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"A prickly-pear cactus flower wine."

The Texas prickly pear cactus is the Opuntia lindheimeri. The broad leaves, called pads or nopalitos, produce pretty yellow to red flowers in spring, which in turn produce red to purple fruit in fall. Both the pads and fruit are edible, but both have tufts of spines protecting them. The spines can be long and large on the pads, but those on the fruit are usually extremely small but just as painful. This wine began as a thought as I was driving past hundreds of roadside prickly-pear cactus in bloom and thought, why not? I do believe any cactus flower in abundance will work, which is why I did not name this recipe "Prickly-Pear Cactus Flower Wine."

Look inside the flowers before harvesting them. I found a bee in almost every one of them, but they left when I disturbed them. With one hand gather the petals and with the other hand cut the petals off with a long, sharp knife. The length of the blade depends on how far you want your hand from the spines that cover the pad the flowers are on. I was very careful and used an 11-inch blade, but still got stuck several times. The petals are quite thick, so use a sharp knife. The petals were mostly yellow, but I collected some orange and a few red ones as well, thinking a hint of rose would make an attractive wine. It didn't matter, as all of the pigment fell into the lees once fermentation ended. This is a delicious white wine, best served cool or cold.


Wash the flowers and put in nylon straining bag with a dozen marbles for weight, tie bag, and place in primary. Heat 1 quart water and dissolve sugar. Cool with frozen grape juice concentrate and remaining water and add to primary. Add remaining ingredients except yeast and stir well. Cover primary and wait 10-12 hours before adding activated yeast. Recover primary and stir daily. When specific gravity drops to 1.020, drip-drain bag and transfer wine to secondary. Affix airlock and set aside. Rack after 45 days and again after another 45 days, topping up and refitting airlock each time. If fermentation has finished, wine should be clear or begin to clear, although pollen will continue to settle for another 1-2 months. Rack again 60 days after wine has cleared, top up and reattach airlock. Set aside another 90-120 days to bulk age. Stabilize, sweeten to taste and rack into bottles. May taste after 6 months in bottle. [Author's own recipe]

Page created October 6th, 2002.

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