Our family enjoyed your article about Payson's abundant harvest of prickly pears, and has begun making juice and jam.
However, we want readers to know that prickly pears are notorious for E. coli and must be prepared properly in order to be safe for human consumption. Additionally, since prickly pear is an extremely low-acid fruit, if vacuum packed without the proper amount of citric acid, botulism can occur.
We spoke with Natalie McGee who is the director of Arizona Cactus Ranch (arizonacactusranch.com) and a national expert in the use of prickly pears for treatment of diabetes and cancer. Ms. McGee advised us that the juice must be sterilized at 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit (a good boil will achieve this) for a minimum of 15 minutes to kill E. coli, and she recommends freezing rather than vacuum packing in order to prevent botulism.
The Marsh Family