|Photos by Ned Harris 12/5/2012|
These plump pineapple-looking things are Arizona Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus wislizenii) fruits. Ground squirrels, deer, and other mammals (including me) like them. (I generally stick to eating the fruits from the barrel cacti in my yard.) Unlike prickly pear fruits, these have NO spines or glochids. You do have to take care when picking them, though. The fishhook spines on the barrel cactus don't mess around! To eat safely: look for a ripe fruit (no green), grasp the brownish top and pull gently. If it comes off reasonably easily, it's ripe. Inspect for evidence of other critter bites. If none, take a shallow bite. The skin and flesh have the consistency of an apple; the flesh is quite tart. I avoid the seeds, but they are safe to eat.