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The Prickly Pear aka Nopales

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Some of you might remember how I have noticed that whatever a person needs can be found in the ground where they live. It just works that way. Well, this week I have decided to take the plunge into an experience that has been waiting for me and available in the physical for me for at least 6 years. The prickly pear aka Nopal





Where to begin,

such a wonderful plant,

similar to aloe, with amazing medicinal and nutrient- rich properties.


In the realm of exotic and nutritious foods, the prickly pear, also known as nopales, stands as a vibrant and versatile gem. With its rich history and an impressive array of health benefits, nopales have secured their place as a culinary treasure. Derived from the paddle-shaped leaves of the prickly pear cactus, nopales have long been cherished in traditional Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Let's delve into the numerous nutrients and benefits of this intriguing ingredient, along with three classic recipes that highlight its delicious potential.

Nutritional Powerhouse

Nopales are a nutritional powerhouse, brimming with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to overall well-being. These vibrant green leaves are an excellent source of dietary fiber, aiding digestion and promoting a feeling of fullness. They are also rich in vitamins A and C, playing vital roles in immune system support, vision health, and skin rejuvenation.

The nopales' nutritional profile includes essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which contribute to heart health, nerve function, and bone strength. What sets nopales apart is their unique betalain antioxidants, which give the cactus its distinctive color and have been linked to anti-inflammatory and potential anticancer properties.


Health Benefits

  1. Blood Sugar Management: Nopales possess soluble fiber that can help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose. This is especially beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels.

  2. Digestive Health: The dietary fiber in nopales promotes a healthy digestive system by aiding in regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and supporting gut health.

  3. Heart Health: The high potassium content in nopales helps regulate blood pressure levels and reduces the risk of cardiovascular issues.

  4. Weight Management: Nopales' fiber content promotes a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management and controlling overeating.

  5. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: The betalain antioxidants in nopales have shown potential in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, contributing to overall wellness.

Classic Nopales Recipes

  1. Nopales Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced nopales (boiled and drained)

  • 1 cup diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup diced red onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  • Juice of 2 limes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, combine diced nopales, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to create the vinaigrette.

  3. Pour the vinaigrette over the nopales mixture and toss well to combine.

  4. Allow the flavors to meld for about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy this refreshing and tangy salad!


2. Grilled Nopales Tacos


Ingredients:

  • Nopales paddles, cleaned and spines removed

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • Corn tortillas

  • Your choice of taco toppings (sliced avocado, diced onions, crumbled queso fresco, salsa, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Brush nopales paddles with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  2. Grill the nopales on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes per side, until they have grill marks and are tender.

  3. Slice the grilled nopales into thin strips.

  4. Warm the corn tortillas and assemble your tacos with the grilled nopales and your desired toppings.

  5. Serve with a squeeze of lime and relish the flavors of these unique and delicious tacos!

3. Smoothie of the day:


-mango

-2 bananas

-cacao powder

-almond milk/ water/ (milk for my son.. he loves chocolate-banana smoothies and milk gets the best pass)

-dragon fruit

-1 pad of prickly pear

-pinch of fresh ginger


too easy, and sooooo very yummy!!! I'm so excited to be able to eat from the garden. I feel so energized, thus how I know its the path! another time I'm sure I'll add mint from the garden and possibly some aloe..


4. Kitchari: (Tri Doshic) <3 <3 <3 Om Shantih

see bottom of this recipe for what we made today. All quantities can be increased or decreased, substituted, to taste and/ or intuition Infinite ways to make this dish. Using the food guidelines make a dish to suit you in the present moment. This is a recipe that has come to be one of my favourites. Soon after the birth, simplify this, later you can add things like yams, and broccoli etc " 1 Cup yellow mung dal (yellow mung beans) or orange, or substitute lentils 1 Cup basmati rice 1 inch fresh ginger- peeled and finely chopped 4 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut (dry or fresh) 1 bunch of cilantro 1⁄2-1 cup water/ and or coconut water (for blender mix of ginger, coconut, cilantro) 3 tbsp ghee/ coconut oil 1-2 inch piece of cinnamon bark 5 cardamom pods 5 whole cloves 3 bay leaves 1-2 tbsp turmeric 2-3 tbsp of cumin seeds 2 tsp coriander powder 1-3 tsp of mustard seeds pinch of salt pinch of NATURAL sugar if any- **do not cook honey, but it can be added after... 6 cups water (to 8 cups) can use hemp seeds, leafy greens, root veggies for grounding (but not if feeling lethargic) "

