The prickly pear cactus, often referred to as nopal, opuntia, and other names, is marketed as a remedy for hangovers, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. It is also praised for having anti-inflammatory and antiviral qualities.
Nopal is a sort of vegetable.
The nopal cactus’ pads are known as “nopales” or “nopalitos. In the American Southwest and Mexico, they are frequently found in eateries, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets as a nutritional vegetable.
They can be prepared as a side dish with tomatoes and onions or sauteed and added to a variety of recipes, including as tacos and scrambled eggs.
Raw nopales can also be eaten. They look like green peppers when they are diced. Additionally, they can be made into tea, jams, or juice.
The small, spherical, and frequently colorful fruit of the nopal plant is another edible option for people.
Mexico’s health-conscious population enjoys drinking prickly pear fruit juice.
Is the nopal cactus edible?
Cactus pads may have been seen if you’ve ever visited an ethnic store that specializes in Mexican and southwestern food. Adult plants can produce 20 to 40 pads annually, and they grow particularly well in environments that resemble deserts. The pads are known as nopales in the region where the plants naturally grow; they are a treat from the desert that has spread throughout the states.
Harvesting edible cactus pads has a certain season and time of year. Nopales will be less acidic and sweeter if they are harvested at the ideal time.
The main source of nopales is the prickly pear cactus. The pads have been used for food despite their weaponry for probably as long as people have existed in their natural environment. Raw or cooked nopal is consumed. They cook up with a slimy, somewhat okra-like texture, but the flavor is delicious and gives dishes a lemony undertone.
Nopales are frequently sold canned in specialized shops or the supermarket’s Mexican department. These are used in the same way as any canned vegetable. Although the cacti are grown for sale in Mexico, if you reside in a region where Opuntia are plentiful, you can also collect your own pads. Eating cactus pads is similar to robbing a honeybee hive. There is a chance of getting stung.
Which kind of cactus are used to make nopales?
In the Monterey Bay region, have you ever noticed big clusters of cactus with bright pink fruit blooming haphazardly next to agricultural fields? These are nopal cactus, which are indigenous to Mexico and were introduced by farm laborers from their original country. Thanks to a few innovative local food and drink producers who take on the difficult task of spine removal and transform the paddles and the sweet fruit into brilliant products, this prickly succulent, with uses ranging from a hangover remedy to a blood sugar regulator, is finally receiving some recognition.
The Opuntia cacti, also known as nopales in Spanish, are the fleshy cactus pads that produce the prickly pears and sweet-tart magenta fruit known in Spanish as tuna. The majority of the 115 native nopales species to Mexico are edible. The two most popular varieties are Opuntia ficus-indica and Opuntia joconostle.
In Central Mexico, the nopal cactus is widely available and used in both traditional medicine and Mexican cuisine. The majority of the nopal farmed in Mexico, however, is fed to animals. Communities in Mexico can afford to stay on their land thanks to the employment, food, and revenue provided by nopal farming.
Latin Americans have eaten nopal for hundreds of years, and it is so prized that a prickly pear cactus is included on the Mexican flag.
For both people and animals in arid areas, the juice from the fruit and the liquid inside the paddles serve as a source of hydration. Prickly pears were used by Native Americans to prepare colonche, a fermented alcoholic beverage, and rarer species of the cactus contain trace levels of the psychoactive compound mescaline.
According to Tabitha Stroup, proprietor of Friend in Cheeses Jam Co. in Soquel, the nopal cactus was mostly planted in the United States by rogue propagators who were fortunate to have known the best variety to plant. The best prickly pears are the hot pink Mexican varieties, which have rich tannic acids and a tart-sweet, vibrant flavor. A Spanish yellow variation is also available locally, although it grows slower than the magenta fruiting cactus because it prefers volcanic, ashy soils. In her Prickly Purple Heart Jam, Stroup employs Mexican fruits; a portion of the sales earnings go to the Jacob’s Heart Foundation. Stroup is an expert on the nopal cactus and how to handle its savage spines in both the pads and the fruit. She advises putting on gloves that reach your elbows while utilizing the fruit to make juices or marmalades.
Put the ripe prickly pear fruit through a juicer whole, without removing the spines, and then strain it because the seeds are also problematic because they are so hard that they could break a tooth if they ended up in the final result.
D’Arrigo Brothers, a major regional producer of prickly pears with headquarters in Salinas, markets its products under the Andy Boy brand. To help customers forget the spines, which are removed with a special machine and leave no trace of them on the fruit, the D’Arrigo fruits are marketed as “cactus pears.” Sicily, where 10,000 acres of prickly pears are produced, is where the founders of D’Arrigo Brothers originate from.
