Extreme cuisine.

Cooking and eating cactus, cactus dishes, cactus juice, jelly, syrup and wine recipe.

So, this story took place on a huge ranch located in the southwestern United States. A friend of mine suddenly noticed a cow calmly chewing on a prickly prickly pear that looked like a chaotic cluster of Mickey Mouse ears. In spring or summer, beautiful flowers appear on the edge of the disc-shaped stems of this succulent, and then fleshy fruits, usually red or yellow.

Cooking and eating cactus, cactus dishes, cactus juice, jelly, syrup and wine recipe, extreme cuisine

“They say cacti taste good,” said my friend. I nodded in the affirmative and asked if he would like to take some with him so that he could eat later in our cabin. We began to cut off the flat oval "leaves" of the cactus with a knife and carefully lower them into the backpack. The cow, continuing to chew, calmly looked at us. And suddenly the unexpected happened. My friend stared at the cow and… took a bite out of a cactus. He apparently decided that a man is in no way inferior to a cow. A moment later, his scream was heard, dozens of thorns immediately dug into his lips.

“Cacti are especially good with blood,” I said. - Wow! In one thing, however, my friend was right: cacti are usually eaten raw, although previously peeled, without glochidia and thorns. There are many ways: walk on them with a small branch with leaves, when the selected cactus segment is still attached to the main plant. Put on thick gloves and roll the torn off segment on the ground, break off the thorns with a wet thick towel. It is recommended to use leather gloves, although they do not always save from pricks, some cactus pickers prefer to work with tongs.

Then you need to cut off a piece from above and below, make a longitudinal incision and remove the skin from the cactus. Below it is a viscous sweet mass, which, according to ethnobotanists, has been part of the human diet for nine thousand years. You can cut the cactus stems in half and eat the flesh with a spoon, sprinkled with lemon or lime juice. Cactus seeds are eaten roasted or dried in the sun and ground into flour for baking bread. In addition, oil is obtained from seeds. The fleshy stems are dried for later consumption - marmalade and sweets are made from them, and a low-alcohol drink is brewed at home.

Today, many edible species of cacti, in particular prickly pear, which is considered the most delicious - but not alone - have spread from their native regions of North, Central and South America to areas of Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and further across the Asian continent, widely found in Hawaii and Australia. But why didn't the practice of eating cacti spread so widely? After all, this plant, by the way, is easy to grow both in the garden and indoors.

If the hobby gardener needs a low-maintenance food crop, then the cactus is the perfect candidate. Just plant it in a sunny spot and the cactus will grow without your help. Frequent watering is not required, the plant will have enough rare rain and fog moisture. However, not many farmers grow them. In Israel's Negev desert, Ben-Gurion University professor Joseph Mizrachi and a group of horticulturists set about breeding, selecting and selling cacti in 1996 because they believe that over time, these plants will turn into a highly profitable agricultural crop.

The farm's orchards grow more than 80 wild species of fruit-bearing cacti, including Kalahari mongongo, Indian "desert apple" and Moroccan argon, as well as 1,500 domesticated hybrids. The products are mainly supplied to specialized markets in Europe. There are about 250 species of prickly pear alone. All of them come from America, and the Indians know best about their properties. No wonder the prickly pear is also called the Indian fig tree.

The Navajo Indians collected prickly disks (cladodia) with the help of horns, and the Apaches used wooden tongs. Most often, the stems were cleaned and eaten raw, and also harvested dried. Sometimes they were kneaded and mixed with venison jerky and tallow, resulting in a dish that could be eaten with the hands or spread on coarse bread. The Indians also roasted unpeeled disks on coals - the heat destroyed the thorns; in addition, they used the cactus as an emergency source of moisture: they cleaned the stems and chewed the juicy pulp.

Young leaves were also peeled, cut and boiled like beans or fried in fat or oil with other vegetables. Nutritious, but not very revered as a product, cacti in the areas where they grow are used infrequently in food, but they are increasingly being tasted in other places, and the geography of these places is gradually expanding. In Mexico and the southwestern United States, young prickly pear shoots are cut into thin slices or wedges and cooked with green vegetables, onions, chili peppers, cheese, eggs, spices, and herbs to form taco fillings. They are also added to salads and scrambled eggs.

Nobel Park, author of Wonderful Agaves and Cacti (1994), advises picking cladodes that are a few weeks old, when they are no more than 30 centimeters long and do not yet have thorns, and peeled with a potato or regular knife, cutting out eyes from which they would later grow needles.