30" Mothering the Mother" Gentle Birthing Guide Soak mung beans or lentils overnight for better digestibility (to lower Vata- gas, constipa- tion, anxiety). Wash the mung dal and rice until water is clear. " If possible, in a blender mix the ginger (great in damp, cold weather if no Pitta symptoms are showing up- I often omit in summer and most of the time..), coconut, water/ coconut, cilantro and blend until liquefied. Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add the ghee, (and possibly some coconut oil ), cinnamon, cloves, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, pep- percorns, coriander powder, turmeric, salt. Stir until mustard seeds pop, careful not to burn/ until fragnant / lightly browned. Then stir in mung dal, lentils, and rice and mix well. Pour in the 6-8 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes then turn down the heat to very low and cook lightly covered until the dal and rice are soft (about 25-35 minutes)

Here's another one of my favourite garden green (thank you Celia & Hobson for the divine spinach and Joci for helping me make the spinach trellis ) dishes..


For me there is something so satisfying about eating from the garden.. from the land, sharing food with friends, knowing that the intention and your etheric body are growing your food, and feeling it really.. I am so fortunate and feel so grateful to recognize this medicine and to have been given the opportunity to connect in this way. From where I came from (modernity/ disconnection) to where I am now (connected, grounded, energetically safe). huge. and every day I give thanks


Todays kitchari was a take off of this recipe, as it always is here at Grateful. We pick and choose out of what is available and what is best for the dosas types in the house that will be eating. Today it was black beans, onions, green pepper, garlic, cilantro, prickly pear (what a name :)), hmm what else.. Chaya. That was it, nourishing and simple.


5. Broccoli and Spinach Subji

or Cauliflower and Potato Subji (Tridoshic) 4 cups mixed broccoli and spinach, or cauliflower and potato 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

add some peeled Prickly Pear for nice vegetable 2 tablespoons shredded coconut bunch of fresh cilantro, to taste 1 tbsp turmeric 1 tsp black/ yellow mustard seeds 3-5 tbsp oil/ ghee 1⁄2 cumin seeds coriander powder to taste pinch of salt 4 cups water wash the veggies and cut into small pieces cook ghee on medium heat add spices, cook until seeds pop. Then add the veggies, stir until all is mixed, then pour in the water, cover and cook until soft. Then let cool a bit, blend and serve.


6. Nopales and Egg Scramble


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup diced nopales (boiled and drained)

  • 3 eggs

  • 1/4 cup diced onion

  • 1/4 cup diced bell peppers

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or cilantro) for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a skillet, sauté diced onion and bell peppers until softened.

  2. Add the diced nopales and cook for a few more minutes.

  3. In a bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Push the nopales mixture to one side of the skillet and pour the beaten eggs into the other side.

  5. Scramble the eggs and mix them with the nopales mixture until cooked to your liking.

  6. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs and serve this hearty and nutritious scramble for a delightful breakfast or brunch.


The prickly pear cactus's edible paddles, nopales, are a treasure trove of health benefits and nutrients that deserve a prominent place on your plate. From their blood sugar-regulating properties to their potential anti-inflammatory effects, nopales are an excellent addition to a balanced diet. Whether you're savoring them in a zesty salad, enjoying their smoky goodness in grilled tacos, or starting your day with a nutritious scramble, nopales offer a unique and delicious culinary experience that celebrates both tradition and innovation. So why not embrace the prickly delight and explore the world of nopales today? Your taste buds and your body will thank you!


It grows abundantly in parts of Central America that I know of and I imagine other parts of the world, of which I know nothing yet.

Prickly pear is healthy. It grows in the garden, is easy to prepare and it known to hydrate, be overall cooling and light like aloe, and as such can be used to support lower Pitta and Kapha type symptoms and issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol hangover, colitis, diarrhea. It is also known to be used to fight viral infections.

It can be eaten raw or cooked being mindful of the preparation considerations to remove the little thorns on the outside. More on that here: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/prickly-pear/harvesting-edible-cactus-pads.htm. check this rice dishes, omelettes, and as I discovered... even smoothies :) We discovered how to do it just by trial and error and listening to our intuition and neighbours here in Nicaragua and then while prepping to cook decided to cross reference which led to adding raw into our smoothie of the day:



All hail the prickly pear, especially if you live in a hot country. You can always try it in small amounts and see if it is a great addition to your diet and lifestyle


A little more on how to cook them:


Handling and preparing prickly pear, also known as nopales, might seem daunting due to their spines, but with a few simple steps, you can easily enjoy their delicious and nutritious benefits. Here's how to handle and prepare prickly pear safely and efficiently:

1. Choosing and Handling Nopales:

  • Look for young, tender nopales with smaller spines. These are easier to handle and have a milder flavor.

