Aloe juice wishes and prickly pear dreams


When I was little I had a major sweet tooth. OK, so I still do.

My parents were pretty controlling with sugar—we got one small desert after dinner. Period.

My mother actually hid the candy. I can’t tell you how agonizing it was to my 7-year-old self when she would forget where she’d hid it and we had to watch her forage through cabinets for what seemed like hours.

All of these suppressed candy cravings led to crazy, wild dreams in which I was running through massive piles of candy and desserts (like the scene in the treasure cave from Aladdin), throwing everything I could grab into a giant burlap sack. Alas, I always woke up empty handed, just as I was about to escape with all of my precious loot.

This story has a point: Walking into Andy’s Fruit Ranch in Albany Park with Liz on Tuesday was the adult version of this dream. Expect that it was real.

Never heard of Andy’s? Oh-ho-ho, you are missing out—big time.

If you’re looking for a good, cheap ethnic food market with a huge selection, look no further. I couldn’t read the labels on half of the inventory, let alone tell you what some of the items were. How exciting is that?!? Well, it was for me.

My head was spinning as I ran down the aisles, grabbing random ingredients willy nilly. Suddenly, I had to have a can of coconut milk from Thailand (.99 cents). I couldn’t live with out a giant package of banana leaves ($1.89). I absolutely needed a giant frond of fresh aloe vera ($1.49).

Frantically, as if this was all a dream about to end, I threw one ridiculous item after another in my basket. Ginger root ($1.22), chayote squash (.75 cents. “What the heck are these??? I don’t know, just put the squash in the basket!!!“) phyllo dough ($2.39), prickly pear fruit ($1.00), chorizo (2.78), pomegranates (2.76), corn husks (3.72).

As my adrenaline began to drop in the checkout line, I started to wonder how I would actually use all of this stuff. The produce haul was the most worrisome:


My receipt was intense, considering that most of the items I purchased were completely superfluous (but completely awesome at the same time. I’m using a lot of italics in this post, aren’t I?):

Andy's Fruit Ranch receipt

Anyway, as I begin to process all of this, I have a few ideas about using these ingredients, one of which I executed last night (post to come).

Here are ingredients that continue to puzzle me:

  • Prickly Pear cactus fruits
  • Aloe vera (yes, it’s edible)
  • Chayote squash

I encourage any and all recipe suggestions.

For these ingredients, I have several ideas floating around in my head, but am still open to suggestions:

  • Pomegranate
  • Phyllo dough
  • Ginger
  • Coconut milk
  • Chorizo

And be sure to stay tuned for the post in which I attempt to skin and gut an aloe frond.


  • Tammy

    What a fun sounding cooking adventure! I love how brave you were as you foraged through the market. I haven’t tried a majority of the things you purchased; I’ll be interested to see how you use everything.

  • Joelen

    I love ethnic markets and Albany Park continues to amaze me with the fresh, unique offerings and affordable prices at restaurants and grocery stores! Great deals and I look forward to seeing what you make with them!

  • Jackie at PhamFatale.com

    I had no clue aloe was edible. I knew its medicinal value if you rub the sap on your skin but had no clue you could make a drink out of it. Thanks for sharing, i learned something new! Do you put the entire piece of Aloe in the juicer to extract the juice. What’s the procedure?

  • admin

    I’m not exactly sure, but I think you take out the guts of the frond (jelly-like insides under the green skin) and cook them on the stove top–then mix or blend them with sugar and water. I’ll let you know when I’m done experimenting!

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