Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It’s tuna time

with 20 comments

_Long Spines Against Prickly Pear Tuna 2811

The fruits of the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, are known in Spanish and now English as tunas. They ripen in the summer and often turn a rich ruby red, as this photograph from August 13th in northwest Austin confirms.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2014 at 5:52 AM

20 Responses

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  1. In the cactus world, it seems Mr. Engelmann was a busy fella. I’ve eaten a fair amount of tuna, last night even, but nary a time did I experience a bit of prickliness thankfully.
    I’ve seen these in the fruit section of stores but never tried one.

    Steve Gingold

    September 11, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    • There’s tuna and then there’s tuna (and Chico Marx might even tuna my car up, though Groucho was more prickly). The only time I ever ate a tuna of the cactus kind was on a train in Mexico in the 1970s, but they’re readily available in Austin so maybe I should try another one after all these years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 6:30 AM

  2. I was surprised to see these growing in Minnesota at the Landscape Arboretum when I lived there. I always thought they were more of a desert plant but they seemed to thrive up there.


    September 11, 2014 at 6:17 AM

    • A friend once told me that every state but one is home to some sort of cactus. I can’t remember which northern state was supposed to be the exception, but clearly not Minnesota.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 6:33 AM

  3. Glorious colour. For us tuna is the Maori word for eel. I have tasted smoked eel but not the tuna fruit. I think, however, that your tuna and mine would complement each other rather well. http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/fish/eels/tuna-a-tatou-taonga/ I prefer the colour of your tuna to mine.


    September 11, 2014 at 6:37 AM

    • It’s a nice coincidence that another water-dwelling creature should also be a tuna. That leaves the cactus fruit as the odd man out, but I’ll agree with you that it certainly outdoes the other two when it comes to color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 6:44 AM

  4. The lovely couple at Four String Farm in Rockport just contributed tunas to a special dinner at a Rockport restaurant. They have several posts about tunas, but this one is especially nice because it shows the harvesting and preparation.


    September 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    • Thanks for the excellent article you linked to. Now I know more about tunas than I ever did before, especially the historical details.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2014 at 12:10 PM

  5. And don’t forget you can tuna piano, but not a fish 🙂 I love how this fruit is tucked into its thorns, making for a prickly composition.


    September 11, 2014 at 10:38 AM

  6. My head is spinning with all the word-play … sorry to be late to the game and miss the easy pickings. Nice photo. Beautiful, rich, color. D

    Pairodox Farm

    September 11, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    • I’ve been attracted to tunas with the most saturated color for 15 years; that’s how far back I remember photographing them in the late summer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2014 at 6:34 AM

  7. Amazing and dangerous looking color!


    September 12, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    • An enticing color indeed, but there’s danger in the spines and especially the glochids.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 13, 2014 at 7:16 AM

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