Boil in a small amount of salted water (about a third of the volume of the leaves) over low heat until they are soft (about 10 minutes). If desired, lower the onion, garlic and cilantro there, - writes Nobel. — If a viscous mass remains after boiling and draining the water, rinse with cold water. It will taste like gherkins or green peppers, and the consistency is somewhere between string beans and okra.”

In many parts of Mexico and the southwestern United States, where cacti are called nopal and the food made from them nopalitos, a rather powerful specialized industry has emerged in recent years. As a result, canned cacti appeared in Mexican grocery stores, and cactus candies and jams appeared in tourist shops and supermarkets. Cacti are green succulent plants of the same family (Cactacae), often with characteristic segmented stems, without leaves, but with many spines. Easily tolerate drought.

Some Indian tribes not only ate cacti, but also gave them a cult significance - in particular, they literally whipped their new leaders with thorny stems, thereby endowing them with supreme power and hunting happiness. The Indians also put pieces of cactus in the corners of the new dwelling, "to give the house roots." In China, the cactus is called the hand of a sorceress, which brings bad luck to pregnant women, but otherwise they are favorably treated and eaten with pleasure. Pieces of cactus can be found in salads in Greece, North Africa and the Middle East.

Particularly valued for their succulence, cacti are the only available source of water in desert and semi-desert areas. In addition to prickly pear, cacti of three more genera are distinguished by a high moisture content. First, ferocactus; it, as a rule, is small, looks like a barrel and is abundantly dotted with thorns; just cut off the top and enjoy the pulp. Secondly, cereus, tall, thin, with pronounced longitudinal ribs, sharp needles and prominent fruits; all its parts are edible, and to get water, again, you need to open the stem and scrape out the pulp. The third cactus I want to mention is carnegia, also known as saguaro and giant saguaro.

Its central stem reaches a diameter of 0.6 meters and a height of 15 meters; lateral stems depart from it at a right angle, and then turn up at the same angle. Standing alone on a hilltop, the carnegia resembles a candelabra or a green giant with its arms raised. The monumental carnegia serves as a reminder that the problem of endangered species can also affect the world of cacti. Today, the distribution area of ​​\u200b\u200bthis giant is limited to Southern California, Arizona and the desert regions of northern Mexico. At a time when carnegia was more common, the Indians considered its red sweet fruits a special delicacy and made jams and liqueurs from them, or dried the fruits and ate them with porridge.

As for my friend, who so recklessly decided to eat a cactus, I explained to him that the thorns exist for this, so that there are fewer people who want to eat this plant. - What about the cows? - he asked. “No way,” I replied. They're just more hungry than you. "And only a little more stupid," I added mentally.

Recipe for cactus juice, jelly, syrup and wine.

It's time to get out the kitchen tongs and the 9 liter plastic bucket. Use tongs to pick up ripe cactus fruits and place them in a bucket. Wash the fruit with water from a garden hose. It doesn't matter if water starts to flow out of the bucket, let it flow onto plants that need watering. Now transfer the fruits to a large cauldron and pour 2 liters of water into it. Put the cauldron on the fire, bring the water to a boil and, when the fruits are slightly softened, pierce them with a fork. Juice will flow through the punctures.

After the fruits become soft, crush them, and then fold them into a colander and let the water drain. Strain the resulting juice through three layers of gauze. Now you can proceed to the preparation of cactus jelly, syrup, and maybe wine. There is a wonderful way to make jelly. Mix 1 liter of cactus juice with 4 cups of sugar. Bring the juice to a boil over high heat and, with constant stirring, pour 2 bags of pectin into it. Lower the heat and after a while remove the pan from the stove. Let the liquid cool, pour it into plastic containers and place them in the freezer. Subsequently, after allowing the contents of the container to thaw, you can enjoy excellent jelly.

If, for some unknown reason, jelly doesn’t work out for you, well, you’ll have to be content with cactus syrup. They are good for pouring over pancakes, waffles and ice cream. The syrup is made in the same way as jelly, only pectin is added: 1 sachet will be enough for each liter of juice. To get cactus wine, pour 8 cups of sugar into 4.5 liters of cooled cactus juice. While stirring, add 1 package of yeast there. Pour the juice into a container of the appropriate volume, cover and place in a cool, dark place. The wine will be ready in a month. A necessary caveat: if you close the container too tightly, it may burst, which will hurt male pride and plunge any man into discouragement.