The horned owl stared implacably at Annie and LJ as they slowly walked beneath his home. The Tipu tree provided a high canopy and dense foliage, perfect for a nesting owl. During spring, its yellow flowers blossomed, creating a cascading sun-drenched corona. Although it was mid-day, the nocturnal bird was awake.
“We should back off,” whispered Annie. “I don’t want to disturb him; he’s only awake because of us.”
LJ stopped and nodded towards the giant cactus, “before we leave, look at the amount of Prickly Pear on the Opuntia cactus? They are deep red, so ripe enough to pick.” He quietly opened his long-handled tongs, grabbed a pear, and twisted it off. He worked quickly to harvest the rest. “These will go well in my Prickly Pear Paletas.”
“Thanks, sweetheart. That sounds refreshing, especially since we’re moving into hot weather. Prickly pears, called Tunas in Mexico, contain potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which support blood pressure health. Its betalain protects your digestive system and vitamin C your immune system.”
Yes, cacti have been a source of food and water to Indigenous cultures for thousands of years. Their fruits are superfoods; low-calorie, high-fiber, and nutrient-dense. They contain antioxidants that protect your cells and help reduce HDL (bad) cholesterol levels and body fat,” said LJ as he walked over to the plant of immortality, an Aloe Vera. “I’m going to slice off a couple of leaves to make Hydrating Aloe Water. Its juice provides anti-inflammatory and anti-viral protection for your digestive system. It is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that benefit skin, hair, and nails. We’re going to want it on hand as we move into summer.
“I could use a glass of Aloe water right now. I am so thirsty,” said Annie. She pointed to the Saguaro cacti, “I think we need help harvesting its fruit; it must be ten feet high, and I’m not sure how you harvest it since the fruit is growing out of its top.”
“That’s a job for a professional,” laughed LJ. “I’m not tackling that, but I have read that a pole, up to thirty feet long, developed by the Tohono O’odham people of the Sonoran Desert use it to hook the fruit. Saguaro produces a pod with luscious red pulp, high in fiber, vitamin C, protein, and fat. Studies show it helps reduce cholesterol levels.”
“I’m not sure which I like better, a yummy Saguaro Fruit Smoothie or a Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl. First of all, I didn’t know Dragon Fruit came from cacti, second I didn’t know it was indigenous to Mexico and South America, and third that there are several kinds.”
LJ laughed, “your honesty is refreshing. Dragon fruit’s appearance can be off-putting or appeal to your curiosity if you’re adventurous. Either way, it is a healthy source of vitamin C, iron, and many other beneficial minerals. Its mild taste and high fiber content make it perfect for a gut healing smoothie.”
Annie looked up just in time to see a baby owl peeking down at her, more curious than frightened. “LJ, we have another visitor. It’s a baby owl. Let’s snag some fruit from the Barrell Cactus and leave.”
LJ put his gloves on to retrieve the fruit,” I see the little guy,” he whispered. “These yellow fruits will make a great Chutney. Barrell cactus fruit is rich in vitamins A and C.”
Annie picked up the bags, “the other cacti fruit I would like now are Sea Beans. They are found along the Atlantic coast. Their seeds are known to drift along ocean currents, so they can be found in many parts of the world. Sea Beans absorb the sodium and chloride of the ocean waters. Combined with potassium, the three minerals provide many functions, including nervous system support as it sends communications (electrical impulses) throughout your body. I love a salty, crunchy Sauteed Sea Beans and Onions dish.”
“I thought you were thirsty,” said LJ.
“I am, so let’s make some Aloe water and start planning our first environmentally friendly, delicious cacti meal for our friends. Here’s to another food adventure!” said Annie.
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.
Andrea Breaux is the Founder of Healthy Healing Eats. She writes about food-as-medicine and earth-friendly lifestyle practices. Find her weekly blog, recipes, and products at healthyhealingeats.com.