Above: Try this recipe for a zesty spin on a mixed green salad (from Cultural Blend, November 2021). Photograph by Quentin Bacon.

Prickly pear cactus began growing in the deserts of North America about 3 million years ago, so it’s always appeared in recipes passed down from the Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham. In late August the deserts are accented with the cacti’s rich, dark-pink fruit, signaling that it’s time to harvest. This recipe sticks with a tradition of combining fruits, nuts, and foraged greens, but I update it with a zesty sprinkling of queso fresco to bring some tart saltiness to the sweeter elements. If you can’t find prickly pear juice or syrup in your grocery store, you can easily find it online. Just skip the agave if you’re using syrup instead of juice—you don’t want to oversweeten the dressing.


2 cups julienned green apple
2 tablespoons lemon juice  
3 cups julienned jicama  
1 cup julienned red onion  
½ cup chopped pecans  
1 cup loosely packed mixed greens
1 cup chopped dandelion leaves  
2 teaspoons salt  
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper  
½ cup crumbled queso fresco    


1 shallot, peeled and diced  
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced  
Zest and juice of 1 lime  
3 tablespoons prickly pear juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar  
6 tablespoons olive oil  
1 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper  

Serves 6 to 8


  1. For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, place the shallot, garlic, lime zest and juice, prickly pear juice, and agave nectar. Drizzle in the oil while whisking. Continue to whisk until emulsified.

  2. Stir in salt and pepper and reserve until ready to use. Any remaining dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

  3. In a medium bowl, combine the apple and lemon juice. Toss well, then add the jicama, onion, pecans, mixed greens, and dandelion leaves.

  4. Add just enough Prickly Pear Vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper and gently toss. Garnish with the queso fresco and serve.


New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian is available at bookstores throughout the country. Learn more about Freddie J. Bitsoie’s work, including his partnership with famed Italian chef Lidia Bastianich, on his Rezervations Not Required Facebook page.