I'm a big fan of nopales (edible cactus) which is a very nutritious plant containing beta carotene, iron, some B vitamins and is a good source of vitamin C and calcium. In case you don't know what I'm talking about....it's the plant on the background...Yeah! You can eat those!
It's a staple in my fridge and when I cook for friends, house guests or couch surfers, I normally make a plate of nopales so they can try something new and so far they've been a hit.
You can purchase nopales from Mexican grocery stores, even though they're available year-round, their peak season is from early spring to late fall. At the grocery store you will find the nopales already cleaned and in some cases cut in pieces.
The taste is very light so it combines beautifully in Mexican dishes or salads. There are several ways to cook them, but my favorite way is slightly pan seared.
- Spray Pam on both sides of the nopal
- Place them in a square griddle and season with salt and pepper
- Turn them a few times and cook for about 10 minutes
Once the nopales are done, place them in a plate, cut them up in pieces, sprinkle some salt, a bit of lime juice and enjoy!
The consistency is a bit slimy, very similar to okra. I normally have it as a side dish with Mexican rice, whole pinto beans and Mexican sour cream - with lots of corn tortillas. It also goes great as a topping for carne asada tacos, in this case I would cut the nopales length-wise.
When it comes to unusual foods, it always makes me wonder who was the first person to think cactus could be edible!