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 work...so 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.