Pleasantly tart, they taste a bit like green beans or asparagus. Sometimes called “cactus paddles” or “prickly pear cactus,” they are fleshy pads about the size of one’s hand. Like so many original Mexican crops, fresh nopales are now available on a limited basis in U.S. supermarkets, also in cans or jars. Nopales are a natural on the grill and an interesting accent with grilled steaks.
Nopales are rich in dietary fiber. They are also rich in vitamins vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Choose small or medium sized, firm pads, ones not wrinkled or mushy. A healthy color runs from pale to dark green.
Cactus pad preparation could be intimidating were it not for the folks at Rivenrock Gardens, California Certified Organic Farmers (edible cactus artisan growers) since 1993. Take a look at their Nopale Preparation video.
Nopales give off a sticky substance similar to okra which releases during cooking. This can be rinsed off before serving or before further preparation as an ingredient.
USES: after cleaning, nopales may be cooked by either boiling or grilling.
Soups and stews
Grilled as vegetable
Goes well with: onion, garlic, poblano peppers, add lime juice, cumin and cilantro.
Check the Rivenrock Gardens site for nopales recipes.