  • When handling nopales, use tongs or wear gloves to avoid getting spines in your skin.

  • Use a sharp knife to cut off both ends of the nopales.

  • Carefully peel off any thick, tough outer skin using the knife. You should be left with the fleshy green paddles.

2. Removing Spines:


There are various methods to remove spines from nopales:

- Peeling: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the spines and tiny glochids (hair-like spines) from the surface of the nopales.

- Scorching: Hold the nopales over an open flame (gas stove or grill) for a few seconds on each side. This will cause the spines to burn off. Use tongs to hold the nopales while scorching.

- Brushing: Use a stiff brush to scrub off the spines from the nopales' surface.


3. Cleaning Nopales:

  • Rinse the nopales under cold water to remove any remaining spines, dirt, or debris.

  • You can also soak the nopales in a bowl of cold water for about 15-20 minutes to help loosen any stubborn spines.

4. Cooking Nopales:

  • Nopales can be boiled, grilled, sautéed, or used in various dishes.

  • Boiling: Place cleaned and chopped nopales in a pot of boiling water. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until they are tender. Drain and rinse.

  • Grilling: Brush the cleaned nopales with a little olive oil and seasonings, then grill them for a few minutes on each side until they develop grill marks and are tender.

  • Sautéing: In a skillet, sauté chopped nopales with some onions and garlic in a bit of oil until they are tender.

5. Using Nopales:

  • Once cooked and prepared, nopales can be used in a variety of dishes.

  • Add them to salads, tacos, omelets, scrambled eggs, soups, stews, or as a side dish.

  • Their mild, slightly tangy flavor makes them versatile and complementary to many flavors.

6. Storing Nopales:

  • Store cleaned and chopped nopales in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for about a week.

  • You can also blanch and freeze nopales for longer storage. Blanche them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and pack into freezer-safe bags.

Remember, once you've mastered the art of handling and preparing nopales, you'll be able to enjoy their unique taste and health benefits in a variety of culinary creations. Whether you're a seasoned cook or just starting out, experimenting with nopales can add a touch of vibrancy and nutrition to your meals.


so fun ! and like I said, so nourishing


Nutritional Content explained in detail :


Prickly Pear, also known as nopales, is a nutrient-rich ingredient that offers a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds.


Here's a breakdown of the nutritional content of prickly pear per 100 grams of edible portion: Calories: Approximately 16-20 calories Carbohydrates: Around 3.33-5.34 grams

  • Dietary Fiber: Roughly 1.63-3.6 grams. The dietary fiber in nopales supports digestive health, aids in weight management, and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

Protein: About 0.91-1.12 grams. While not a significant protein source, nopales can still contribute to your daily intake. Fat: Minimal, with less than 0.45 grams of fat per 100 grams. Vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: Nopales are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which supports vision health, immune function, and skin health.

  • Vitamin C: Prickly pear is rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system, supports collagen production, and aids in wound healing.

Minerals:

  • Calcium: Provides about 56-61 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, contributing to bone health, muscle function, and nerve transmission.

  • Magnesium: Contains approximately 85-88 milligrams of magnesium, which supports muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and bone health.

  • Potassium: Offers around 220-257 milligrams of potassium, crucial for heart health, fluid balance, and nerve function.

  • Iron: Contains roughly 0.61-1.18 milligrams of iron, aiding in oxygen transport and energy production.

Other Beneficial Compounds:

  • Betalains: These are unique antioxidants responsible for the vibrant red, purple, and yellow colors in some prickly pear varieties. Betalains have been associated with potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

  • Flavonoids: Prickly pear also contains flavonoids, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties that contribute to overall health.

Potential Health Benefits:

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: The soluble fiber and low glycemic index of nopales can help regulate blood sugar levels.

  • Digestive Health: The dietary fiber in nopales supports gut health by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

  • Heart Health: The combination of potassium, magnesium, and fiber can contribute to healthy blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular well-being.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: The presence of betalain antioxidants may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

  • Weight Management: The fiber content in nopales can promote a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management by curbing excessive eating.

It's important to note that nutritional values can vary depending on factors such as the variety of prickly pear, cultivation methods, and preparation techniques. However, incorporating nopales into your diet can provide a range of nutrients that contribute to a well-rounded and healthful eating plan.


Happy Exploring


Your Partner on the Path, Chetana




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