Prickly pear season in the American Southwest is quickly approaching, which guarantees two things: a spike in Band-Aid sales and fresh prickly pear margaritas at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. This year, for the first time, guests of the country’s largest dude ranch are invited to pick their own spiky fruit from the wild cacti-laden trails of the ranch’s 60,000 acres of stunning desert landscape, adjacent to the Saguaro National Park.
After harvesting the seasonal fruit, the Tanque Verde Ranch culinary team will lead interactive demonstrations and remove the “prick” from the sweet fruit by carefully de-thorning the colorful cactus fruit with tongs. The ranch staff will then make the sweet harvest into delicious prickly pear margaritas, syrups, and desserts. Tanque Verde’s first-annual Prickly Pear Harvest package ($345 per night) is offered August 17 to 31 and includes three meals a day (with that special prickly pear ingredient) as well as unlimited horseback riding, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, swimming, tennis, yoga, watercolor classes, daily kids’ programs, overnight lodging, and live entertainment.
The elevated Southwestern cuisine is prepared by executive chef Justin Macy, previously of Tucson’s marvelous Miraval Resort. Under Macy’s watch, Tanque Verde’s new menu rotates weekly. Highlights include chili honey-glazed salmon with cotija whipped sweet potatoes, and chicken chile relleno with black beans and mole verde. The ranch also offers private six-course “Chef’s Dinners” with wine pairings upon request, which encapsulate the ranch’s Western style with modern flavors for a fresh twist. Macy personally introduces each Chef’s Dinner dish with an explanation of the plate and why it pairs with each wine. All menus feature locally-sourced ingredients, foods indigenous to Arizona, and vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Several specialty dining events are also held each week, including morning breakfast rides at the homestead (say howdy to fantastic flapjacks) and campfire cowboy cookouts, including a truly great barbecue spread accompanied by a country ‘n’ western singer who takes requests, and the occasional wild javelina who takes handouts. Afterwards, mosey on over to the ranch’s Dog House Saloon for more margaritas and a little poker with Doc Holliday’s doppelganger.
Nestled among the scenic Rincon Mountains, the ranch features a variety of lodging options, from guestrooms and casitas to expansive hacienda suites, all with spectacular views of Tucson’s natural desert. Each suite has a private patio, indoor fireplace, and sitting area, and many have a Jacuzzi tub to soothe saddle sores.