Cactus - Cow Tongue
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Cow Tongue Cactus.
Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis
Cactus - Cow Tongue

Uses: Pads, flowers, fruit
Acquired: 2012
How started:
Source: Goody Gerard; Phelan, CA; Yahoo ForageAhead

I acquired this cactus from Goodie, a friend I met on the ForageAhead foraging group on Yahoo. I planted them outside under the eaves of my house, near my banana tree. It is hot and dry in this location. The desert location in California where these came from is colder (-4F) than my place in winter. Goodie recommends a recipe for napolitos with the cow tongue pads from a cookbook by Diana Kennedy called "My Mexican Kitchen." She is an expert on traditional Mexican cuisine -- the real stuff from Mexico, not the Taco Bell version. He followed her directions for sauteing napolitos, which included sauteing for up to 15 minutes until all the goopy fluid disappears. He found them quite tasty and edible this way, especially when sauteed with some garlic and onions.

According to Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest:
Closely related to prickly pears, cow's tongue cacti pads and fruit can be used in the same manner as other Opuntia species. The pads can be peeled then sliced and cooked like green beans though much slimier. The peeled pads can also be sprinkled with your favorite beef/venison jerky spices and then dehydrated into "vegan jerky".

The fruits are usually mashed, boiled, and then strained through a fine mesh such as cheesecloth to release their delicious juice. This juice can be drank straight, made into jelly or wine, or slightly sweetened (it's already quite sweet) then boiled down to make a syrup.

Before doing anything with the pads or fruit you must remove their tiny, almost invisible needles called glochids. Use a barbecue tongs to harvest the pads/fruit and then burn off the glochids with a torch or gas stovetop.

Peel the fruit (tuna) then mash it up in a saucepan. Add just enough water so as to cover the pulp then boil for about ten minutes. Let the resulting juice cool a little then filter out the pulp and seeds through cheesecloth or other fine filter.

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