Thursday, May 7, 2015

Honk If You Love Prickly Pear

The prickly pear around here just started blooming.




The blossoms resemble roses. This leads many people think they are the fabled "Yellow Rose of Texas." In fact, the flowers are neither roses, nor the Yellow Rose of story and song.

They are, however, quite delicious.

Actually, it's not the blossoms that are tasty. It's the buds or pods that produce the flowers that are used to make jams, jellies, and drinks.


 My favorite use for prickly pear pods is to make margaritas. (Step by step instructions here.)


Furthermore, the fleshy paddles that the pods grow on can be eaten as well.
A nopal is a prickly pear cactus, thus the diminutive, nopalito, just means "little cactus." The word nopalito is used mainly in referring to diced, cooked cactus. Nopalitos are added to everything from scrambled eggs, to elegant pasta dishes.

Fresh nopals

Nopalitos con huevos. When I make this I usually add chorizo, cheese, and salsa.

There is even some evidence to suggest that nopalitos is a superfood.
Prickly pear cactus, also called nopales, is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It is also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some preliminary evidence shows that prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Research also suggests that prickly pear cactus extract may lessen the unpleasant effects of a hangover ... it is high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids.
In addition, during times of drought ranchers sometimes burn off the prickly pear's needles so that cattle can browse on them, a technique known as chamuscando.
Chamuscando, Spanish for “scorching,” involves burning off the needles from prickly pear cactus, so cattle can feed in cactus patches. The cactus pads are low in protein but as long as they aren’t dried up, they are high in vitamins and minerals.

So there you have it. The humble prickly pear cactus, a staple in western art and movies, is actually a beautiful and versatile plant. It is, however, not suitable for clothing.

6 comments:

Bag Blog said...

I have taken lots of cactus photos in hopes of painting prickly pear.

CenTexTim said...

I think they're very lovely when they're in bloom.

Randy H said...

My grandmother used to fix nopalitos to eat. Not a fan of the texture, flavor was just ok.

CenTexTim said...

Randy - the texture reminds me of okra. If it's cooked too long it can get a little mushy/slimy.

Old NFO said...

Yep, my Aunt fixed that too! :-)

CenTexTim said...

Memories...