Nopales Prickly Pear Cactus; What's All the Hub-Bub About?

Nopales cactus pads prepared with a Hawaiian Spanish Rice recipe.
Nopales cactus pads prepared with a Hawaiian Spanish Rice recipe. | Source

Nopales Cactus Pads

Nopales, or Prickly Pear Cactus appears to be the new health-kick on the block; however Nopales has been around for a very long time. I would never have thought that eating cactus paddles would become a staple for me - or even that it was possible to eat.

When I think about actually eating cactus, I relate it to eating sea urchins. You know sea urchins - it's surrounded by black spikes and lives on the ocean reefs. When I look at the sharp needles of the nopales, I kind of think of all those Roadrunner and Cayote cartoons with the Cayote ending up in the thick of cactus clusters. Ouch!

So imagine my surprise when I find that Nopales is not only edible, but very, very good for your body. Superfoods like these always get me excited. In this hub, we will explore cooking Nopales pads and getting into the fruit pear that is all the rage on late night informercials. Here are the topics that this hub will be covering:

  • Health Benefits of Nopales
  • Nopales Cactus Side Effects
  • Preparing Nopales Step by Step
  • How to Eat Cactus Pears
  • Nopales and My Personal Testimony

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, a dietitian or have qualifications in any capacity to give medical advice. This hub is a compilation of my personal research for my personal benefit. I would invite you to be your own health advocate, and always check with your doctor before drastically changing your diet. Check the side effects in this hub, and ask your doctor before charging into using Nopales on a regular basis - especially if you have existing medical problems. Thanks. In all you do, have peace. Kawi.

Health Benefits of Nopales

Nopales or Prickly Pear Cactus has many benefits to your health. If you've ever seen those late night informercial segments, then you know what I'm talking about.

Nopales is a type of cactus that grows in dryer regions. In most desert areas, people will grow Nopales right in their own yards so that picking will be easy for them. It is primarily a diet in Mexican cultures but it is gaining popularity and soon may find it's way into many homes as a staple.

People use Nopales to aid or control Type ll diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, colitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and a preventative to colon and prostate cancer.

A lot has to do with fiber and the sticky Pectin inside the Nopales pads. Pectin also binds to foods in your intestine and gives more substance to your stool.

Some people apply pectin to raw or ulcerated mouth and throat sores to coat and protect them - Still others drain out the pectin and save it to make tea - all good stuff, and so very good for the body.

Source

Nopales Cactus Side Effects

Since Nopales is a relatively new food to the masses, not much long term research is available. As always in this case, it's important that I mention that Nopales could be safe, in appropriate amounts and for a short period - this is because there are some known side effects that will affect some people, here is a list of the most common:

Diarrhea, nausea, frequent bowel movement, bloating and headache. Further, inadequate studies suggests that it might be a good idea for pregnant women to cease their use of Nopales until after pregnancy.

Since Nopales affects blood sugar levels especially for people with Diabetes, it is a good idea to closely monitor your sugar levels to avoid more serious risks. Because of these reasons, you should avoid use at least two weeks before surgery to have a more stable blood/sugar levels.

Cactus paddles as you would see in your favorite market.
Cactus paddles as you would see in your favorite market. | Source
5 stars from 1 rating of Nopales Pads and Pears

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 15 min
Yields: 1 Cactus Paddle will serve one person.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cactus Paddle
  • 2 Garlic, Cloves (mashed)
  • To taste Garlic Salt
Carefully grasp one end of the paddle with one hand.
Carefully grasp one end of the paddle with one hand. | Source
Run the knife lightly over the paddle and the knife will hit the high spots where needles are.
Run the knife lightly over the paddle and the knife will hit the high spots where needles are.

Preparing Nopales Step by Step

  1. You can find Nopales pads at your favorite grocery store, or depending on your location, in your back yard. Once you have them available, you want to be selective in looking for a nice healthy and shiny green color pad with no brown rotting parts.
  2. Next you'll need to de-needle these pads. There are several different techniques that are used to take these dangerous needles out. For myself, I don't want any pit or little hard parts still left on the paddle so here is what I do: Wet the pad down - this will help the needles not to fly everywhere when you remove them by scraping. For myself, while holding the cut end of the pad, I run the blade of a large knife right across the paddle and the high spots of the needles come right off. Nice and simple. You can also use a potato skinner and use the tip to dig out needle pits, but use the method that you're comfortable with. Once all the needles are out, use your fingers to rub the pads for a final clean while running under the faucet.
  3. Next, cut the pad into little strips or cubes - your decision depending on how you want to eat it. Smash a few cloves of garlic and place all into a pot. Add enough water into the pot to fully submerge nopales and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil.
  4. The garlic helps to secrete some of the gooey clear mess that pours out of these paddles. You'll notice that as you were working with the Nopales, that there are puddles of this jell or what is known as pectin - although it is edible, in our case we will boil the jell out of our nopales.
  5. Once your pot comes to a boil, strain entire contents your, and rinse your Nopales through with cool water. This will help rinse free all the jell.
  6. Place back into pot and bring to a boils once again, strain and rinse through again.