In the spring through summer, when the nopal cactus pads have fragile, fresh growth, they are consumed. Fruit is picked from summer through fall. Wear heavy gloves when harvesting, and handle the cactus fruit or pads with tongs. Pick fresh, delicate, light green, 5- to 6-inch-long pads that are these characteristics. Cactus fruit needs to be harvested when it is fully mature and readily breaks off. Otherwise, the desired tart-sweet flavor won’t be there.
Expert nopales aficionados start with the edges of the nopales and cut off the skin and spines with a sharp knife. If you’re a beginner, stick to using a paring or butter knife to scale the spines off like you would a fish. If you want to remove the skin as well, just use a good potato peeler. Dr. Manfred Warmuth, a professor of computer science at UCSC and a member of the California Rare Fruit Growers, grows roughly 20 different species of rare fruit at his Santa Cruz home. One of his go-to tools is the edge of a metal measuring cup.
There are various varieties of magenta cactus fruit, with flavor profiles ranging from extremely acidic to custardy sweet or bitter. The common magenta cactus fruit has a sour raspberry-bubble gum-watermelon flavor. These intriguing types include the thorn-free, kiwi-like roja pelona, the crisp, juicy cristalina (also known as zarca), which tastes much like a ripe white peach, and the naranjona, which combines spicy overtones with a honey sweetness.
In the summer, producers in Gonzales and Los Banos provide Vicente Quintana of El Nopalito Produce with nopales, while the rest of the year, nopales are imported from Mexico. Quintana makes three different sizes of de-thorned paddles that are ready to eat and are packaged in 1-pound sacks at the El Pajaro Kitchen Incubator in Watsonville.
Some Latino grocers, such as the El Pueblo Market, Hernandez Markets, and Chavez Supermarket chains, carry his pre-prepared nopales. Cesario Ruiz, the proprietor of the My Mom’s Mole brand, a coworker of Quintana’s in the Pajaro restaurant, also receives supplies from him. Nopales and kale are the main ingredients in Ruiz’s superfood salad, which is selling like hotcakes at Staff of Life, Westside New Leaf, and Corralitos Meat Market in Santa Cruz. (Recipe on page 19) According to Ruiz, the salad’s freshness balances the thick, spicy mole.
Nopales are used by Mohammed Tabib in a relish that he claims is easy to make and tasty to serve on top of fish or chicken at The Fish Hopper restaurant on Cannery Row. He sprays the full pads with olive oil, roasts them, together with red and yellow bell peppers and ears of corn, until they have grill marks. Diced grilled vegetables are combined with corn, additional olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a salad.
A 15-barrel batch of prickly pear hard cider is produced each summer by Hallcrest Vineyards in Felton using organic prickly pear fruit from Prevedelli Farms near Corralitos. Before fermenting, owner John Schumacher slices the fruit and adds it along with just the right amount of Thai chili peppers, apple juice, and sugar. In addition to having his Prickly Pear hard cider on tap at neighborhood brewers, Schumacher is also thinking about bottling it for sale this autumn, so keep a watch out for it in specialty brew stores.
Prickly pear cider has also been brewed by Nicole Todd’s Santa Cruz Cider Co.; the tart beverage is typically served at the yearly Twisted Tasting celebration in Santa Cruz.
Cutting a mature plant’s current cactus pad allows for simple nopale propagation. Use a mature pad that is at least six months old, and make sure you cut it with a sharp, clean knife. Keep the cut in a well-ventilated area for about two weeks, or until a solid callus forms where you cut it. Once the pad is planted, it could decay if the wound has not fully healed over. Garden soil and coarse sand should be mixed in equal amounts and placed in a planting container with suitable drain holes. Use a stick or rock to hold the pad upright as the roots develop in the soil, upright and about 1 inch deep. Wait about a month before adding water. Up until its roots take hold, the succulent pad will be able to survive. Alternatively, you can just plant a cutting in the ground in the spring or summer when the ground is dry and remember to water it after about a month. Like weeds, cacti can survive on the rain that Mother Nature supplies and grow in the harshest environments with minimal care.
However, they grow better the more water they receive. Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer to enhance the nopal pads. However, if you want pears and flowers, up the potassium. Nopales thrive in direct sunlight and are frequently planted around the edges of buildings to form a thorny fence. They can also aid in reducing hillside erosion
Fruit and nopali pads are rich in fiber, important phytonutrients, and antioxidants while being low in calories. Their syrupy fluids contain polysaccharides that improve digestion, lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. They also strengthen the immune system, offer anti-inflammatory effects, and are a great source of magnesium, a mineral that many people lack. Additionally, the pads have a modest quantity of vitamin A, which guards against lung and skin cancer. The pink fruit has long been used as a headache and hangover cure because it has exceptional vitamin C levels.
