Project 2 and cactus fruit

Barbara is building a multi purposed plant nursery along the side of her rammed earth and straw bale home.  The nursery will act as a heat source in the winter and a humidifier in the summer for the inside of her house.  Because Arizona reaches average temperatures of 110 degrees in the summer, shade cloth will be used to protect the plants during these months from being fried.  Also the nursery will need to be ventilated so that the temperature does not get too high.  Today we used concrete (3 parts gravel, 2 parts sand and 1 part portland cement) to fix the metal frame of the greenhouse into the rammed earth floor.

the frame of the greenhouse

the large glass door will allow the heat and humidity to go directly in the house

Cement sucks, its toxic and alkaline.  Not good to breathe or get on your skin.  I did not enjoy working with it but for this type of project it was the favorable material.

After we finished pouring the concrete I went foraging in the desert for fishhook barrel cactus (Ferocactus wislizeni) fruit, called Chiavul by the Pima indians.  The yellow fruit of this cactus is filled with little black seeds.  Both are edible.  The fruit tastes like a lemony green pepper, with a slightly slimier texture.  These cactus grow very slowly, a four year old cactus may only be 3 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide.  This cactus can live for up to 150 years.

the fruit of the fishhook cactus

the seeds inside the fruit

I collected about 2 quarts of fruit.  We are going to harvest the seeds and use them as a garnish on food and prepare a chutney out of the fruit.  While collecting the fruit, my legs got covered in cactus glochids, which are smaller than spines.  Very hard to see, and even harder to get out.  These glochids are composed of calcium crystals which will dissolve with repeated applications of uric acid.  So if I put pee on my legs I will be all set.


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