One reward for visiting Mérida in July is that pitaya are in bloom, and they are growing wild everywhere, even in our yard. The flower of what we also call dragon fruit lasts just one night, but the real pleasure comes from the flesh of this cactus species, a mildly sweet pulp that makes the most refreshing drink you’ve ever had. It’s a little like an apple or a melon, with tiny black seeds, but it’s so mild, it’s really hard to describe.
We saw them growing wild all over the Centro, but we were introduced to this delicacy after venturing away from the center of town. At the beginning of the week, our friend Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado swept us away and up a mere two miles to her Garcia Gineres neighborhood. On a street corner was La Lupita, which I’ll write about more on a later date. Her husband Jorge mentioned that pitaya was in season, and suggested a round. I was game, and since I had already discovered a love of jamaica, another local favorite, I was ready to try something else. Soon, I was enjoying something I knew I’d be struggling later to describe. Two days later, we visited the Pickled Onion in Santa Elena, about an hour south of Mérida, taken (very generously!) by Joanna and Jorge. We met up with their son Carlos, who is researching a paper on sustainable tourism. The inhabitants of the village were planning a festival that evening, and I begged Carlos to post something on his blog.
Jorge delighted the kitchen with some fresh pitaya. Valerie, the proprietor, sat at the head of the table, and out came a pitcher of freshly squeezed, pulpy, icy juice, so refreshing on a warm afternoon after a long drive. This remote, remarkable hacienda is also something I’ll have to describe in more detail on another day. After hearing a handful of stories, I told Valerie she should write an autobiography, and she told me she had. She handed me a tiny pamphlet outlining her history and the story of the hacienda. I told her that she’s got more of a pamphlet inside her. She’s a force of nature, and I suspect too restless to sit down long enough to pen a substantial book.
Pitaya is a great way to beat the heat, but I’m not really complaining about the weather last week. It was in the low- and mid-90s during the day, and not as humid as it could have been. We’re learning to walk on the shady side of the street, although this time of year, the sun is up so high there often is no shady side. I invested in some very comfortable, high-tech sandals. I also overcame my reticence to wearing short pants, something I resisted because of (1) my pale legs and (2) locals don’t really wear shorts. My new apparel made walking around a lot more comfortable. I even wore the sandals climbing the ruins of Uxmal, which is all I’ll say about that site under terms of my agreement with another pair of bloggers who called dibs. When I told them about our trip to Uxmal, they said they were just about to post an item about the very same thing. Well, who wants to blog about the very same thing? So we agreed: They get Uxmal, I get the Pickled Onion. Such is the wheeler-dealer nature of blogging in Mérida.