On Saturday, Aug. 31 the first annual New Mexico Prickly Pear festival took place at Three Sisters Kitchen. According to the website, the festival seeks to celebrate everything prickly pear including food, art and music.
According to Desert USA, the prickly pear cactus, otherwise known as Genus Opuntia, “represent about a dozen species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae) in the North American deserts.” The flesh (tuna) of the fruit produced by these cactus are typically used to make pulp, juice and syrups, among other products.
When asked what inspired the Prickly Pear Festival, Will Thompson, consulting arborist and co-owner of Agri-Environmental, told the Daily Lobo that he used to have a small farm in the North Valley, and one of the things he noticed after he stopped farming was that people really do not utilize the prickly pear even though it is a native food.
“There’s only a couple of companies that sell prickly pear products...so, I wanted to have a festival to highlight all the ways you can use it,” Thompson said.
Thompson said his favorite thing that uses prickly pear is lemonade. He encourages more people who forge or grow their own prickly pears to start businesses.
Three Sisters Kitchen who, according to their website, is all about nourishing each other from the ground up. They held prickly pear cooking demonstrations with Chef Frank Peralto of I-Collective, an autonomous group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists and seed knowledge keepers.
“We’re happy [to be] partners with Three Sister Kitchen, who have a food business incubator program to help people start food businesses... and use prickly pear more,” Thompson said.
Other sponsors and partners of the event included Red Rock Roasters and Agri-Environmental.
When asked about the flavor profile of prickly pear, the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden’s garden and sustainability educator Heidi Anderson said the fruit has a wonderful, floral flavor. Anderson also talked about value in community education based around local plants.
“You should always ask for permission from residents when picking prickly pear fruit in public,” Anderson said.
Kara Deyhle, Albuquerque local and owner of New Mexico Ferments, said the juice used to make their Prickly Pear Kombucha is made from the leaves, fruit, and whole plant to achieve an “earthy” flavor different from most juices. This creates the classic pink pigmentation most people are used to seeing and tasting, Deyhle said.
Other food & beverage vendors included NM Prickly Pear Jelly, A&J Family Farms, Tractor Brewing, Wilder Gardens, Old Barrel Tea Company, Wanderlust Vegan, and Fat City Sweets.
Food and beverages weren’t the only thing featuring prickly pear at the festival. Many arts & crafts vendors also attended and everything from prickly pear paintings to prickly pear soaps were available to festival-goers. The live music that filled the venue in the evening was provided by Liz Howdy and Abigayle Dawn.
Arts and craft vendors included Huebris Arts, Kokopelli Design Studio, Cody Saint Arnold, Mary Ann Maestas, Chelle, Summer, Essentials by Monique, Enchanting Soap Collections, X-Specially -4-U Designs, Sewing Ongoing and Saints Deécor and more.
For more information, readers can visit the NM Prickly Pear Festival website at https://www.nmpricklypearfest.com
Natty DeAnna is a freelance reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. She can be
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