“Here we go round the prickly pear”

TS Eliot, The Hollow Men


Making a late night run to Jewel for Klondike bars, my eye was caught by a display for Green Cactus Pears, five for a buck. Though the name was strange, I recognized them for what they were: prickly pears. Perhaps Jewel thought the name “prickly pear” was too scary, but they are green and they do grow on cacti, so the euphemism fits.

Anyway, at 20 cents each, I bought a dollar’s worth.

We’d encountered prickly pears in Arizona, and we’d seen them in Mexican grocery stores (called “tuna” in Spanish), but I’m not sure I ever bought one.

Back home, I was reminded that there are a lot of seeds in these prickly pears, but they’re all edible, and the fruit is a magnificent magenta, almost the blue-red color of blood. I ate one; I’ll probably make smoothies with the rest.

For some years now, Americans have been becoming progressively much more adventurous about the foods they eat. What not long ago would have been considered perhaps prohibitively exotic – hummus, sushi, kefir – are now considered everyday foods. We who like to eat live in a wonderful time.

When I had young children in the house, I’d always buy unusual fruit that I found at grocery stores: dragon fruit, soursop, durian, whatever. Kids like fruit because it’s sweet, and bringing home unusual fruit is an effective way to teach/show children that there’s a lot of excellent stuff out there just waiting for us to try. It might be unusual, but it’s worth a bite. Giving kids the chance to try new fruits and other foods is a good way to impress upon them the importance of stretching their food boundaries to try things that, though perhaps unfamiliar, could be become favorite foods.

My grandchild will be visiting us in the next few weeks, and although his parents make a serious effort to introduce him to the wonderful world of food, I’ve got a few foods hidden away that I intend to surprise him with: prickly pears, of course, but also sardines, and Klondike bars.



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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...