More Rains Bring More Desert Tunas

More Rains Bring More Desert Tunas 2015-08-01

I’m wondering if that title will grab attention, eliciting a, “Whah the…?” Not fish, or even the mythical sand trout of the Rillito River, the Tunas are the buds, or fruit of the local prickly pear cactus. These make a sweet, drink, marmalade, wine or liquor. It is very healthy and nutritious see here:

I had noticed that this year, although many of the usual desert harvest plants have produced less due to odd rain patterns, that my yard is full of buds (tunas). We wanted to pick nude. Nude is better, we are more aware in the spiny groups of pads and then there was the heat. The tiny needles can catch on unawares to pants, becoming a problem later, and cooped up in any tight clothing is silly. There are the prudish neighbor’s windows to the south, where most of the prickly pears have congregated.IMG_1704T The other vegetation is quite thick obscuring their view, but their kitchen window can see us in spots. Having had troubles with their nonsense in the past, I placed the vehicles along these areas as best as I could, plugging up these holes, blocking their potential view of us. Most of the border, was safe to travel in.

I had been up earlier to run down some cheese cloth, we had been out late the previous night at a drumming party; DF had had a full weeks work, so we were getting a late start. This was good planning. Those neighbors have four kids which stay indoors most of summer when it is hot outside. After around 10:30am people tend to stay indoors. We know that the neighbors would not be out roaming, thereby giving our area privacy, by just stay out of sight of those kitchen windows. The neighbors to the west have no concern with our nude predilections, accepting completely the sight of the naked. Our advantage is that our nude bodies are better adapted to the heat and while textiles may hide from discomfort, we actually feel pretty good in that sun, free to roam nude.

We had tongs, two paper grocery sacks, and shoes as equipment to capture the tunas. They vary as to their ripeness, shown to us by color. We left at least one on each pad for the critters who may end up depending on them and in respect for their dependence on the critters to spread seed. {1702 Tunas and needles} We avoided the interior of the patches, just to avoid precarious acrobatic stretches amongst thousands of needles and toward the same sustainable ecological effect. The bounty piled in the bags fast.


WE had to don some coverage as we headed down the property line. I chose a wrap miniskirt like thing and DF slipped a long sleeveless top over, until we found ourselves out of harm’s way just a few minutes later. We had as many tunas as we cared to process in one day.
The air-conditioning and ceiling fan felt chilly after our foray, as we walked through the door.

We began the process by laying out numerous bowls and filtering systems and began production. Mostly, I would pick the buds out with the tongs into a mesh sifter, run water spray over them to clean them of dust and loose needles. IMG_1699TThe odds of someone peeing on them, etc. was nil and we had just had two strong rains the previous two nights, so this washing was enough. I then filled my blender and ground the whole, seeds and all, into a pasty juice.

Native American flute music played in the background as we methodically focused on our tasks.

Meanwhile, DF strained the pulp with another strainer into a bowl, and then through several layers of cheese cloth. Ultimately, we had several mason jars filled with juice and a container placed into the freezer for something sorbet-like later. The juice begins to ferment relatively quickly. I like to set aside a tad for that. There were seeds burning in the blender during one batch, giving a smoked taste to one jar. That will be a fun experiment. I intend to ferment some of this, too.


After a couple of hours of this, we began lunch. The day would still pleasant for us nudes in the shade we hoped. We wanted to eat out under the porch surrounded with desert view and peace. DF opened the door to check that and was surprised to be greeted by a sprinkling of warm monsoon afternoon rain! This cools the air as the breeze blows lightly through it. This makes the dining area even more inviting for the naked. We carried warm green chili, white cheese, non-GMO corn tamales with fresh steamed spinach lightly coated with a Dijon mustard (not from desert mustard) through the light rain to the porch area. I placed prickly pear/banana smoothies into some thick BEER mugs.

The cool breeze danced over our bodies as the rain picked up. The wonderful smells of a newly moistened desert’s landscape was wonderful and familiar. The relief of rain is always a happy time and that association just doesn’t ever go away. We sat silently meditating this event. In the distance rolling thunder could be heard. In time there was an increase of rain, which came with an increased wind. We watched it falling at 45 degrees around us from the south, our left, as we relaxed on the couch imbibing the magic of it all. It began to splatter upon the glass dining table and the concrete creating a cool mist which engulfed our naked bodies, one side chilled, one side still warm. There was ebb and flow to the intensity of the storm. The direction changed back and forth. SUDDENLY, there was a crinkle and then a tremendous CRACK! DF jumped nearly off of her seating in the flash. Her reaction startled me and in a fraction of a second and we were both afloat with adrenal rushes. That one was very close. It was fun. The whole storm was fun. A towel covered briefly when the chilly spray became too much. Everything felt so much alive.

Being barefoot all over and crossing through the rain to the covered area was a delight. The water puddles along that spot when the downpours increase. IMG_1696Here, the rain is heated by the concrete, which has been heated through the day as the sun baked it. It turned into a shallow bath for feet. Meanwhile the large less warm raindrops splotch onto the rest of the body in a sensual refreshing way. We danced there, moving in blissful attention to it all.
We had left the air conditioner on in the house. Wet, the air was brisk as we entered through the door in contrast. I carried desert out, a bowl of soft organic almonds and cashews. A friend had given us small pears and peaches from their local trees. The storm passed into the distance slowly as we nibbled. The sound of water off of the roof and the tiny trickle of stream beds carrying the fresh rainwater away through the rocks and sand, the day’s heat was gone.

There was reluctance to leave, even more to get dressed, but we managed to head down to the Grateful Dead cover band at The Hut bar and dance together. We walked over to a friend’s grand opening of their new micro-brewery and toured this to more live music. DF tried a saison BEER and me a sarsaparilla. I savored each small sip as it flowed around my tongue and palate as the quality invited. This stuff was special. I was later given a snifter of an equally unique ginger of as high a caliber. It was recommended to add a splash of this to the saison BEER. DF loved that addendum. A couple outside, had a mobile pizza kiln like a traditional Native American adobe oven, which was heated with pecan chips. That was a very nice smoked treat. We then headed over to a Birthday party to jam with drums, banjo and guitars and close out the late night. We were greeting and catching up with friends all along the way. Indeed, very good day.

There is nothing like eating and imbibing local…and particularly naked.

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