The Cactus Eater
Because I am surrounded by this free, desert adapted, nutrient rich vegetable, today’s brunch made use of nopal (opuntia cactus) pads.
I used tongs and a big, sharp knife to harvest a couple of youngish, hand sized pads from the spineless cactus which I am nurturing at the hacienda entrance. Younger pads are better. The older, bigger ones can be fibrous with very tough skins.
Actually one pad would have been sufficient, but I cook in batches of several meals at a time.
Though referred to as spineless, there are still glochids on these pads, with the tiny, pesky spines which lodge, with alacrity, in human flesh. The glochids need to be removed. I used the tip of a knife, though I’ve read of the potato eye remover on vegetable peelers being used.
Once spine free, the nopal was diced along with some young dolichos bean pods rescued from the recent high wind and low temperatures.
The raw nopal is a bit slimy, like okra. I did not bother to peel the skin off today. The skin can be tough, but I like the roughage. A more sophisticated (discerning) cook would probably peel the pad before cooking.
Onions, garlic, tomatoes, Fresno hot chile pepper (all from the hacienda) and grated carrot also went into the dish.
Served with veggie patties made, this week, from sweet potato, oats, sesame seed and pumpkin seed.
Nopal has a tart, lemony flavour reminiscent of lemon or lime juice.