Yes, cactus pads or paddles, are another taste-good gift from our neighbor, Mexico. The “fruit” of its plant is the Prickly Pear. Taste? Nopales, the vegetable, tastes a bit like green beans, also asparagus. Yet cactus pads have a tangy taste, as well.
Sure. Like all cactae, all real-life nopales pads have prickly needles or spines. Just as we no longer fear eating fish because of its bones, proper removal of spines from cactus leaves is explained in a video below. Nopales are also available in jars or cans but, the fresh ones are a lot more appealing, as is any fresh vegetable.
Rivenrock Gardens has been growing nopales since 1993 and compiled this video to help you remove the cactus needles, if they haven’t been. It’s a good idea to wear gloves for this. Rinse pads when finished.
Just like chilis, nopales are rich in vitamin C.
Choose firm, never floppy, paddles. They should not be soft or have bad spots or have wrinkles. Color should be an even medium to dark green. A good size is that of an open hand. Paddles will not ripen any more after purchase. You may keep if tightly wrapped paddles in the refrigerator for about a week.
SEARCH AND SERVING SUGGESTIONS:
If not using in a recipe, boil cleaned nopales, cut into narrow strips, in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes, uncovered. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Now they are salad-ready, or if snacking on them, sprinkle with salt and lime juice.
Soups and stews
Stew with pork loin, tomatoes and corn
Stewed with tomatillos
Grilled with steak and poblanos peppers
Toasted tortillas or bed of rice, top with chopped cilantro
With queso blanco
Below are foodsites with nopales recipes.