Reactions to the cactus

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

I had some people try the cactus (raw) to see what their reactions. Most of the people who tried the cactus enjoyed the raw taste. Some did not enjoy it at all. The cactus smells like most green vegetables, and tastes sort of like pea pods, though a bit more bitter and with a very different texture. It is kind of very slimy. My opinion of the cactus is pretty neutral. I like it alright, but it probably wouldn't qualify as my favorite food.

Thoughts about the cactus project

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

I haven't had much to photograph the last few days of this project. Since I decided, much more logically, to use cactus to feed cattle, there wasn't much to physically do. I have been doing a lot of research and economic modeling. It hasn't been the most entertaining but I have become more organized with my arguments and I feel much more knowledgeable about what I'm talking about. The VENSIM modeling has been a struggle for me. my model went from being fairly straightforward to being pretty complex, with a LOT of help from Ammar. I was able to help a bit, but I don't know what I'm doing on the program enough to be helpful. I tried to add the weather as a variable and now the model won't work at all. Whoops! It worked long enough before the attempt to add the weather for us to get sufficient data. The model was very helpful. It told us that you would have to produce 68 million pounds of cactus in order to be profitable.

The idea is possibly economically feasible. It is also difficult to predict the price of cactus, as not many places produce cactus in such quantity. However, as time goes by, the price of corn goes up as there becomes less and less available. Likewise, if a trend in favor of cactus continues, the price of cactus would go down as it becomes more plentiful.

I never ended up figuring out exactly how long it takes cactus to grow. I would have guessed that it would take a very long time for the cactus to grow, but the information I did find said that 60,000 lbs of cactus could be grown per acre annually. Therefore I would guess it takes around a year for cactus to grow.

The cooking really did not go well... I'm glad I didn't continue with that part of the project. I'm not sure how to incorporate that into the presentation.  I'll go do some more work on the presentation.


Emily Cudhea-Pierce

One thing I struggled with was splinters. Everyone who came near the cactus seemed to get splinters. I think I still have one or two in my hand. When we went shopping, we picked out a cactus pear. Klara handled the pear and ended up with tons of painful splinters in her hand. The perilous thing is that you don't tend to feel the cactus splinters until a few minutes after they're already in there. They are quite hard to spot in your hand. 5 or 6 people ended up with varying amounts of splinters in their hands. Sorry guys! This is a problem that may be hard to solve on a large scale. No one wants to get splinters every time they try to cook a meal... I'll have to think of ways to work with this problem. Is it possible to genetically modify cacti to reduce the number of spikes?  How can cacti be stored or de-spiked so that people are not injured by their food?

side note: they can spike you through plastic bags, clothes, etc. They are not noticeable until they are in your skin and you rub against something that disrupts the spine and creates discomfort and pain. 

Two in one!

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

While it may take more cactus every day than other foods such as hay to feed a cow, the eating of cactus drastically decreases cows' daily needs for water. So cactus not only takes less water to grow but eliminates a lot more water that cows need to drink.

A turning point

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

I have reached a decision. My cooking has not been going as well as I had hoped for. The image above is from when I tried to make stuffed cactus by cutting the cactus in half. Needless to say, that did not end up as planned. As my various cooking projects have ended in not the best of ways, I have decided to take another approach to my cactus endeavor. I have decided to use cactus as a way to feed cattle instead of humans. As cattles have a less discerning sense of taste, I figure they as a whole would be more open to eating cactus than humans. Admittedly some humans do enjoy the taste of cactus, and I hope that they continue their cactus-eating, but as a whole they may be less welcoming of cactus as a new food than cows. After doing some preliminary research, I found out that nopales or "prickly pear" cacti have been used as cattle feed before. It works best when combined with hay. Apparently the cactus has been used as cattle feed for over 100 years. It is not widely used but the cows that do use the cacti were healthy enough. The farmers  singed the spikes off of the cacti to get rid of the harmful sharp parts. This seems like a much more plausible idea than replacing all human-eaten corn products with cactus. Since cattle feed makes up so much of the annual corn consumed, this solution will actually make the most difference. I am working to compare cactus with corn as cattle feed and figure out how much cactus feed is needed vs silage, what nutrients cattle can gain from cactus, and other such facts. 

Fried Cactus

Emily Cudhea-Pierce

I tried to fry cactus like a french fry. It wasn't too good. I used cactus, flour, eggs, and milk. I cooked them on an electric griddle pan thing. The first time it was just floppy and very oily and not good. The second one I made, I added more flour and took out the milk from the batter so it was just eggs. That one was slightly better but still pretty weird. After that one I added some more flour again and added sugar and salt to the egg batter. That one came out a bit firmer and nicer. It tasted better as well. I cooked a fourth one with a bit more sugar and salt, but wasn't sure about the fried-cactus idea so I decided to move on to bigger and better recipes. People thought it wasn't terrible, but not particularly good either. Most preferred the taste of raw cactus over the taste of fried cactus.