‘Tis Samhain, and the veil is thin. Remember your beloved’s who have passed on. The oaks have turned earth/air/fire/water and more into lovely acorns, and I went to pay homage to Grandmother Oak for her gifts this morning…she is an elder among oaks in the Topanga Community. Laying in her hollowed belly I looked up to see that intricate dance between the dark and the light. I saw the heart, as nature always provides us with beauty, and was reminded of how this time of year represents the threshold. Beauty can exist at the edges of dark and light, and if we look within ourselves at the thresholds we oftentimes find the vitality of opposites. Wild places remind us to explore the unexamined territories of our own hearts and minds, continuing to live within places we hadn’t yet known were there. In Pablo Naruda’s words, ‘…We need to sit on the rim of the well of darkness and fish for fallen light…’
© October,1997 Mark Hirschhorn
And as the light around us fades
In golden shadows through the glade,
Like distant echoes down the hall,
we answer Samhain’s ancient call.
From everlasting times ‘til now,
To storied lands, we all must bow;
Where magic rings within our souls
And as we shatter, we are whole.
This is the night to join the Dance,
Partake in all-renewing trance;
Where worlds within and out are One,
Our sacred journey now begun.
To greet the ones we loved before,
Our kith and kin from days of yore,
Forgiven foe and long-lost friend –
We dwell among you yet again.
For now the worldly veils are thin,
Where hope and healing can begin.
Our deeds are done; the hour is late
To rest within the arms of Fate.
By fin and feather, leaf and bark,
As sun now banks to sheltered spark;
This year of trial and joy is past
Within the Circle we have cast.
And as the light around us fades
In golden shadows through the glade,
Like distant echoes down the hall,
We answer Samhain’s ancient call …
The photo is of roasted dandelion root ‘coffee’ and some wild fennel seed/acorn flour/wild black walnut biscotti. I hope you are able to sit with some warm drinks and treats with friends and family. That you give your children gifts of the sweetness of life. May you enjoy the dance between the dark and the light!
Happy Halloween! I couldn’t resist the title. Looking for some sweet treats for Hallowmas? Would you like to honor and feed your ancestors with some wild treats? Here are a few ideas. The first is a delicious prickly pear cheesecake, that really held its beautiful fuchsia coloring during cooking. Second is a prickly pear fruit sorbet, containing no added sugar or egg whites. You simply freeze prickly pear juice, stirring occasionally during the freezing process, for a really simple and yummy dessert or palate cleanser. Fun to save the prickly pear fruit shell and fill it with sorbet…bummer the picture turned out crummy.
Prickly Pear Cheesecake
1 1/2 c almond crunchies (*see below), or graham cracker crumbs
6 T butter
1/4 c sugar
1 # cream cheese
1/2 c sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/4 c unbleached white flour
2 t lemon juice
1 t lemon rind
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c heavy cream
1 c prickly pear juice, cooked down/reduced to 1/4 c
*To make ‘almond crunchies’ I soaked almonds in water for 12 hours, drained and pureed with cinnamon and vanilla. This was then spread onto dehydrator sheets and thoroughly dried. Butter your pie pan and press in crust mixture. Take one cup of pure prickly pear juice and reduce over low heat to 1/4 cup. Preheat oven to 300°. Put cream cheese, sugar, and egg yolks into mixing bowl and cream them together. Beat egg whites and fold into creamed mixture. Add remaining ingredients, pour into pie pan, and bake at 300° for roughly 40 minutes. Rotate 1/2 way during the baking process.
Prickly Pear Sorbet
Take freshly processed prickly pear juice and pour into bowl or pan. Only fill to about 2” deep. Stir roughly once per hour until you have a smooth and slushy consistency.
(Photo courtesy Mikey Sklar)
What a prickly trip! Mikey Sklar emailed me about his adventures making stucco out of prickly pear paddles. He and his girlfriend Wendy Tremayne are building an off-grid, eco-friendly bed & breakfast called Green Acre, in Truth or Consequences, NM. Using as many reclaimed materials as possible, along with local resources like prickly pears, they’ve come up with a green stucco slime. You can see photos of the process here, or watch a video to see what they’re about here. Yeehaw for creative folks!
Many of the plants we talk about as being wild food are also strong medicines and otherwise useful in our lives. What do we intend to use the plants for? Do we greet them with reverence? They’ve been around a lot longer than ourselves and react to our energy. Setting intention simply outlines the energy exchange between us more clearly. If that’s hard to choke down…slather a little barbecue sauce on it.
Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce
1 c prickly pear syrup
1/2 c diced red pepper
1/2 c elderberry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
1/2 c hot chili paste
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 T soy sauce
You can click here to read about processing prickly pear fruits into syrup. Combine all ingredients in blender. Pour into pot and simmer until it begins to thicken, ~15 minutes. Refrigerate what you don’t use. Watch out, it’s got some kick!
