Nature has blessed the desert where I live and harvest with good winter rains, mild winter temperatures, and great summer monsoons.  One of the outcomes of this past years weather is that the fruit on the pads of the prickly pear cacti are full and the fruit for the most part are large and perfectly ripe.   I select the pears that are deep magenta/burgundy color.  I purposefully walk out in desert in the early morning hours with my five gallon bucket, my husband’s best heavy duty barbecue tongs (don’t let him know that I have borrowed these beauties), and my eyes searching the ground for the deserts natural habitat.  I never know which of nature’s wonders I am going to run into.  Several weeks ago, I was greeted by a large deer standing within a few feet of my path. Two days ago, all I could hear was the sound of birds chirping as I pulled the fruit off of the cactus pads.  I know that I have hours of work ahead to harvest the juice but I also know that it is worth all of the effort.  I feel a great kinship to my Grandmother, Nell Hodge, that harvested fruits and vegetables to feed her family of eleven children.  I also respect the history of the harvesting of this fruit.  Hundreds of years ago, the Indians, in particular where I live the Hohokam, used all parts of the prickly pear for food, health remedies and dyes.

Harvesting the prickly pear means that I have about one months window of opportunity to pluck these fruit and extract the pulp and juice contained inside one of nature’s well protected plants.  The outside of the fruit are covered in tiny fine spines that somehow find the way to lodge in my skin to remind me that I need to hold them with respect!  It takes hours to slice, scoop and juice the pears.  They fill my freezer in heavy duty sealed bags (and any friend’s that happens to have any space) in anticipation for the day the juice is needed for my Prickly Pear Juice Lotion or for my Cactus Flower Facial Hydration Mist.  I look forward to this time of the year almost as much as my husband looks forward to the beginning of football season ( I did say almost!).

The harvesting of Prickly Pear is one of natures sustainable desert crops that weathers the ups and downs of climate change.  This years harvest is wonderful!  I know that the clients that enjoy the mist of Cactus Flower Facial Hydration Mist instantly feel the difference in the texture and moisture of their skin.  It amazes me that even hundreds of years ago, that the Indians understood that the juice had the power to treat burns and take the sting out of sunburn.  Somehow, history has a way of recycling and returning its knowledge back to us so that we can use what they knew all along.  Eight years ago, when Sweet P’s was born, one of the first Spa treatments I created was for the La Sonora Spa at Tanque Verde Resort Ranch was the Prickly Pear Treatment.  Today, Sweet P’s Cactus Flower Hydration Mist is being used across the US and even in France.  Thanks to Kelly Tirman for the inspiration for the Mist and to the good people of OpenSkyProject.com that blog and tell their audiences about the products they personally have tried, one of Sweet P’s best selling products is the Cactus Flower Mist and the Prickly Pear Juice Lotion.  Who knew that out my backdoor could be the raw ingredient for such a potent antioxidant and true skin nourishment?  Today more than ever, we need to respect the crops that are sustainable like the prickly pear.  Nature is the only touch that makes contact with these crops (outside of my tongs) as the earth and sky provide all the nourishment needed.  Wildcrafted crops are the true origin of organic produce.  It is a gift that at the end of every summer, the prickly pear fruit ripens and one that I hope to have many more to enjoy to harvest.