Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ripening prickly pear are sure signs of fall

It's the first day of autumn and we made it through a particularly brutal summer here in San Antonio, so time to look for seasonal changes in the plants.  The traditional fall colors so common in northern climates are rare in South Texas.  After a few days of rain a "cold front" blew in and dropped our daytime highs all the way down to 91F/33C.  I've been outside several hours each day planting and transplanting to take advantage of the beautiful weather.  While we do have a few pockets of maples and a several other plants which will change color this season, our weather typically remains quite warm right up until the calendar says winter.

That doesn't mean we don't have our own signs of fall.

One sign is the ripening of the Tunas or prickly pear fruit of the Opuntia cactus.  In the arroyo across the creek behind the house these are bright red.

These opuntia fruits are turning purple just on the edge of the back yard.

A few weeks ago these same fruits were more red while the opuntia fruits in the arroyo are still quite red.

These pale fruits are from a bright orange bloom which is less common than the more typical yellow blooms.

Since they are different colors when ripe the best way to know is to wait until the fruits begin to drop before picking.  The fruits are edible after the tiny spine bunches are removed and produce a tasty jelly or I might pick a few for margaritas this year if I can get to them before the wildlife does.

Time to dust off the table on the deck because we'll be using it a lot more until next June.  It's what we call the payoff and, having lived everywhere from Southern California to New England, we think it's worth it.


  1. I will be jealous in a few weeks! Right now, the weather is near perfect--70s all week. Love the Prickly Pear fruits. I've heard that P. Pear jelly is tasty, but I've never tried it. Happy Autumn!

  2. Yay for patio (deck) season! I could be jealous since sadly ours is winding down, but instead I'll just be happy that your getting to enjoy your garden.

    Thank you for the 'tuna' report, I've got some beauties that are still green and I'm dying to see them color up!

  3. We ate outside on the deck tonight and it was delightful! Can't wait to start doing more of that now that it's cooler. The Opuntia tunas are gorgeous. I can't decide whether I like the red or the purple better.

  4. That mild and cool weather you're having sounds like a very welcome relief indeed, and conducive to gardening too!

  5. I love that plant but never use the fruit. Maybe I should. Yours certainly is putting on a great autumn show. Enjoy.

  6. The tunas a really pretty this year. Except mine. For some reason, they haven't turned color, at all. Last year, they were eaten before they had a chance.
    I haven't seen the purple ones. I'll look closer.

  7. The fruit is DELICIOUS! High in fiber calcium and other nutrients..low in calories too!
    Alma Delia

  8. Lovely! Yes, we have our own version of fall color, since our tree leaves turn and fall off in 3 days! Beautiful pictures and so glad maybe the worst is past us.

  9. Opuntias decorated with fruit are even cuter than the unadorned...and those are plenty cute enough.

  10. I remember when I lived in AZ and these would be ripening all over...but I never tried them...I wish I had.


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