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Page 4C COMMUNITY Hays Free Press June 10, 2015 Rthesearchers tell us at the prickly pear actus was one of the earliest food crops, with Mesoamericans cultivating Opuntia ficus-indica more than 9,000 years ago. Today in South Africa, the Maghreb, Sicil~ and South, Central and North America the cactus is be- ing grown as a food stuff, as cattle feed, and for the intensely colored, flavorful fruit, known in Mexico as tuna. The Mexican word for the prickly pear cactus, nopales, is based on the ancient Nahuatl nohpalli. Nopales are strips or cubes cut from the pads of prickly pear cactus; 114 different species grow in Mexico. They are sold as spineless, peeled pads in Hispanic markets, and can be used raw or blanched (too much cooking and they get mucilaginous, like slimy okra). Bottled or canned ver- sions packed in brine are available in Hispanic mar- kets and some groceries. These should be rinsed in warm and then cold water, and drained before use. For fresh nopales, obtain tender young pads about 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. Larger ones will be tough and have a papery skin that must be removed before using. Remove all of the small spines on the pads with the blade of a knife. It is easiest to hold the pads with folded-over newspaper or tongs to prevent getting stuck by the thoms while process- ing. Cook briefly in boiling, salted water until just start- ing to get tender but not slimy (see cooking method, below). To prepare the fruit, lay a prickly pear on a cutting HAYS FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO Prickly pear cactus grows wild in central Texas. To grow the common local species you can just cut off a pad from a plant, let the cut surface scab over for a few days, and insert it into the ground. Beware of rattlesnakes when harvesting. Ask Mick by Mick Vann board and cut almost in half lengthwise. Using a knife with a flexible blade, "filet" the flesh from the skin as you rotate the blade around the interior surface of the skin, much like you would a kiwi fruit. You can easily grow prickly pear cactus in your yard, and many ranchers in Texas consider the plant an invasive pest, but they provide a valuable habitat for many critters (includ- ing snakes, so use caution when harvesting). In times of extreme drought, ranch- ers bum the thorns offwith propane torches as graze for their livestock. To grow your own, they require only good drainage and adequate sun. Nurser- ies sell desirable spineless and ornamental varieties, and varieties will soon hit the market that have been bred for larger, sweeter fruit. To grow the common local species you can just cut off a pad from a plant, let the cut surface scab over for a few days, and insert it into the ground. It will grow with a vengeance. The flesh of the pads is used in salads, in pico de gaUo and salsas, with scrambled eggs, in tacos, with meats, and in other dishes. The fruit has a tex- ture similar to ,watermelon, kiwi or dragonfruit, and the sweet, tart flesh can be used in a similar fashion, or juiced and added to drinks (local soda com- pany Maine Root makes a prickly pear fruit soda called "Pink Drink"). Prickly pear fruit also makes a spectacular sorbet. Health freaks will appreciate very high levels of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber, and studies sug- gest nopales could help with diabetes and hang- overs. If you have a question for Chris, send it via email to iathyme@yahoo.com. Or mail a postcard to It's About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748 www.itsaboutthyme.com Huevos Revueltos con - Scrambled Eggs with Cactus Strips Serves 1 The Northern states of Mexico are especially fond of nopales. The blanched or grilled pads are fantastic mixed with scrambled eggs, and then eaten as a breakfast platter, with beans, chile-dusted and browned diced potato, and tortillas, or you can just place the filling inside a hot flour tortilla for a classic Austex breakfast taco. 1 tablespoon lard, bacon fat, duck or chicken fat, or butter 1 large or 2 small scallions, trimmed and sliced 1 large serrano chile, stemmed and julienned (seeds and ribs removed for less heat) cup prepared nopales (see preparation method, below) 2 large eggs, scrambled 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 3 Tablespoons grated Chihuahua or Monterey jack cheese, for garnish Salsa of your choice, as a topping In a seasoned or nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the lard. When shimmering, add the scallion and chile and saut6 for 3 minutes. Add the nopales and saut6 2 minutes. Add the eggs, salt, and pepper, and using a heat resistant rubber spatula, scrape the eggs from the outside-in, just until the eggs are fluffy and set, but still moist. Place on a plate and garnish with the grated cheese, and top with your favorite salsa. Note: To prepare