Nopales Cooked

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories 23
Calories from Fat0
% Daily Value *
Fat 0 g
Saturated fat 0 g
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 5 g2%
Sugar 2 g
Fiber 3 g12%
Protein 2 g4%
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 30 mg1%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Have you ever tried Nopales?

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Napales cactus pears.
Napales cactus pears. | Source
Cut the ends off.
Cut the ends off. | Source
One shallow cut right down the skin.
One shallow cut right down the skin.

How to Eat Cactus Pears

Here's a little treat from nature - a pear unlike any other. Cactus pears are kind of plain and deceptive on the outside, but as you cut away it's light purplish and thick wrappings, a rich and lush deep-reddish seeded fruit is exposed.

You would think that this fruit would stain everything it came into contact with, but I was surprised that it would just wipe-away. However, I'm sure if you purposely wanted to stain something, you would succeed.

The taste is not at all unpalatable, it kind of reminds me of Okinawan sweet potato - which is a deep purple when cooked. There is a very subtle hint of sweetness that tries to make it through the rich color which kind of throws everything off-kilter. The little seeds are edible and not cumbersome to handle swallowing - probably part of all that good fiber that helps you to stay regular.


Sliced cactus pear and Greek yogurt.  Yum.
Sliced cactus pear and Greek yogurt. Yum. | Source

Nopales and My Personal Testimony

I plated a sliced cactus pear that was in the refridgerator, and added a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt. That was very refreshing, and tasty too. I had a cactus pear two nights ago, and I ate the cactus paddle last night, and today, the stiffness in my hands is gone. My problem digits that are usually swollen and painful, is a little less swollen, but not at all painful. I have more mobility in bending my fingers - I can fully close my fists without even trying (that's a feat all in itself to arthritis sufferers). I'll be careful and not overdo it because of the side effects listed above, but heck - I am very happy with this food.

It's amazing that it works so fast - it's already passed through my system, but I intend to make it a weekly or every other day ordeal. I don't take any other medication for my arthritis, not even ibuprofen. I do squeeze exercises with my little A-shaped-springed-hand-gripper exerciser, light weight training, and try to eat healthy. I can only deduce that the increased mobility in my hands is due to the effects of the Nopales. I hope you'll try this, and get as hooked on it as I am. In all you do, have peace. Kawi.

How to Grow Your Own Nopales

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Comments 28 comments

KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 months ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for your comment Kim, and yes, you are correct in your information. I've found the cactus pears to be a very tasty treat. Lycopene however has not had any clear cut evidence of being either good or bad:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/lycope...

I'm sure as time goes by, we'll have findings that will have 180'd most of our medicinal beliefs. It brings us back to the old '70s saying; If it feels good, do it... lol. Peace. Kawi.


Kim 3 months ago

Hi Kawi!

Of course, I must say that I loved reading your awesomely information rich article about cactus paddles and the fruits or pears. I especially loved the clear step by step photos on how to use a knife to help prepare them.

Just to share a little something here, I know that there are quite a lot of people who suffer from arthritic pain and arthritis in general. I once read that any fruits, berries or vegetables that are red contain what's called, lycopene. ? It's in red colored fruits and vegetables and read it helps reduce inflammation which causes pain. Cherries, tomatoes, beets, (?), polmagrates (spelling?), and especially prickly pear cactus fruits are helpful to keep arthritic pain down.

Just thought to share what I knew. Thanks for sharing what you gad here with us also. I even read that there's prickly pear cactus juice you can buy to drink tgat can really help, it's a bit expensive but tried it and thought it tasted really great. Another ingredient that's in it is cherries.

