My desire to provide all-natural food for my family and to avoid additives, preservatives, and artificial anything prompted me to make and preserve food grown on our own small property. Owning my own business also seemed to allow me the ability to be a full-time mother and adjust my work schedule to meet the needs of our children’s schedules.
Prickly pear cactus fruit is the largest crop hand-harvested for Cheri’s. We typically harvest about 35 tons (70,000 pounds) of fruit annually. The fruit is washed, steamed, pressed, and frozen within hours of being picked to preserve the natural flavor, vibrant color, and nutrient values as nature intended.
The citrus used in our marmalades is also hand-harvested in citrus groves that specialize in growing the finest, most flavorful fruit that is perfect for our marmalades. Rangpur limes, a special citrus grown for us, are used to make the Arizona Red Lime Marmalade and Margarita Marmalade, a favorite for connoisseurs of fresh citrus marmalades.
Fresh jalapenos, habaneros, red, yellow, and green bell peppers are shipped in from California or Mexico depending on the growing season and Cheri’s needs for her mild to extra hot pepper jellies. The aroma and full, spicy flavor in each jar is achieved by using only the freshest, quality peppers on the market.
There are over 200 different species of prickly pear plants that grow throughout the world. In Arizona, the prominent species that yields the greatest amount of fruit with the greatest amount of flavor and color is the Englemann Prickly Pear. It is this plant that we predominantly pick from to make our outstanding, award-winning preserves and candies.
In the spring, the prickly pear plants generate beautiful yellow to red, lacy flowers that last only a few days. When the blossom falls off, the stem begins to form a bulb-like fruit that remains green until late summer. With generous monsoon rains naturally watering the desert, the fruit slowly grows in size and changes to a pink and later to a dark red color. Small spines appear throughout the fruit to protect it from conditions in the environment. When the fruit is at its ripest, the harvesting crew begins the picking process. This process takes about 6 to 8 weeks before the fruit begins to deteriorate and drop off.
Cheri does not use artificial coloring in her prickly pear products. The Englemann Prickly Pear fruit used is rich in betalains, the natural pigment in fruit and vegetables. The higher the betalain count in the fruit, the higher the nutrient values. The natural pigment in prickly pear is being considered for commercial production as a natural food dye instead of the traditional beet coloring.
There has been significant interest and medical research done on prickly pear due to the many natural healing properties found contained in it. Some of the studies focused on are:
1. Management and treatment of type 2 diabetes
2. Anti-inflammatory action
3. Usefulness in the management of obesity
4. Investigation of antiviral properties
5. Potential cancer prevention agent for specific cancers
6. Wound healing properties
The pads of the prickly pear plant as well as the fruit are high in antioxidants, vitamins A and C. Besides containing significant quantities of antioxidants including flavonoids, the fruit contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
For centuries native Americans used prickly pears to promote healing, specifically as a treatment for inflammatory skin diseases, eye inflammation, intestinal tract inflammation (dysentery), urinary tract inflammation, burns, and joint or muscle inflammation.
Today, it is known as the workout herb. Research shows that consuming prickly pear products can boost energy and speed up the healing process. Athletes find they can recover more quickly from strenuous exercise due to the acceleration of the body’s production of natural restorative compounds.
We use pure cane sugar as a natural preservative. Each fruit contains its own levels of sugar. We add only the additional amount necessary to ensure that the product will not mold or deteriorate. Using pure cane sugar allows us to heat and bottle the product quickly, to ensure that the nutrients are not destroyed, the natural brilliant color is kept intact and to prolong the shelf life of the product.
We take extra care from the harvesting to the preparation and canning of the fruit or vegetable to not only protect the flavor, color, and nutrition but in many instances enhance those qualities. We do not add water or fillers, we use only nature’s finest, freshest bounty.
Yes, our syrup continues to be used in multiple restaurants, resorts, and hotels throughout the U.S., such as The Ritz Carlton, Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace, and Mesa Grill for specialty margaritas. For Bobby Flay’s signature drink recipe, go to Bobby Flay Recipes – Cactus Pear Margarita or www.bobbyflay.com.
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