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Prickly Pear Cactus (Nopal) Fun Facts

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Here's a prickly pear leaf:

Here's what I did with it:

I've wanted to try this for a long time and finally did it. I have a great little market in my neighborhood that has amazing prices on produce. I saw the cactus that was cut up and decided to grab it. I asked the lady how she cooks it and she said to steam it and add it to eggs, stir fry, soup, or with tomatoes and onions in a salad. I decided to try it with peppers, rice, egg, salsa, and spinach. I steamed the cactus first. I was surprised at how sticky it came out. Reminded me of okra. I can see where it would be great in soups. I added everything else and microwaved it (I'm at that was the best I could do). It came out terrific. The prickly pear has a distinct flavor and, in an odd way, reminds me of a pickle. I tried a piece raw and it seemed more like a bell pepper to me then. Here's the calorie breakdown:

Peppers, sweet, red, fresh, 1 cup, chopped - 40 cal
Egg substitute, liquid (Egg Beaters), 0.5 cup- 60 cal
Nopal, raw 140 gram(s)- 21 cal
Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice (Seeds of Change), 0.75 cup- 180 cal
Spinach, fresh, 2 cup - 14 cal
Salsa, 1 tbsp - 4 cal
TOTAL 320 cal

I'm glad I tried it. Very nice texture and taste. I'll definitely use it more.

Nopal - Prickly Pear Fun Facts:

-100 grams has only 14 calories
-*The prickly pear cactus secretes an oily fluid during full moons
-Prickly pear are found growing in washes, rocky hillsides, around boulders, and in areas where the soil is sandy or gravelly.
-Range: The Englemann variety of prickly pear can be found over much of the desert southwest from central Texas through inland southern California. Their range extends into northern Baja California and into central Sonora, Mexico.
-They are known to live well over 20 years
-There are several different varieties of prickly pear cactus each growing to different sizes. The most common species in the Sonoran Desert is the Engelmann prickly pear which grows up to 5 feet tall and can grow to a width of 10-15 feet.
-The red fruit or pear of this cactus are also known as "tuna".
-The spiny pads of the cactus are also edible (but it would be a good idea to know the proper preparation) -they are said to taste similar to green beans.
-The sap of the Prickly Pear, having a gel like consistency, can be used as hair conditioner.
-The fruit of the cactus is said to have a similar taste to watermelon (I thought pickle, but that's just me :)
-Prickly pear are the state cactus of Texas.
-Packrats often build dens at the base of these plant, which then provides protection from some of its predators.
-The abundant polysaccharide fibers and sterols found in the nopal prickly pear are known to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
-The high level of calcium present in nopal helps in reducing the risk of colon cancer.
-By normalizing and lowering blood sugar and lipids, nopal promotes satiety and reduces hunger and caloric consumption.
-Since nopal contains antioxidant flavonoids, it neutralizes free radicals before they can even overtax the liver. It absorbs toxins, thereby decreasing the liver’s load.
-Nopal helps counteracting the effects of alcohol consumption, rehydrating the body, soothing the stomach and preventing headaches and stomach aches.
-The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in nopal help in removing and preventing blood vessel plaques.
-Nopal cactus contains high amount of soluble and insoluble fibers that help in reducing both fasting and post-prandial hyperglycemia.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good for you trying something different!
    1887 days ago
    Interesting facts about Prickly Pears have made jam and chutney with them before- have to check out the eggs - my big thing has been rutabaga fries lately - D-lish - BTW - You would love Tai Chi and you live in the most perfect area in Country to pratice Tai Chi all that fresh air.
    1888 days ago
    gonna have to try it!
    1890 days ago
    Hi 68 Anne. I actually have just had them once and i guess the closest you could call it was steaming it, because I put it in the microwave, covered. I thought it was pretty good though. Sounds like the proper way is to boil it though. Fun learning about new foods.

    Imelda, like ceviche (sp?). I bet they would be great "cooked" with lime! Maybe a little shrimp. tell that cactus who's boss..he..he!

    Alicia...good advice on the tuna. Kind of like beets I'm imagining.

    Thanks for your comments everyone.
    1892 days ago
    I've seen this at produce stands before and wondered about it. Thanks for sharing!
    1892 days ago
  • MARTY728
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    1892 days ago
    How fun. I love how adventurous you are with new things!
    1892 days ago
    Nopal is AMAZING in fajitas! That's how I've always had it. The local Mexican places where I live now do not cook it that way, which is sad.

    Tuna is soooo yummy! I hate dealing with cutting it up, but the red ones are delicious. Just make sure you're not wearing anything special, though, because the juice can leave a pretty bad stain.
    1892 days ago
    My husband used to cook cactus. Mexicans eat it frequently. =)
    1892 days ago
    An interesting blog...the prickly pear cacti in my yard are now shuddering in fright thinking they may soon end up in a pot...
    1893 days ago
    wow! i am going to try some next time i see it at the store! thanks!
    1893 days ago
    Sounds yummy...not available in my area
    1893 days ago
  • LINDAK25
    Learned something new! Sounds yummy.
    1893 days ago
  • SAMI199
    emoticon emoticon
    1893 days ago
  • 68ANNE
    I must get some and try but do I steam or boil? Have you done both yet?
    1893 days ago
  • IRP1114
    Yea the fruit is yummy. Seeds are kind of the same as the guava seeds. Kind of hard but edible. The light green fruit is usually light green on the inside and the dark reddish ones are red on the inside and are a little sweeter.

    As to the raw question. You can and I have but typically we don't. I cook it in boiling water and then strain and rinse with cold water too cool them before mixing with the veggies. To have them raw you can "cook" them in lime juice too : )!
    1893 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/9/2013 6:54:34 PM
    Great info Imelda! I was hoping I'd get more ideas and info for them. An aha too on the fruit vs the leaf. I was wondering why I wasn't getting the watermelon. I think I tried the fruit a while back, but I'm not positive. I"ll have to get one and try it out. Do you eat the leaves raw in the salad?
    1893 days ago
  • IRP1114
    Glad you liked them! Just for future reference some Hispanics will sometimes say steam when they really mean boil. (don't know why) And the cactus fruit is sweet and does taste like watermelon sort of lol. Mainly eaten raw as is just peeled in salads or in juices. The cactus leaf is the one you tried. We have it as a side dish all the time. The most common way is a simple salad with onions tomato and cilantro. I usually do the leftover ones in eggs for hubby or cor Cesar since he is the one that loves nopales the most. They are also good in mole sauce! Yum :-)! Can't wait to see what else you do with them!
    1893 days ago
  • LYNSEY723
    Very interesting!! I was just thinking it had been a little while since we got some fun facts! Love it!
    1893 days ago
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