Independent Press Telegram in Long-Beach, California
31 Oct 1954

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Independent Press Telegram in Long-Beach, California
31 Oct 1954

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Independent Press-Telegram (Newspaper) - October 31, 1954, Long Beach, CaliforniaFor business welcomes Apple polishers o it e s 0 0 o. O by Douglas Nelson Rhodes Here s a place in Lake Side near san Diego where Apple polishers draw High wages because they earn them and not because they have ingratiate themselves with the wishes he could hire More of them. This seeming Paradox occurs on the unusual ranch of Bernardo Maniscalco who operates the Only Commer Cial Cactus ranch in America. This strange 35-acre fruit ranch specializes in raising Opuntia often called prickly Cactus apples or in Dian each year the ranch ships More than a million of the Sticky wild Cactus fruit to new York where it is sold at auction and eventually reaches the Din Ner tables of Gotham s Large italian and sicilian population. People of Mediterranean origin regard Opuntia As a rare Deli Cacy. Harvest Tima on the Mani Scalco ranch began during the scorching Days of late july and continues through october. The buds appear in february and by Early june the ranch is a riot of veritable Maze of or Ange and red blossoms set against the Bright Green Back ground of the elephant ear Cactus Plant on which the fruit grows. Bernardo Maniscalco 73, is called King of the Cactus a he started the unusual agricultural Enterprise in 1922 on a Small tract purchased since coming to the u. S. In 1913 from Bis native Sicily. After nine years i Colorado steel Mills he moved to California and invested virtually his last Dollar in a few acres of what was then nothing More than a Rocky Hillside. Through the years As his Ven Ture prospered Maniscalco added More acreage and today the neat ranch is regarded As one of the most valuable agricultural prop erties in the san Diego area. Maniscalco now Semi retired turned the Active management of the ranch Over to his three strapping sons Sam Joseph and Leon several years ago. Each of the younger Maniscalco has specialized in one or More phases of Cactus culture and All Are recognized authorities on every variety of edible Cactus plants. The ranch produces two main varieties of the Odd the blood red Watermelon Flavoured kind and the Yellowish Type that tastes much like a Ripe banana. In the Southwest the local Indian tribes once highly prize wild prickly pears and mexican Border natives still make them into delicious Jelly and Candy. The Maniscalco product however is much larger and juicier than wild Cactus apples. Under Normal conditions each acre produces a Harvest of 800 boxes or half a Box car. Each Box contains 60 Cactus apples thus a Rule of the thumb Esti mate reveals that each acre yields about individual pieces of fruit. Making the spiny apples commercially acceptable is a difficult sometimes painful since each Apple must be divested of its annoying mass of spines. Until recently this task had to be performed entirely by hand requiring the labor of 15 to 20 Apple polishers drawing top wages. Sam Maniscalco however recently devised a machine which de spines the fruit in much the same manner that peaches Are mechanically de fuzzed. The machine does not replace All hand operations growing Cactus for its spiny fruit is one of Southern Cal forma s Mort unusual industries the Maniscalco farm near Lakeside. Picker shown above. Though and is still considered experimental. Special care must be taken that the fruit is not fed into the de spiner too rap idly. Cactus apples Are extremely delicate and just a slight bumping together will Bruise them and cause Large Black spots to appear thereby rendering them unsaleable. To get the crop ready for ship ment a total of about 30 pick ers polishers and packers Are employed in the late summer and Early fall. Many Are recruited from neighbouring ranches where the harvesting of More conventional crops occurs at a different time of year. Cactus apples must be picked when in mom Solco second from left founded Cactus Enterprise. He is shown Mph his three sons Joseph Iann bus mess venire proper color and newcomers Are schooled to exercise the Correct color the Best Way to Cut the fruit from the Broad Flat succulent slab or Branch on which it grows is to leave enough of the joint on the fruit so it won t spoil in transit delicate though it is the cac Tus Apple can be a dangerous object to handle. Pickers polishers and packers Wear a Buck Rogers style costume of Long leather gloves heavy Canvas aprons and pickers add a protective jacket and helmet As a Protection against the sword like spines. The fruit arrives from the Field and starts immediately through the packing Assembly line. Packers take Over after the polishers Are finished and Grade the apples As to size and Quality As they pass by on a moving Belt. The boxes move Down the conveyor to a machine which tops them in a single operation. From the packing room they Are trucked to nearby freight Yards and loaded into refrigerator cars for their nine Day trip to new York. The Maniscalco work the year around to keep their unusual farming operation at a High state of productivity. Old plants Are replaced with Young Strong Cactus and cultivation and irrigation go on ceaselessly. On the average a Cactus Bear fruit for 12 to 15 years. A few Are still producing a Good crop after 20 years. Cacti Are planted in rows 12 to 15 feet apart. Some attain Heights of 14 to 16 feet and must be planted six to eight feet apart the Maniscalco family has not fenced the property As must the neighbouring Citrus and Avocado ranchers. One of the Best things about raising Cactus Bernardo chuckles is that no body Ever sneaks in to steal the fruit

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