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Nopales (cactus pads)

Why Eat It
Shopping
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

The "leaves" of several varieties of Mexican cactus, cactus pads, or nopales, are eaten as vegetables. Succulent yet crisp, they exude a sticky substance (as okra does) when cooked. Their delicate flavor resembles that of bell peppers or asparagus. They are good in Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes--with tomatoes, hot peppers, and fresh corn. Like other dark green vegetables, nopales are an excellent source of beta-carotene, and are also rich in vitamin C. They supply some iron and B vitamins as well.

Shopping

Look for nopales in Mexican grocery stores and specialty produce markets; choose small, bright-green pads that are resilient, not limp or dry.

Preparation

Nopales will likely be de-spined (or of a spineless variety), but you will still need to trim the "eyes" just in case there are any tiny thorns remaining. A vegetable peeler works well for this. Trim the outside edges of the pads as well. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook nopales; they can then be served with lemon juice as a vegetable side dish, or cooled and used in salads.

Nutrition Chart

Nopales/1 cup cooked

61
Total fat (g)
0.8
Saturated fat (g)
0.2
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.2
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.4
Dietary fiber (g)
5.3
1
Carbohydrate (g)
14
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
352
Magnesium (mg)
126


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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