Anza residents and visitors from as far away as San Diego enjoyed the day Saturday Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. learning about the medicinal and food value in the common Prickly Pear cactus flourishing in the west.
The annual Prickly Pear Festival, conducted by the High Country Conservancy and sponsored by Anza Electric cooperative, featured a series of seminars on the benefits of the Prickly Pear and other native cacti and plants found in the arid southwest.
Abe Sanchez and Craig Torres representatives of the Chia Café Collective, Scott Briles from High Country Nursery and local residents who raise and sell many products produced by the native plants in the area presented a series of lectures, demonstrations and displays of interest to the visitors at the Prickly Pear Celebration.
The Chia Café Collective sparked a lot interest by offering visitors a taste the products made from Prickly Pear, Cholla and Chia cacti and even dried grasshoppers that have both medicinal and utilitarian uses. A few of the braver guests on the urging of Sanchez and Torres chanced a taste of grasshoppers while others found pleasure in tasting barrel cactus marinade and salsa, Cholla lemonade and Prickly Pear punch. Slices of raw Prickly Pears were surprisingly tasty to most.
High Country Nursery’s Scott Briles gave an outdoor demonstration of how to landscape with native cacti and other plants, many of which are used to landscape Minor Park where the festival was held. Marea Stinnet from High Country Conservancy gave the opening remarks inside of the Old Red Schoolhouse in the park explaining the history and mission of the conservancy.
Roy Wiersma, Ph.D. Spoke on his favorite botanist Luther Burbank and his search for the “lost” Burbank spineless cactus. Wiersma spent three years searching for this rare plant and found enough cactus hybrids to write a book he said. He owns a world class seed and plant collection and loves to drink his favorite cactus juice and wines. He is dedicated to bringing both dead plant specimens and extinct animal species back to life.
Rose Ann Hamilton, with her Native American helper, demonstrated the technique of weaving native Cahuilla basketry that she still teaches today. Next to Rose’s booth was Denise Squires who spends time using native plants and their parasites to create brightly colored cloth on her antique loom. She presented the lecture “Prickly Pear to ‘Dye’ for.” Annika Knoppel lectured on how to raise Prickly Pear as a cash crop, letting people taste of some of her Prickly Pear jams, jellies and teas.
Gordon Pratt, holding a Masters in Molecular Biology isolating mRNA from female blowflies at the Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, Canada, lectured on Food Plants of Butterflies and Skippers of Anza Valley. He proudly showed his fine Butterfly collection under the parks walnut trees during the afternoon.
Members of the KOYT Radio 96.3 braved the falling Walnuts under their canopy near Dr. Wiersma’s booth.
Sponsors the Prickly Pear Celebration of 2016 beside AEC included Moosa Creek Nursery, Overland Realty, Cali Water, Marketplace Cooperative, Inc., W.A. Chilli Ainsworth, Home Quest Advantage Properties.
The High Country Conservancy’s mission is to promote the wise use of land and water resources that lead to sustainable outcomes for preservation of habitat, cultural values, farmland and quality of life.
For more information about the HCC go to thccanza.org or write to P.O. Box 391454, Anza, CA 92539. Telephone: (951) 890-0411.