Another fine recipe idea from Carolyn Niethammer’s The Prickly Pear Cookbook. Original recipe calls for walnuts and pineapple, but I think this conserve tastes delicious and uses local ingredients available here in southern California right now. It’s served over a slice of apple on a Wild Fennel Pepita Chip. Chip recipe comes from Renee Loux Underkoffler’s fabulous book Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods. I substituted wild fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare), widely available on dried fennel stalks right now, and wild ginger (Asarum canadense) powder, for their cultivated counterparts.
Prickly Pear Conserve
2 c prickly pear syrup
18 dates, pitted
4 tsp lemon juice
1/3 c pecans, broken
Grate the orange rind and sqeeze juice into medium saucepan. Add prickly pear syrup, lemon juice, and dates and cook slowly over low until a jam-like consistency. Add pecan nutmeats and cook for 5 more minutes. Put into sterile jars and seal, storing in refrigerator or plunging in hot-water bath to seal.
Wild Fennel Pepitas Chips
3 c pumpkin seeds
1 c flax seeds
1/2 c lemon juice
1/4 c Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or soy sauce
4 dates, pitted…or 2 T honey or maple syrup
3 T wild fennel seeds, or conventional
1/2 t wild ginger powder, or 1 T chopped ginger
2 c water
salt to taste
Soak pumpkin seeds in 5 c water overnight (6-12 hours). Drain and rinse. In blender or food processor mix soaked pumpkin seeds with lemon juice, soy sauce, dates, wild fennel seeds, and wild ginger powder, with enough water to make a paste. Grind flaxseeds and add ground flax meal and salt to this paste in a bowl. Use rubber spatula to spread onto nonstick dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate for 12-20 hours at 108°. Cut into shapes and dehydrate a bit longer.
This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook called The Prickly Pear Cookbook by Carolyn Niethammer. The original recipe calls for red-wine vinegar, but I had made some Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) vinegar previously, so used that instead. A whole chicken was rubbed with garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, thyme, pasilla powder, green chili powder, and salt (pasilla powder and green chili powder came from Native Seed/SEARCH in Tucson, AZ). The Prickly Pear Onion Jam is shown in the photo on top of a slice of heirloom melon. The melon and purslane (Portulaca oleracea ) were purchased at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Be sure to load up with lots of purslane, as not only is it delicious…but it’s full of omega-3 fatty acids and melatonin. You can click here to read current research published in the Journal of Pineal Research.
Prickly Pear Onion Jam
3 medium red onions, sliced thinly
1/4 c shallots, minced
1 T garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 T orange zest
3/4 c prickly pear syrup
1/4 c elderberry vinegar, or red-wine vinegar
Quarter onions and slice thinly. Heat oil over medium heat and combine onions, shallots and garlic. Stir for about 3 minutes, then cover pan and turn down to low. Cook for about 30 minutes, until mixture becomes sweet. Add small amounts of water if necessary, to keep from burning. Add orange zest, prickly pear syrup, and elderberry vinegar and cook uncovered until liquid evaporates. Stir frequently. Pour into jars, storing in refrigerator or plunging into hot water bath for seal.
Found from Chile to Canada, the prickly pear comes in a wide variety of colors and tastes. The Mexicans are particularly fond of prickly pear and it’s said that the Triple Alliance/Aztecs wandered for many generations before seeing an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus in a lake. They took this as a sign and built a city named Mexico-Tenochtitlan…meaning ‘In the moon’s navel – place of the prickly pear cactus.’ This is near Mexico City. Check out the flag of Mexico and you will see the plant if you look closely.
Although you can still find a few random pads for harvesting, that time falls more in the spring. If you can’t wait for spring, there is a little company producing delicious Cactus Jerky, something I’m definitely going to try making later. The fruits, however, are widely available in southern California right now. To harvest I would suggest a pair of tongs, or very thick work gloves. I also like to use a fruit picker to reach fruits growing out of reach. Place them into a container and be careful about glochids (very small stickers) releasing into the air as you harvest.
I then bring them home and fill up a bucket with sand. You can rub them between your hands with the sand, or use a stiff vegetable cleaning brush to rub off the stickers and glochids. Then submerge your fruits into a bowl of hot water, as this softens the glochids even more. I have also tried burning off the glochids and then placing into hot water, this method also works.
The photo above is for making fresh juice. Recipe below highlights how to make syrup. The fresh juice is divine, and most of the prickly pear fruits in this area have a flavor much like watermelon. You can see the fruits cut open, glass bowl is where seeds and pulp are scooped into, and then straining out the seeds and using cheesecloth to further separate. The seeds I got last year were quite hard, but this year’s seem softer. I’ll try and sprout them.
Prickly Pear Syrup
Clean fruits of glochids and remove seedy/pulpy center. Put flesh into large pot, mash it, and bring to a low boil. Strain through cheesecloth to separate seeds. Put seeds to the side and add sweetener to make syrup to your liking. Bring to a boil and place in clean glass jars. Refrigerate or boil in open-water bath.