My Mom’s Mole’s Ruiz claims that his father prepares a shake with nopal paddles every morning to help control his blood sugar; he does not feel as good when he skips it.
The following recipes call for fresh, velvety prickly pears:
- For the salad dressing, combine the prickly pear juice with the shallots, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.
- Fruit tarts: peel, slice into tiny pieces, then sprinkle with sugar and lime juice.
- For salads, try slicing into small pieces and mixing with chopped cilantro, pepitas, and shredded chicken.
- Drinks to stay hydrated: for children, combine prickly pear juice with some bubbly water; for adults, combine ice, lime juice, and vodka.
Nopal cactus pads taste lemony and, like okra, are filled with a little slimy juice. Try brining skinned chunks in salt water (1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water) to lessen this. This will help remove some of the meat’s sticky substance. Or just boil them for 3 minutes in salted water, turn off the heat, let them steep for a further 3 minutes, drain them, and then let them cool.
Here are some tips for getting ready:
- For a great breakfast burrito, fry them with onions, garlic, and duck or bacon fat before scrambling in eggs.
- Use apple cider vinegar to quickly make a pickle, then put it in the fridge.
- Roast in the oven or on the grill after being salted and olive oil-coated. If desired, score the skin with a knife before cutting the paddle into strips that are still together at the base to form a fan. (This will assist in cooking out the sticky juices.)
- Add chopped nopales to tacos, salads, or stews after they have been roasted or boiled, as preferred.
Attend the 6th annual Festival del Nopal in Santa Cruz on Sunday, July 24, in the downtown farmers’ market parking lot if you’re unfamiliar with nopales and want to immerse yourself in their culture. The money raised will support regional charities and youth scholarships. There will be culinary competitions, ethnic music, and a variety of nopales and prickly pear delicacies to sample.
The less common prickly pear fruit will be sampled, and I hope to find some cuttings to grow on my property.
Since 2001, Jamie Collins, the proprietor of Serendipity Farms, has been cultivating organic row crops near the mouth of Carmel Valley. She sells her food through farmers’ markets, U-pick sites, and CSAs.
Is a nopal a prickly pear?
Any of the numerous species of flat-stemmed spiny cactus in the genus Opuntia (family Cactaceae) and its edible fruits are known as prickly pears, also known as nopals. Western Hemisphere natives include prickly pear cacti. Many are grown, particularly the Indian fig (O. ficus-indica), which is a staple food for several populations in tropical and subtropical regions.
The Indian fig can reach a height of 5.5 meters and is bushy to treelike (18 feet). Large yellow blooms of 7.5–10 cm (3–4 inches) across are produced, and these are followed by white, yellow, or reddish purple fruits. It is commonly planted for the fruit, edible paddles, and as a forage crop in warmer climates. An oil is made from the tough seeds. The stems, particularly those of spineless types, are utilized as emergency stock feed during droughts because to their high water content.
Are nopales a bowel trigger?
Because nopal is a type of cactus, it has a large amount of dietary fiber that is crucial for the digestive process. Nopal’s fiber content makes it easier for bowel motions to travel through the digestive tract, which helps to alleviate constipation and diarrhea. In addition, the fiber in cactus helps people feel fuller for longer by blocking the release of the hormone ghrelin, which causes appetite and leads to overeating. Nopal is abundant in vitamins B6, thiamin, and riboflavin, all of which promote fat burning and the transformation of food into energy the body can use. However, it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
What is the English name for nopales?
A noun is a word type whose meaning defines reality. All things have names thanks to nouns, including persons, things, experiences, and feelings.
The opium poppy belongs to the Opuntia subfamily. Approximately 114 species that are indigenous to Mexico are currently known. They are very prevalent in its native Mexico, where the plant is a regular element in many recipes prepared using Mexican cuisine and can be consumed either fresh or cooked. In addition to being used in marmalades, soups, stews, and salads, it can also be utilized as animal feed or in traditional medicine. Although the pads of nearly all Opuntia species are delicious, Opuntia ficus-indica nopales are the most often grown nopals. The fruit known as the tuna, or more popularly known as Prickly Pear in the United States, is the other component of the nopal cactus that is edible. A vegetable called a nopalito is produced from immature cladode segments of prickly pears that have been meticulously peeled to remove the spines. These flat, fleshy pads can be either purple or green and are roughly the size of a hand. In Mexico, nopales are typically sold fresh. In recent years, canned or bottled versions have mostly been offered for export. There are occasionally dry variants available.