Have you ever been curious about those fat, egg-sized purple fruits that pop up at this time of year on the spiny prickly pear cacti along Arizona roads?
Visitors to the first annual Superior Prickly Pear Festival next Saturday, August 25th, will be able to see the plants growing wild on a hike led by Tonto National Forest Archeologist Scott Wood, learn how to harvest and prepare both the pears, or tunas, in jams, jellies or wine and the pads, nopalitos, for use in stir-fry, chili and salads, and sample the finished products.
Natural foods expert Jean Groen and her assistant, Robert Lewis, known for their popular desert foods workshops at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, will demonstrate how to pick, de-spine, juice and utilize all parts of the plant.
Carolyn Niethammer, the Tucson author of the comprehensive and lavishly illustrated “The Prickly Pear Cookbook,” will discuss preparation of this desert delight, including her favorite recipes, and will sign copies of the cookbook.
The first 100 visitors will receive a cactus pad, courtesy of the Arboretum, to take home and either cook or plant in their gardens.
The ranger-led hike along the Legends of Superior Trail to Old Pinal City will begin at 6 am at the Superior Airport, just west of the town on Hwy. 60. The three-hour walk is classified as moderate and hikers should wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water.
Superior firefighters will offer fluffy hot pancakes drizzled with prickly pear syrup from 8 am – 10 am, on the patio at Porter’s Cafe, 404 Main St. A $6 donation is suggested for the breakfast.
A three-hour brewing class will be conducted by Chandler brewers Pete Rendek and his son, Greg, at Porter’s. The Prickly Pear India Pale Ale brewing class is limited to 20 participants and is filling quickly.
The cost is $25 per person and reservations are required. Cheri’s Desert Harvest, Tucson, will offer honey, syrups, preserves and mixes from its vast array of desert food products. Samples will be available for tasting.
Kevin Smith of Mesa will discuss and sell health and nutritional products made from desert plants.
Other vendors will offer photographs, artwork, tote bags and pillows, camp shirts, wine bottle holders, hot pads and other items, all with a prickly pear cactus theme.
Most restaurants in the town will offer at least one menu item on Saturday that features a prickly pear ingredient, from nopalitos with red chili to prickly pear margaritas.
Chocolate prickly pear truffles, Italian ices, prickly pear-sauced barbeque and smoked pears will be available from food vendors.
The festival, the only one of its kind in the country, is sponsored by the Superior Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Other than the breakfast and the brewing class, all events are free.
For festival information, call Lynn Heglie, event chairman, at 520-827-9398, or Sherry Figdore, 520-689-2210 or 520-483-6696.