Tacos and Dragons

Yesterday, we drove a couple of miles to one of the Hispanic markets (Supermercado El Rancho) where we sometimes buy fruits and vegetables and where I buy gallon cans of pickled jalapeños (jalapeños en escabeche). The prices there are generally lower on certain items, especially citrus fruits and fresh peppers, and the variety of vegetables is almost always greater than at the other markets we frequent, such as Kroger, Tom Thumb, and Sprouts. The market is part of a small Texas chain but the size of the store and the variety of products it carries suggests that a much bigger corporate beast own it; I don’t know whether that’s true, but it’s obviously not a mom and pop shop.

Our visit yesterday was for the express purpose of buying some Serrano peppers, which I’ll use in the tuna ceviche I’m making for dinner tonight.  Before leaving for the store, though, we decided to take advantage of the trip and try the lunch line there.

The store has a serving-line-style restaurant that serves all sorts of Mexican food; we opted for tacos. A large area with picnic tables provides seating for people who go through the food line. I’d guess there’s seating for at least 60, maybe more, in that area.

I opted to try three different tacos: pastor, lengua, and carnitas.  My wife went for lengua and barbacoa.  All of them, nicely filled in warm soft corn tortillas, were excellent and reasonably priced at $1.49 each.  A self-serve condiment bar offers pickled jalapeños, chopped onions, cilantro, red and green salsas, and a few other odds and ends.

After lunch, we wandered through the fruits and vegetables, picking up fresh serranos, a few fresh jalapeños, a couple of bunches of cilantro, and some tomatillos, some of which I used to make a soup-salsa snack yesterday afternoon and some of which go into the ceviche for tonight.

A photo of pitay, from the Beach City Smoothies website.

As we wandered, something in the fruits section caught our eye. From a distance, it looked like a tray of large red and green flowers, but up close it became obvious they were some sort of fruits, red with green “leaves” growing from them.  Sitting in the middle was half of one of the fruits, covered in plastic wrap, revealing its dense, dark red flesh, speckled with what looked like tiny black seeds.  There were no signs indicating what the thing was, so we asked a woman who was restocking some other fruits.  I couldn’t understand the name she gave it, but understood when she asked if we wanted to taste it; yes, of course!  She unwrapped the half-fruit, took it to a nearby counter where another woman was cutting and packaging some other fruits, and sliced off two pieces of the flesh.  It was sweet and delicious; and it instantly stained our fingers pink.

After we got home, I looked online and found it immediately (click on the image above to go to the site where I found the photo); it’s pitaya, also called dragon fruit, the fruit of a type of cactus.  It’s native to Mexico and South America and is now grown widely throughout Asia, as well.

So, there you have it; I learned something yesterday.  I like it when that happens.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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9 Responses to Tacos and Dragons

  1. druxha says:

    “Oh but they do!, was not posted by me, John. It doesn’t even make sense to my last post.

  2. Druxha says:

    Oh, but they do!

  3. druxha says:

    You tell me, Chan Chan? And guess what, I’m not confused by this, not in the slightest…names don’t make another person, Juan.

  4. Chan Chan says:

    Who’s Carlos?

  5. druxha says:

    No Carlos, or now Chan Chan, most of the tunas I purchase are from street market, and therefore, chiefly cultivated on ranches, and I must admit I’ve never had the problem that you have have described…tunas have been good to me!

  6. Chan Chan says:

    I’m sorry, but Druxha is wrong. Carlos is right!

    It’s obvious that Druxha has never had a tuna from the ranches. And as for “spinas,” not “spines,” it’s likely what her maid would be expected to pick off for her! 😉

  7. druxha says:

    I beg to differ with Carlos on the “tunas”. The only thing you need to watch out for with those buggers, it the spines. If you pick one up with your bare hands, you will more that likely pick up a spine(s) in your hand. Easy remedy…rub your hand in your hair…spines gone. In terms of toxicity, the “tuna” has an extremely thick skin, which you peel off, and thus revealing the pulp. No way this fruit could cause harm (parasitical any way) ,unless you have perhaps Diverticulitis, which they claim attacks of that can be provoked by anything that is, or has seedy nature to it, and therefore provoke any stomach disruption.

  8. Carlos says:

    I find myself a fan of your writing, John — smooth and informative! I love the way you incorporate the culinary with history and travel.

    Great piece here.

    Frankly, I couldn’t help but imagine you writing some text with a title like “A Gringo in the Mexican Market,” and that possibly some publishable book might be found for you in that genre.

    I’m with Druxha! While I have tasted dragon fruit from the market, I am more akin to “Tunas” of the cactus plant, but I’m sure that as Druxha would even warn, “make sure you wash them well,” because I’ve had them directly from some ranch cactus and paid the price of a “stomach revenge” that’s too horrible to even remember! They’re good tasting, but turtles and birds know this as well, hence, the infection.

    Now a week away from Facebook, I find myself at the threshold of your essays almost daily!

    Keep writing, my friend. Love your essays! You need to find a book, an angle for publishing a text!

  9. druxha says:

    Well there you go, John. I’m glad you posted this, for I have seen the “pitaya” around what seems like forever, in the street markets as well as the super. And yet, have never tried it, but I will now! I think the reason being is that I always thought they had a sour taste. There are two types that are actually sour, and then there is what you’d apparently tasted, which we call “pitaya dulce” (sweet pitaya).

    If you enjoy this type of cactus fruit, I recommend you try “tunas” (I believe they call them prickly pears, in English) if you have not done so. They too, are sweet and delicious!

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