When we first think of cactus, it reminds us of thorny green leaves and deserts. It makes you wonder, what does cactus taste like. Well, for those wondering, you have come to the right place.
Edible cactus is also known as nopales or prickly pear cactus. The cactus is cooked and eaten as a vegetable and is very popular in Mexico, the Middle East, parts of America, Europe, North Africa, Australia, and even India.
The edible part of the cactus which is the fleshy part of the leaves are called paddles or cactus pads
Nopales can be eaten in various ways such as in raw form, or sautéed and added in scrambled eggs, even tacos or as a side dish with onions, etc.
What is Cactus?
Edible cactus belong to the family Cactaceae that have oval-shaped leaves that are fleshy. Most of the edible cacti belong to more the more than 200 plus opuntia species, called as nopales or the cactus pear. The round fruit of all opuntia is also edible.
The prickly pear cactus has three different edible parts:
- 1The nopal or the cactus paddles is cooked into various dishes. It is a rich source of minerals and vitamins.
- 2The flower petals of the plant can also be a fresh addition in salads or as toppings in dishes.
- 3The pear, which is a fruit is 2-4 inches in length, and its color can range from yellow to red. This fruit can be chopped or diced as added as toppings on cereals or can be blended to make a delicious smoothie.
What Does Cactus Taste Like?
Cactus has a unique but mild flavor and can be a bit sour for some. The pad of the cactus has a crunchy texture and is soft, but a little sticky, like the okra. This makes it a perfect ingredient for making soups as a thickening agent.
The taste of the pads resembles asparagus, green bean or green pepper. Some even compare it to zucchini.
The fruit of the plant has a sweet taste with crunchy seeds inside. It is juicy and is great for making juices and shakes.
Edible cactus is a great source of vitamin C and calcium. It also contains a good amount of beta carotene, iron, antioxidants, and high fiber content.
This plant is highly nutritious and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its nutritional value in just one cup of raw edible cactus is full of proteins, calcium, fiber, etc.
Research studies have shown that among the different varieties of prickly pear, the red-purple colored variety has the highest content of antioxidants.
Best Ways to Eat Cactus
Cactus can be a little difficult to cook for some. While choosing the cactus to cook, pick only those leaves that are smaller, firm, and still bright green in color. Do not go for wrinkled ones. Before cooking, you need to cut off the spines.
There are many ways to cook Nopales; some of the best ways are:
- Boiled cactus
Scrape off the spines, chopped it into green beans size, then boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Thereafter, drain off the water and add cold water and rinse once. You can then store the boiled nopales in a refrigerator and use in salads or scrambled eggs etc.
- Sautéed nopales
Add 2 teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and sauté the nopales with half a cup of diced onions. After the leaves have exuded the viscous liquid, they are ready to use. Season the nopales with salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc. to make a delicious treat.
The glochids are tiny spines on the prickly pear. Take precaution to wear gloves before touching them.
Cactus is an unconventional food item, but it is utterly flavorsome and blends well with many dishes. There are many ways to cook it, and all parts of the plant, from the leaves to the fruit are edible and has different tastes. It is a great addition to your diet for a wholesome meal.