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FIELD TRIPS AND TOURS

The TCC has had many field trips and some tours. Listed below are several of our trips and tours we've taken over the years!

October 12 - 15, 2007

Twenty seven members of the TCC left on an annual tour with Joe Martinez to the city of Valles in the state of San Luis Potisi, Mexico. The hotel in which they stayed was called Taninul. You can find the hotel on the internet and many tourists make this a place they stay because of its attractions for those who are health minded. The large area behind the hotel is filled with water which contains many natural minerals and which are purported to have healing properties. People actually take the algae which has risen to the surface, and smear it on their faces and bodies hoping that it will take away aches and pains and make them feel better in general! The group had an option to go to a temezcal which was an old Indian custom of relieving stress and praising God by going through a ritual led by a leader. Over two thirds of the group took part in this once-in-a-lifetime uplifting experience.

September 22, 2007

On September 22, 2007, a large and enthused group of forty-five Texas Cactus Council members and their friends attended the much anticipated trip to San Ygnacio. At 1:00 PM everyone met at Cachito's Korner Restaurant in San Ygnacio. Afterwards, many raved about the excellent food.

 After lunch, Mr. Adrian Martinez escorted us to Plaza Blas Maria, where we visited the small but charming Catholic Church. From the church, we walked to the Processo Martinez Home Museum , where family members guided us through a fascinating array of family heirlooms, some dating back to 1868. The walled backyard contained some astonishing murals of family members painted on the stucco walls of the backside of the home. Across the street from the Processo Martinez home, we were left agog upon entering the lavish residence of Mr. Adrian Martinez. Mr. Martinez collects priceless mementos from places he visits throughout the world.
 
In addition, a walking tour took us through the historical district, which afforded us an unforgettable glimpse of San Ygnacio's impacting historical past ….manifested by the magnificent sandstone structures. In the State of Texas, San Ygnacio, along with Castroville and Jefferson are the only communities that have kept their historical districts from succumbing to the ravages of progress. Most of San Ygnacio's 31 sandstone structures have been authentically restored to their original splendor. Escaping restoration is the monumental Treviño Fort, which provided safe haven to the villagers against the constant Indian attacks. Unique to the fort is the sundial, which was placed there by Jose Villarreal in 1852. Jose had escaped from the Comanches after he was abducted in 1815 during one of the raids. This trip was truly a South Texas historical adventure, not to soon be forgotten.
 

Zacatecas --- November 10, 2006

Two busloads of folks made the trip to Zacatecas. It was a fantastic trip and everyone had a great time. As on most trips to Mexico, we stopped at “ REY DEL CABRITO” in Monterrey , N.L. Mexico , where most of us enjoyed a great cabrito (goat) meal.

In Zacatecas we visited the Rafael Coronel Mask Museum, which has a collection of over 5,000 masks. We then saw a collection of pre-Hispanic art and original Picassos.

A visit to a mine was most interesting. As we toured the mine we
could hear the noises of a mine in operation. The group got a wonderful view of the city from the “Teleferico” (cable car).

Another very interesting place we visited was “La Quemada”, the state's most important archeological site.

 

In Guadalupe we visited a Franciscan museum of paintings, the largest collection of religious paintings in the Americas. The eyes and feet in the paintings "follow you" whichever way you turn!

We also took part in a “calejoneada” where everyone had fun following a band as they played wonderful music.

 

San Juan Bautista --- November 12, 2005

Forty-one TCC members took the one day trip to San Juan Bautista, known as the gateway to Texas and meanders to San Antonio and on to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas.

At Mission San Bernardo, Senor Enrique Cervera gave us a historical overview of the early Spanish missions and the legendary Franciscan missionaries based at San Juan Bautista who were the founders of early missions in Texas, such as the Alamo, San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, and Espada. The group also visited the cemetery which contained Spanish Colonial era crypts, the plaza that was once part of El Presidio del Rio Grande, old homes from the early 1700's and the main church that dates to the early days of San Juan Bautista.