Peace, Kim :-)


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for your comment patchofearth - it could be coupled with how the nopales affects the body's inflammation. I knew that I'd be talking directly to a few people suffering from inflammation - for those in pain, if there is anagesic properties, that's always a plus. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Hi greatstuff, yes the nopales are found mostly in the west - noni fruit and dragon fruit are both very nutricious themselves. Like the nopales, the noni and dragon fruits are pretty unfamilar, but so good for your body. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Hey glendoncaba. Wow, if you do find it I would be surprised - although stranger things have happened. If you don't, I'm sure theres a way to have it shipped. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Lol - I should be getting some kind of royalty from the product... Anyhoos, if you bulk at the price, you can always go natural with the fruit and paddle. Thanks for your comment wish-list. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks rose, always good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment and good words. The cactus pear is a food that people will tend to by-pass because it doesn't have appeal. It reaks of 'unfamiliarity' and the word cactus and eat, is as far apart as North and South... but hopefully this hub will touch a few people, and they'll give it a try to it might just help a few people. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks ComfortB, when you start looking for more natural ways to lead your family and self to better health, you find out things. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Hola bohemiotxs, many diabetic sufferrers have used nopalitos to actually bring their sugar and insulin levels more in line... and the fibre and pectin in the paddles themselves are excellent for cleaning out the toxins of our body. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for your comment Thelma - it's kind of a regional thing, but I'm sure it can shipped...hmmm, those entreprenuerial wheels are turning. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for your comment Abdul - I had fun doing it. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks RTalloni for your comment; and yes, the fruit is pretty awesom - I think I would like to try it with some vanilla ice cream and cool-whip... yum! Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

It really is thumbi7 - I try to have it regularly in my diet but it is a bit of a process to prepare. There are select ethnic stores here that make it very easy where they will sell them prepped and bagged for cooking. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Awwe, Nopales are a regional thing in the West - I'm not aware that they grow anywhere else - but you can probably have them mailed in and grow them for yourself... thanks for your comment Gratitude. Peace. Kawi.


patchofearth profile image

patchofearth 3 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

I have heard that the scraped-out insides of prickly pear pads have analgesic properties. Sounds like you have experienced the effects first hand. I'm glad to hear a first hand account of the effects.


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 3 years ago from Malaysia

It is always good to learn about new and exotic fruits from other parts of the world esp. if it has many health benefits. The cactus pear looks like a cross between noni fruit and the red dragon fruit. I have not seen them selling in my country and will probably take a while before it will arrive at our shore. Thanks for sharing and congrats on HOTD


glendoncaba profile image

glendoncaba 3 years ago from Somewhere in the hubverse

Got me curious. Sure I could find these in my neck of the woods somewhere in Jamaica.


wish-list-gifts profile image

wish-list-gifts 3 years ago from USA

I've seen adverts for Nopalea and wondered about it. Thanks to your article I think I will give it a go.


rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved! This is a very insightful and interesting article. I have had prickly pears before, but they are sort of difficult to eat, lol. It's a good thing that you have provided instructions on how to eat them. The recipe looks very interesting and nopales has a lot of benefits. I also appreciated your testimonial on how it helped you. that's awesome! Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose


ComfortB profile image

ComfortB 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

I learned something new today. You wouldn't know those cactus are edibles just by looking at them. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your HOTD award.


bohemiotx profile image

bohemiotx 3 years ago from Tyler, TX

I've loved cactus (nopalitos) for years. Cactus is great with steak (carne asada), chorizo, and chicken--not to mention scrambled eggs. I've heard that the structure of cactus binds sugar, and it's good for diabetics.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Congrats on the HOTD! This is a very informative hub. I have not heard of this fruit before. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!


Abdul Sattar Amin 3 years ago

Wonderful hub. well written and every thing was good. And this dish looks awesome. Thanks for sharing its recipe with us.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

So interesting to learn about nopales as food for health and congrats on your Hub of the Day award! Had no idea how fabulous the fruit looks.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 3 years ago from India

It is a very interesting article. The medicinal properties of cactus is new knowledge to me.

Voted up


Gratitude Journal profile image

Gratitude Journal 3 years ago

Those look absolutely delicious. I live out in asia and cactus is hard to come by. I wonder if I can find it an an import shop.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Aloha Joe, mahalo for the comment, it's always a pleasure to hear from you. Yes, the nutri-values are actually formed by HP, all you do is have the info ready, fill out the form and it comes out all nice and neat. I had fun with this one - I especially like the results of eating Nopales. Peace. Kawi.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Awesome hub, bruddah Kawi! I always wondered if these things were edible, and now I know. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information, and congratulations on a terrific presentation. The photos and video were excellent complements to your article. A technical question for you: How do you do the nutritional value cell? Is it copied from another site and pasted into a text cell? I've always been curious about that, ever since I saw it for the first time in, I think, Rajan Jolly's hub(s). Thanks for a great read, my friend, and lots of aloha and good wishes from SE Washington.

Joe

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