Nopal.... or better known as the Prickly Pear Cactus.
There is so much more to know about this beautiful cactus.
There are approximately two hundred and twenty known species endemic to Mexico. It's name comes from the Náhuatl nopalli.
You probably didn't know that it can be eaten. And not only is it a delicious vegetable, but also nutritious as can be. Let me tell you a little bit about it....
First, a little nutritional information: One cup of raw nopales contains approximately 14 calories, 1g of protein, less than 1g of fat, 3g of carbohydrate, 2g of fiber, 1g of sugar, 20mcg of vitamin A, 8mg of vitamin C, 141mg of calcium and 4.6mcg of vitamin K, 0.59mg of iron, 52mg of Magnesium,16mg of Phosphorus. Impressive, right?
These can be prepared in many different ways.... GRILLED NOPALES like peppers for fajitas. They can also be made into NOPAL AND SCRAMBLED EGGS. You can make a CACTUS JUICE or a CACTUS SMOOTHIE out of them. But the following is a fantastic way to enjoy them and a favorite of mine.
This is a great recipe. You should try it out. You will love it! I attached a link to Gabriela's great website that tells you step by step how to prepare it. CACTUS SALAD
And here are some more benefits of the Prickly Pear Cactus:
1. It lowers cholesterol
2. It cures diabetes
3. It fights cancer
4. It improves digestion
5. It helps to reduce weight
6. It protects brain cells from damage
7. It reduces inflammation
8. It boosts metabolism
In the following link you can read more about them....
Now, what about the Prickly Pear? The prickly pear is the fruit of the Nopal. It is a delicious and healthy fruit. Be careful while removing the skin. It has lots of tiny spines. You can purchase them in any Mexican or Hispanic store, just like the Cactus pads (fresh or in a jar).
Cochineal are tiny bugs that grow on the Opuntia species. Red dye is made out of them. Chances are that you have a product at home that was dyed with these bugs.
And last but not least. Opuntias have been used as fences for centuries.Beautiful way to mark your territory, right?
Oh! I almost forgot! In Mexico researchers are working with Opuntias to create biodegradable plastics. This is fenomenal!!!!