San Luis Potosi---August 26 - 29, 2005

This year's annual four day trip took us to the beautiful city of San Luis Potosi, known as the cactus capitol of Mexico. On the bus ride through the mountains and countryside, we saw all types of cacti ---barrel, cereus, organ pipe, pitaya, etc. Once there in San Luis, we visited the Artisan Center in the quaint village of Santa Maria and saw the hand-crafted shawls (rebozos). The highlight of the tour was climbing Cerro de San Pedro where we explored the gold and silver mines. The panoramic view was awesome! Another of the highlights was a visit to a tuna and nopalito processing plant. The main products processed at this plant are queso de tuna candy, two types of nopalito salsa and tuna marmalade. A big highlight was a visit to the National Fair in San Luis Potosi, a first class feria that featured a casino. We wonder how much money was won---or lost, by our group! Two members of our group, President Joe Martinez and Sec./Treas. J.T. Garcia, were interviewed by San Luis' newspaper, El Pulso which was on the newsstands by the time we left! They loved us there!

Tour to Guadalajara June 2005

One of the interesting visits we made during this trip was to an agave plantation in Tequila, Jalisco, MX where we were introduced to the making of tequila.

Contrary to popular belief, tequila is not made from cacti. Tequila is actually made from the Blue Agave plant which is classified as a succulent. Tequila is exclusively produced in five regions of Mexico: Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Tamaulilpas, and is well regulated by the Mexican government. Almost all aspects of the production of tequila come under regulatory practices, from fermentation and double distillation of tequila to its aging, bottling and distribution.

Mezcal

  • Other than what was mentioned above, bottles of Mezcal contain the worm. You will never see a bottle of tequila with a worm in it outside of Mexico.
  • Mezcal may also be made from the pulque of agave plants other than the Blue Agave variety as long as it is not destined for the making of tequila.
  • There are good Mezcals on the market today and available in the US with the worm.
    Types of Tequila

•  100% Blue Agave Tequila - Made with 100% Blue Agave juice.

•  Mixto – At least 51% Agave juice and at most 40 % other sugars added.

Classifications of Tequila

•  Blanco – clear and allowed to age no more than 60 days (100% or Mixto).

•  Reposado – must be aged in wooden tanks or barrels for up to one year.

•  Anejo – aged in wooden barrels of 600 liters of less for at least one year.

• Joven Abocado – not aged, but caramel is added to give the tequila color.

How Tequila is Made

Harvesting

•  The blue agave plant is allowed to grow 6 to 8 years. The plant is selected for harvest just before its shoot flowers. If allowed to flower, the shoot would consume the sugars in the plant which are used for the production of tequila.

•  The shoot is cut off causing the pina , the base (root), to swell and fill with juice.

•  The plant is then harvested by hand and the spikes are cut off leaving the pina or root which is sent off to the ovens.


Cooking

•  Depending on the distillery and the type of tequila to be made, the pinas are cooked in ovens or autoclaves.

•  Oven cooking traditionally takes 36 hours and autoclave cooking is 6 hours.


Crushing and Juicing

•  After the cooking process is complete, the agave is sent to crushing machines.

•  Traditionally the tahona, a large stone wheel, was used to crush the agave. The tahona was pulled around a circular pit by oxen or horses. The juice was then hauled away by bucket.

•  This process is now mechanized although there is a shift towards returning to the traditional tahona process.

Fermentation

•  The juice is then sent to the fermentation tanks where it is added to water and treated with yeast.

•  Depending on whether 100% agave or mixto is being made, different yeasts are added. Natural yeasts are used in the 100% agave tanks. With the mixto, sugars are added just prior to commercial yeasts. The yeasts play a large role in the end flavor of the tequila and so the choice of yeasts being added are carefully monitored.

•  The fermentation process is generally between 7 – 10 days unless it is sped along with accelerators. Using accelerators cuts the fermentation process down to just a few hours.


Distillation

•  The vapor then rises up through a pipe where it is cooled and run off to a holding tank. The product is called ordinaro.

•  The ordinaro is then used in the second distillation and the product of this process is tequila.


Aging and Blending

•  Depending on the intended tequila to be made, the aging process varies greatly.

