Red with Envy
Now that fall is here, I have a confession: I spent the summer with a bit of garden envy. You see, with Arizona’s summer temperatures in the scorching 100+ range, anything we grow during this season becomes brittle or baked, sizzled by the sun. Well – at least that’s been my gardening experience.
Who could blame me of this vegjealousy (yeah, I made that up…) – especially after a trek back home to Pennsylvania where my parents’ garden yielded such bounty?
Despite this envy – of not only the veggie abundance on the east coast, but also the gardener’s green thumb – you’d be surprised what the desert yields all on her own during the summer months … something I was sure to harvest before I left for Pennsylvania.
Appropriately named, this fruit is protected by the flat-paddled cactus and the dagger-sharp, prickly spines growing from it. Those spines, however, aren’t the biggest danger when harvesting prickly pear fruit.
You can, for instance, encounter this:
Or you might encounter this in the “prickly pear patch.”
Then there’s this:
Those miniscule unassuming hairs are called glochids, and they sprout from the polka dots on each fruit, as well as on the paddles (nopales). In fact, when done with washing, this is always the sight in the sink:
BEWARE! Glochids are masters of disguise, lodging in fingers, arms – even the tummy, if you’re not careful. You may not even know they’re there, until you brush against one and see that your skin is an angry red. Owee! Then you’ll search and see nothing. You’ll wonder where this phantom pain is coming from. Tweezers will be your only hope – and provide your only proof.
So why do it? Why go through all the hassle of harvesting this fruit*? And why do gardeners labor the way they do, selecting the perfect seeds, cultivating to perfection?
I’ve also made a red onion-prickly pear relish, prickly pear margaritas, prickly pear syrup… Umm…
Yes, all that work is worth it in the end – just to see this shimmering quilted jar against blue skies, to taste the jelly’s sweetness on my lips, to see this beautiful thing that I played a role in harvesting and transforming.
Why else? Because sometimes we do things simply because we love them – despite the glochids that we didn’t even know were there, until one jabbed us, until one pierced our skin.
For Readers: What activities do you continue with, despite them feeling like labors of love? Why do you continue?
For Writers: What hidden glochids of the writing world have you faced? Have they been painful, rewarding, unexpected? Why do you carry on, even when faced with these hidden obstacles? How do you harvest and transform in your writing life?
*I accidentally discovered the lazy woman’s juice technique: freeze the fruits whole, then later defrost them, which yields incredible juice by simply squeezing the Ziploc. One must, however, strain the juice thoroughly through cheesecloth. Trust me: you don’t want rogue glochids piercing your tongue.