In times of drought and depression, my money's on the prickly pear cactus.
All over Albuquerque right now, vitamin C laden cactus fruit are ripening to a deep eggplant purple. They're called "tuna" or "cactus apple" and they taste like blackberry and melon which, when cooked up with citrus and sugar, taste even better.
I've been experimenting for years with this unusual fruit and here's my favorite recipe, given to me by a hunter-gatherer friend.
Prickly Pear Preserves
* 24 ripe prickly pears
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup water
* Juice of one lemon
* Juice of 1/2 orange
* 1/2 orange, diced small
* 1 package pectin
Makes one 1-pound jar
Using a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands, plunge the prickly pears in boiling water for a few minutes, then remove the thin, outer layer with a sharp knife as you would a tomato skin. Cut the pears in half, scoop out the seeds, and put them to one side; then chop the flesh and place it in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Put the seeds into a sieve and mash them vigorously to extract the juice. Add this to the pan along with the citrus juices and the orange pieces. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes, or until the preserve has thickened and the liquid has reduced. If you like your jam very firmly set, add the pectin, but the preserve sets quite adequately without it. Pour the jam into a sterilized jar and seal. This chunky preserve, with its unusual flavor, can be spread on toast, biscuits, or muffins for breakfast or used to make very pretty pies. Its flavor is a cross between blackberry and melon.
Warning: Watch out for the spines! Even if you purchase the pads or fruit in a supermarket, check them for prickles before eating. Promptly remove any spines embedded in your skin. Keep a close eye out for the downy spines (glochids) also. They are easy to miss when cleaning.
HINT: It's no understatement to say that this recipe is a purple nightmare to concoct. Your kitchen, your clothes will be stained purple if you're not careful and well, even if you are... But it's worth the adventure. Especially on french toast.