nopales: You can buy them brined in jars (which need to be thoroughly rinsed), but they are much better fresh. Look for prepped (thorns removed), firm paddles in the produce section of gourmet, specialty, or Hispanic markets. If you harvest and prepare them your- self, using tongs or gloves, take a paring knife and excise each group of thorns by slicing just under the surface. When both sides are cleaned of thorns, remove the outside edge, and cut into 1/~ inch strips. To blanch nopales: 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt Pinch of baking soda 1 clove garlic, smashed 1 1A pounds of nopal strips In 4 quarts of boiling water over high heat, add the salt, baking soda, and garlic, stir well, and then add the cactus strips. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, and cook until just starting to get tender, but not limp (about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on freshness). Pour into a colan- der and rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop the cook- ing process and rinse off any slime. Drain well and reserve. Alternatively, prepare the pads as before and grill both sides over a burner or coals until the pad starts charring, turning yellowish, and starts to get tender. In case you weren't paying attention and got pierced with tiny thorns, take a piece of duct tape and lightly drag it across the skin, or put a dab of Elmer's Glue on the thorns. When the glue dries peel it and the thorns from your skin. Montage: Fowl at play in Mountain City Continued from pg. 1C EdwardJones MAKING SENSE OF INVESTING + depending upon where we go. Brown-headed cowbirds. Now, there's an interesting species! They evolved to follow herds of buffalo who stirred up insects as they grazed. With no time to raise their own young, they learned to multiply by placing their eggs in the nests of other bird species who stayed in place during nesting season. The TPWD website says, "The female cowbird finds the nest of another bird, lays a single egg in it, and leaves. The female cowbird may do this an average of up to 40 times per breeding season. In fact, a female in a captive breeding study laid over 70 eggs in a single year. The female cowbird will remove or destroy some or all of the TPWD reports that the removal of one female cowbird enhances the survival of 35 songbirds each year. eggs and or nestlings of the endangered black- the host birds." capped vireo. Although some moms Some ranchers reject the strange new and undeveloped egg in their nest, many landowners around do not. The cowbird eggs Mountain City hatch sooner and they participate in the Texas develop more quickly, Parks &Wildlife Cowbird often starving out the Trapping Program, surrogate mom's own making a small dent in chicks, the local population of TPWD reports that the cowbirds. removal of one female cowbird enhances the ... survival of 35 songbirds each year. Although the It's interesting that law protects all native Lynn Cobb has seen songbirds, in Texas the far fewer fawns in his brown-headed cowbird backyard at the end is an exception because of Live Oak Drive this of an imminent threat to season. That's a good Publicize your engagements, weddings, anniversaries, new babies or birthdays to the Hays County community with an ad in the Hays Free Press. $105 ad includes text and photos. 512-268-7862 or business@haysfreepress.com thing for us, next door. eyes have feasted on the our city council, "Please One year, we put down beauty of one white- Treasure our Little Slice beloved, almost blind tailed doe with twins,of Paradise. Release no Starr, when a doe And, we cannot take inETJ." pummeled her with enough of the beauty of A public hearing a sharp hoof. When painted buntings. They, involving the release of KissMe was younger, too, are fewer this year. a portion of Mountain the hide on his side City's ETJ is scheduled was ripped open from . Monday, June 15, 6:30 backbone to belly. Those p.m. at the Plum Creek deer mommas, they Golf Course. are protective. Those Many of you, whose All of you have my dachshunds, their emails I have on email for submitting ancestors developed to hand, received a link tidbits, right? hunt badgers, to an electronic slideptom5678@gmail.com Just this week, our presentation I sent toThanks! Love, Pauline Lots of times, changes in life also affect your investments. That's why there's never been a better time to schedule your free portfolio review. We'll talk about the changes in your life, and help you decide whether it makes sense to revise your investments because of them. A portfolio review will help ensure your investments are keeping pace with your goals. Call your local financial advisor today. Janet Ross Financial Advisor 251N FM 1626 Bldg 2 Ste B Buda, TX 78610 512-312-2840 Shirley C Malone Financial Advisor 203 Railroad Street Suite 1B Buda, TX 78610 512-312-2332 www.edwardjones.com Member SIPC Jr