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I have acquired some cactus pad and would like to know how to prepare them for use on a gourd. Anyone know the technique? Or where I might learn about the methods involved?


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I think Bonnie has a tutorial for this.  Check her website.  www.arizonagourds.com.

I soak them in a tub outside for about a week until the meat is mushy, soft. Then I spray them with the garden hose on a hard spray. It peels the skin and the meat off them quickly. Use heavy rubber gloves! Then soak the cleaned fiber in bleach water overnight. Rinse off and lay them out to dry. The large pads and trunk pieces are really all that are worth working with. The fiber is spidery to non-existent in small pads.

I have been soaking the cactus pads for literally weeks and some are still intact. There is a little breakdown and I have managed to separate a few sections of fibers. But my goodness, some are just fine without any sign of deterioration. Would an additive in the water such as detergent maybe speed up the process? The bucket of slimy water really gets to smelling bad(I do change the water from time to time). Thanks.

After soaking mine for at least a week, they did not look as if they had broken down at all. But the insides were mush. The fibers will hold up after weeks of soaking, very hardy they are! I peeled off the outer skin using the hose so I didn't have to touch them(just in case any stickers were still hardy). Continue spraying and the remaining mushy insides will strip away from the fibers. I may have a slight advantage because of our Northern climate, mine had already frozen and thawed a few times before they went in the tub. Stinky, slimy water IS one of the side effects but causes no problems with the fiber. Your climate may just take longer soaking.

If you don't live where it freezes much, then maybe, you could put them in your freezer for a few days, then out in the sun. 


Thanks for your replies. I think the freezing and thawing might help.

I know what you mean about the slimy inside but fairly intact outside. That has happened partially to a number of the pads but when I try and peel the outside skin (tough no?) it is still stuck tight in some parts. I pick and peel and have tried cutting off the edges of the pad to hasten the deterioration of the inside material with minimal effect. I guess it gets down to time.. For me its taking weeks going on months. I will just wait them out. 

This is why I try to gather only stuff that is already dead and dry.  Standing skeletons are better than those lying on the ground.  I wish I had enough time to gather enough to meet everyone's needs.


Mine were collected from under live plants at a Burger King in AZ. They were broken off pieces of very large landscaping plants. The pads were still green as if they'd just been broken off the night before. We got permission from the business to collect the broken off pads and stems, about 20 of them, and carried them back to IL on the back of the camper. It was quite a coup and yielded a lot of fiber. Though my brother-in-law had to throw his gloves away!

I also only gather the dead ones. I tried the fresh pads and baked them in the oven to kill them and then threw them out in the hot sun to dry and harvest. That took forever. Won't do that anymore. I just get the dead ones.

I tried this last week and posted my process in the tutorial section.  Georgia

Bonnie - do you have a tutorial on what to do with the spidery inside once you get to it?  I found some dead prickly pair pads with the spidery membrane already there for the taking.  But it is hard and dirty.   What do I do from here???  

Thanks - Mary

I have dried cactus fiber that I purchased and now want to use it on a gourd.  How long do I need to soak it to make it pliable to use?  Do I need to use anything besides just water?

Thank you!


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