1/2 lb. hamburger
Salt & pepper to taste
Cooked rice

Cut needles off young cactus leaves and boil until tender (or use spineless cactus). 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.

*

Red Snapper& Nopalitos in Cilantro Sauce

2 cups cooked nopalitos (diced) or a can of your favorite canned nopalitos
4 red snapper filets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse and drain the nopalitos. In alarge mixing bowl, combine the Nopalitos with the cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place snapper filets in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with the Nopalitos mixture, Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until the filets are cooked through. Serves 4.

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The Texas Cactus Council will meet at Strickland's Restaurant in Falfurrias , Texas , on Thursday, February 17, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. The restaurant is located at 1918 S. Hwy 281. their phone number is (361) 325-5222. You may, of course, come earlier if you wish to eat earlier.

The program will be presented by John Smolik. He will present information on cacti and succulents.

A “Field Day” is planned for the council for March. It will be to Rancho Lomitas. More information and details will be provided in the next newsletter.

J. T Garcia
Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

PLEASE BRING YOUR GARDENING IDEAS TO SHARE WITH THE COUNCIL.

CACTUS LANZAROTE

 

 

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January, 2011, Newsletter

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The drought in South Texas continues. According to the weather experts, the reason for the dry situation in this area is because of the weather condition called La Niña.

Across the desert Southwest, often the season is even drier than normal. Tornadoes seem especially numerous during springs and summers of La Niña, and the Atlantic hurricane season can be especially long and dangerous. In 1999, for example, while La Niña conditions prevailed in the tropical Pacific Ocean , 12 tropical storms grew big enough to earn names, eight of them became hurricanes, and five became intense hurricanes.

Here is a rule that is not always exactly true, but still is useful to compare the impacts of El Niño and his contrary sister. Where El Niño is warm, La Niña is cool. Where El Niño is wet, La Niña is dry. While El Niño conditions and their seasonal impacts look very different from normal, La Niña conditions often bring winters that are typical — only more so. There's something else to keep in mind: El Niño and La Niña tend to make seasonal conditions one way or another, but every El Niño and La Niña is different. The bottom line is that pastures are quite dry, pastureland is disappearing and ranchers are scrambling to find ways to feed their livestock. Feed is quite expensive. Hay bales are plentiful. Prizes for them are between $35 and $55 each. The less expensive ones are those of native grasses and Johnson and Buffel grass and perhaps hay from grain fields. Coastal bermuda bales are available and are more expensive as are alfalfa bales (these have to be brought in from farms up north). Then there is the additional charge for the hauling of the bales to ranchers with hungry cattle and other livestock. And, of course, the prickly pear is also there to use as feed for the animals. Cactus has saved many farmers from having to sell their cattle. Farmers are now ready with their pear burners to burn off the spines of the prickly pear cactus. Cattle love the cactus! Other supplements have to be fed in addition to the cactus. It can be hay, cottonseed cake, range meal, cattle cubes, etc. As we've mentioned before, a diet of only cactus can eventually kill the cattle. The many fibers in the cactus can be retained in the cattle stomachs eventually turning to huge volleyball- sized fiber balls. The whole digestive system is paralyzed and death comes eventually. But by feeding any of these supplements no fiber balls will be formed and no problems will be there for the animals. Another problem currently facing ranchers is that most counties in South Texas have a burn ban. Conditions are so dry that wildfires can quickly spread causing much loss and devastation. Some USDA personnel do assist by monitoring cactus burning and being there with fire prevention tips and assistance. They are also there for the annual burning of pastures carried out to eliminate brush and to enrich the soil for the following year. The burnings must be “controlled”. This means it is a fire performed under specific weather and soil conditions. Fire officials must be contacted before the fires are started.

Note : We did get 2 inches of rain on January 8.

Cattle prices are still good. This new year promises even better prices for livestock.

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Propagating Cactus Plants

Although we're in the middle of winter, it's never too late to plan ahead for your cactus garden. You might consider planting cactus indoors in pots. Find out which cactus does well indoors. Ask your favorite cactus nursery or go online to find out. Below are some tips that may help you in making these preparations.

You can easily reproduce your cacti and succulent collection through the process of propagation.

There are a variety of ways to propagate your plant, including division, cutting, starting from seeds, and grafting.

The best method of propagating depends on your plant type. This section will explain the different types of propagation.

Cacti and other succulents are easy to propagate. Any encouragement you can give them will start new growth. Remember that they are accustomed to growing on the dry side and too much water or humidity will cause them to rot.

For successful propagation of any kind you will need to:

  • Develop mechanical and technical skills. Train the hand and eye. Many times the head will know how, but the hand can't do it. Skills improve with practice, and fortunately these plants are quite tolerant.
  • Know the plants' structures and how they grow. You can learn this by working with plants -- let them teach you -- or you can read, take formal courses, or a combination of these. If you understand how plants grow, you will have an easier time propagating them and be better able to cope with the unexpected.
  • Know the different kinds of plants and the methods by which they can be propagated. The form of propagation used depends on the plant and your circumstances.

Starting plants from seeds can be especially gratifying. The greatest satisfaction comes from growing plants from seed you have hybridized yourself.

Each seed is a combination of the heredity characteristics of its parents. For this reason plants grown from seeds can vary tremendously. Many succulents grow very easily from seed if the seed is fresh, but they may take a long time to germinate.

Also, since succulents are very cautious plants, they may germinate only a few seeds at a time. Some seeds start germinating in two days and others may take two years.

Seeds vary considerably in terms of their longevity and viability; many may not have enough vitality to survive beyond germination.

Start seeds in a well drained, sterile mix. Water sparingly but do not allow the seedlings to dry out. Seeds can not germinate until moisture has penetrated the hard seed coat. The taking up of moisture and swelling is a physical thing that may happen even with dead seed.

Because of the problems of seeds dying in the soil or seedlings dying just after they germinate, it is usually best to start seedlings in an artificial mix.

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Recipes

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Grilled Cactus Pads

cactus pads and olive oil

This is an interesting treat for a cookout. Scrub cactus pads well with a vegetable scrubber to remove any spines (or use spineless cactus) 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 pads 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
  • several cactus pads (diced and blanched)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 pound cheese (your choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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 leaves in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl and add shredded cheese and cooked cactus pads. Pour in heated skillet and scramble. Serve warm.

*

Sauteed Nopales, Peppers, and Corn

1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper
1 large onion
1 Tbsp trans-fat free butter
4 small ears of small summer corn
1 lb fresh, blanched, diced firm cactus; Chop cilantro or parsley

Halve peppers, then remove seeds and stems. Cut into 1/4-1/2 inch squares. Cut onions the same size. Cook both vegetables in butter in a heavy pan over moderate heat until just softened.

Shuck corn, than cut from cob. Add cactus and corn to peppers and onion; stir over high heat until vegetables are cooked through, but firm-tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro/parsley and serve hot.

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The next meeting of the Texas Cactus Council is set for Thursday, January 20, 2011 at El Charro Restaurant in Alice , Texas , at 6:30 p.m. The restaurant is located at 1011 W. Front (361-661-1409). You may come early if you wish to place your order earlier. Please park on the south side of the restaurant. The program will be presented by Leandro Martinez. The nominating committee will be presenting a slate of officers for the council to be voted on by the active membership.

 

J. T Garcia
Secretary/Treasurer

garjo60@stx.rr.com

The roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family.

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Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas

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