I grew up eating fruit after every meal. Little did I know when I was a kid, that this practice came directly from my Sicilian heritage. I was reminded of that this past month in Sicily, when, after most of my meals, I enjoyed one of the two fruits in season–white melon and fichi d’India. Fichi d’India, or prickly pears, as we call them in American English, were my first choice (These pictured here are from Raccapalumba, being sold in Il Capo market in Palermo.). And with good reason, because during this time of year, fichi d’India are plentiful and sweet.
That’s why the town of Roccapalumba in Palermo Province is celebrating the 17th addition of the Sagra del Ficodindia this weekend. During the feast, the town’s streets will be alive with workshops about how to peel and eat the tuna (fruit) of the cactus, how to prepare it for consumption, and then, of course, there will be ample opportunities to taste products and dishes made from the plant–everything from honey to liquor to a recipe called scuzzulata. More than 30,000 people are expected between now and Sunday.
Fichi d’India (or ficudinnia in Sicilian) arrived in Sicily when the Spanish brought the plant from Mexico (back then called, India by the Spanish explorers) in the 16th century. The dry, arid climate of Sicily, and specifically Raccapulmba, was ideal for cultivating the cactus, which today, is found all over Sicily.