Nopal cactus or prickly pear is native to Mexico and has served as a staple food and healing plant for thousands of years, perhaps as many as 20,000 years ago with the first man to arrive in Mexico. Native Indians used it as food, mainly during drought years where it became essential to the survival of the people in the region and their cattle and livestock. The juice from the pads of this plant were also used to soothe wounds, stiffen cloth, purify water, waterproof pain, strengthen mortars and as a hedge. And, on top of all this, it’s also great eating! Both the “heart” or red flower (the fruit called the tuna) can be eaten, along with the prickly pad itself.
In Mexico, nopal is eaten in many ways: raw or cooked in salads, in soups and stews, grilled, as a base for ice cream and even as a beverage. We enjoyed ours in the form of a salad, served as an appetizer in Catavina, a little town in Baja.
So tasty–muy bueno. Salud!
Mexican Nopal Salad
- Serrano Chili Peppers
How to: Cut onions, tomatoes and chili peppers into very small pieces and mix together in a large bowl. Add a few drops of lime and water and mix into a sauce. Boil the nopal pads, clean (remove all prickers) and cut into cubes, drain and add to sauce. Serve the salad on the side with your favorite Mexican dishes, like the delicious ceviche we enjoyed!
Want to prick up your meals with more deliciousness? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday!