|These little blighters are delicious, but uncompromising UHG|
My first meeting with prickly pears was when my friend Moose and I saw a whole lot of ripe ones clinging to a cactus on the side of the road. In a cloud of dust we pulled over and enthusiastically started plucking the fruit. Our enthusiasm stopped about as quickly as the car did, we had become instant human pincushions. The obvious needle-like spikes are a hazard, but it’s the tiny, almost invisible hairs that do the real damage. If you look carefully you’ll notice a little explosion of fine prickles, as the fruit breaks free from the plant when it is plucked. Even wearing full protective regalia, these little fuckers are neigh impossible to avoid. After a long session of removing the nastiest spikes and a fraction of the multiple little hairs, Moose suggested that we should pass the rest of the day away by rolling in a big pile of fiberglass.
|Stef the master of 'The Schnabber' UHG|
Twenty years and lots and lots of foraging later, I decided it was time to try to pick a few again, this time with Stef as my accomplice. He had told me that his father used to pick them with a special picker, so we fashioned one, which we called ‘The Schnabber'. Armed with protective kit and ‘The Schnabber’ we bravely set off for our local prickly pear cactus, which was dripping with swollen fruit. At first ‘The Schnabber’ seemed useless, until Stef exclaimed, “I perfected the technique!” No sooner had he said this, than he accidently tipped one from a height onto my head. Wearing a prickly pear briefly as a hat instantly doubled my hair-count on my balding noggin for a few days, but I would think very carefully if you were considering this method of instant hair transplant.
|Schnabber technique is required UHG|
|Intrepid Stef complete with 'The Schnabber' UHG|
So be warned there are bound to be a few minor casualties (at the least) when foraging for prickly pears. Having said that, there is no doubt that come the end of summer next year, the intrepid Stef and I will be ‘schnabbing’ again… but it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
|Plump little flavour bombs UHG|
|The essential kit, including tweezers UHG|
|Stef making a a fine prickly pear syrup UHG|