North Dakota Nopales

La Enchilada is my favorite Mexican restaurant in Bismarck. I was surprised when the family that owns it told me that their nopales (prickly pear cactus, an Indigenous Mexican staple food) on the menu was fresh, not canned. Fresh nopales in North Dakota?

But it turns out they had a plant out back:

While these are not as healthy as their relatives grown in warmer climates, this is a pretty impressive showing for North Dakota. And it shows that the relationship between people and their plants is so strong that we will go to impressive lengths to cultivate our traditional medicines and foods wherever we go, even if the climate is not quite right for it. So, this plant has traveled north with its people, and is doing its best to provide for them, in a new land.

And while their nopal is a cousin of the much-spinier, smaller uŋkčéla that people traditionally eat here, I suspect that these restauranteurs would not have the time or interest to go out and walk the prairies, looking for our local substitute.

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