•  The first stage of all tequilas is blanco.

  Blanco can be bottled immediately or sent to the aging process.

•  Blanco is aged, if at all, no more than 60 days.

•  Joven Abacodo is made from blanco and the addition of caramel for color and sweetening. This product is not aged.

•  Reposado is aged in wooden tanks or barrels for at least 60 days but no longer than one year. Reposado derives a good amount of color and flavor from the wood of the barrels. It is a process closely maintained by the government.

•  Anejo is aged for at least one year in wooded barrels of no more than a 600-liter capacity.

The importance of the wooden barrels cannot be understated. The barrels are reused for many, many years. Using these barrels over and over is important in maintaining the flavoring and coloring of the tequilas.

•  Blending is also employed to maintain the flavor of the tequila. Different age groups can be mixed to arrive at the desired product. However, the labeling of the tequila must reflect the youngest of its components.

“The next time you are sipping on a Margarita or a Tequila Sunrise , thank the good folks at Tequila, Jalisco , Mexico !” J. T. Garcia

Kenedy Ranch Museum - - - Sarita, TX     June, 2005

The museum is a testimony about the history of the vaqueros and their families, the Kenedy family, and their founders. It is displayed pictorially in three rooms of this museum on which beautiful murals adorn the walls of the museum. Also displayed are the names of the different people of the time period involved with the development of the ranch. The group also viewed a video on ranching activities. The museum stands a a silent testimony to one of the greatest ranching ventures in Texas.

Rancho Colorado - - Guerra , TX - - - Nov. 2004

This is one of the very few places that has the endangered black laced cactus.          
 Mr. & Mrs. Villarreal gave us a tour of their museum which contains many antiques and artifacts (including old farm carts, farming equipment, very old family photos, arrow heads, & old paintings. We also saw some of the remains of old homes made of sillar (Spanish word for caliche rocks).

Bustamante, Mexico October 28, 2004

Several members of the TCC traveled to Bustamante, Mexico, a virgin town as far as having had tour busses there before. The hotel was a bit rustic, but the hosting was very friendly and accommodating. The highlight was having a tour of the grounds where the natives stoked a fire all day long in adobe outdoor ovens. They baked some of the most delicious cookies and a delicious breakfast cake called a bustamante. It was made with flour, and topped with pineapple and pecans. The people from that business also catered a chicken barbeque dinner atop a beautiful mountain with a stream running alongside our picnic area. We also visited a ranch house and the owners had trophy winning fighting bulls in the pens outside. The whole area was covered with pecan trees and we all brought a lot of pecans home with us!

La Copita Agriculture Research Center - - - Texas A&M Univ. Kingsville - Spring 2003

We visited the center which has numerous types of cacti and other brush country shrubs and plants. Aluminum plaques by each plant describe each cactus and lists each plant's biological name.

Kraatz Cactus Nursery - - - Riviera , Texas

Bruce had over a thousand different cactus for sale at this
nursery. He conducted the tours for the TCC in 1997 and 2001 and gave a presentation and answered the many questions we had.

Pear Burning demonstration - - - Benavides , TX   1998

The TCC witnesses a demonstration using a pear burner to burn the spines off prickly pear.

Bippert Cactus Farm - -  - Riviera , TX   1998

Ernest and Glenda Bippert have acres of different cacti
planted on their farm. They opened Wagon Wheel Farms (a cactus canning operation) and produced all kinds of canned cactus products.

Robert Mick Cactus Farm - - - Sinton , TX    1995

Robert had many acres planted in different kinds of cactus.

Cactus gathering trip to Saltillo , Mexico - - - to bring
back truckload of the different fruit cacti found there.   1995


About 7 members of the TCC brought back many, many
different kinds of fruit bearing cacti from the mountains surrounding
the beautiful city of Saltillo .  The entire cacti brought in from Saltillo are freeze tolerant.

Texas A&M University Kingsville Cactus Research Center   1990

A variety of cacti was provided to TCC members at no charge.
This is where all members got their stock for planting in their own farms and homes. One of the professors from Mexico gave a demonstration on grafting cactus.