Prickly pear might be in the running for our state food, but its fleshy vegetable sister food deserves a little love, too. Nopales, a vegetable made from the paddle-like pads of the prickly pear plant, have been enjoyed extensively throughout Mesoamerica and are just as native to the Valley as, well, anything.
Hip Veggies, an educational collaboration between artists and food professionals, will celebrate the food (and nopales-inspired art) this Thursday at Nopalapalooza, a food/art fundraiser to raise awareness about native cuisine.
The event also serves to promote healthy eating and local art, all while raising money and gathering resources for Arizona food banks. In conjunction with the celebration, local painter and printmaker Joe Ray will launch his "Shut Up and Eat Your Nopales" canvas shopping bag. Very appropriately, the event will be hosted at The Hive, an art gallery in the heart of the 16th Street neighborhood, a center for Latino and Mexican culture.
"We want to give people an opportunity to taste cactus. It grows all around us, but most people have idea what it tastes like," says Hip Veggies founder Monika Woolsey. "We're trying to take this...intimidating food and give people an easy way to prepare it."
All of the food at the event will incorporate either nopales or other native foods, such as tepary beans from Ramona Farms in Sacaton and nopales-infused margaritas and smoothies. Smart Cookies will debut cactus pad cookies. The event will also include nopales cooking demonstrations by Caroline Niemann, author of "Cooking the Wild Southwest" and samples of native foods such as wheatberries and corn.
Steve Helffrich, owner of The Hive, will also introduce his nopales project, which aims to plant 1,000 nopales plants in the Coronado neighborhood to be harvested and eaten.
The event will showcase art from 11 Phoenix-area artists; each of the pieces will feature nopales. One-third proceeds from the artwork, canvas shopping bags and "Shut Up and Eat Your Nopales" t-shirts will benefit local hunger relief.
The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Hive on Thursday, November 8. For more information visit the Hip Veggies Facebook and click on the events tab. RSVP not required.