I think we forget a lot about the food that is already around us to begin with. To eat locally is a sort of a dual concept. There’s an idea about how far food travels to reach your plate. Then there is this other idea, one we think of less, of eating something that is native and indigenous to the area that you live in. It doesn’t get any more local than that.
Arizona doesn’t grow much without a little help. The things that it does grow, however, are extraordinary. Here are plants that can survive 120 degree days, months without rain, unrelenting sun, and still produce something that can sustain you. Tepary beans, agave, and, of course, the ubiquitous cactus.
The prickly pear cactus in particular is a hallmark of the desert landscape. And not just my desert, but deserts all over the world. They are known here as nopales, in Israel as tzabar, in Egypt as teen shouky, and in various places as some play on a ‘thorned fig’. Which is about right, because inside the paddle of the prickly pear is a juicy, sticky, and sweet flesh that’s maybe just a little bit sour. It makes your mouth water. It tastes like the color green and spring. It’s totally a fig. And we’re going to make salsa with it.