in progress: cactus tuna dye

Our next-door neighbor has a patch of prickly pears. He planted them so he wouldn’t have to water or mow that corner of the lawn, but he’s never eaten or done anything with the pears.


In addition to the spines, prickly pears also have clusters of tiny little hairs with barbs on the end. They’re nearly impossible (for me) to see and remove without a magnifying glass and tweezers, and they’ll work themselves under the skin and be very annoying. Don’t want to eat them, don’t want to get them into the yarn.

First I tried searing the glochids off with the gas grill. It was hard for me to see when they were gone, and since my tuna were so small it was hard to hold them with tongs. There’s also a good amount of juice that came out and is now making sticky spots on the burner.

I also tried scouring them off in a jar of sand. This seemed to work well, it just took a long time. I’m wondering if it might be better to rig something up with a larger jar and a rocking chair, because rolling it back and forth did make my leg tired after a while. At least the process amused the cat.

The inside of a cactus tuna. These are pretty small– about thumb-size– and very seedy. After peeling and de-seeding them, there really wasn’t enough of the flesh and juice left to be worth the trouble! (The juice tasted good, though.) I think if I want to cook with tunas, I’ll just go get them from the Latin grocery.

Fortunately, I don’t need to peel or seed them to make dye, so I’ve been picking a few every day (that is, poking them with tongs and retrieving the ones that fall off the plant), sanding the spines off, and adding them to the jar to ferment. When I reach a critical mass– or when I get tired of sanding them– I’ll add some yarn and see what it does.

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