Nopales are "leaves" of a cactus. They don't have the little prickly spikes and are 100% edible. So why not eat them???
Eating things that aren't in your cultural repertoire may be a bit of a struggle because we may feel we have to follow cultural norms and gustatory rules. Well I disagree with this. If the food is edible and not poisonous give it a try! Many cultures eat things that we may find repulsive, like bugs, or inedible, like cactus, or just gross, like intestines. To those people it is something delicious or a delicacy. It's actually rude for us to impose our gastronomical preferences on them. I bet they think that purchasing a hot dog packaged with unknown meat filled into a casing is just as gross, inedible, and repulsive. We have to learn to be open to trying new things. Just because it isn't a norm on our menu doesn't mean it shouldn't be. We can mold and change our tastebuds. We have to get past the idea of what the food item actually is sometimes. Try to be open minded and don't say no right off the bat, give it a try. What's the worst that will happen??? You don't like it so what at least you were open to trying another cultures delicacy.
Nopales are a very common ingredient in Mexico. They have been used since the times of the Mayans and Aztecs. When cooked (grilled or sauteed) they are edible and delicious. A bit of a tangy sour flavor, gooey which is the part of the food that some will have to overcome. But I personally love that texture! It is very nutritious, rich in Vitamin C, A, and B, as well as non-heme iron. Living in Miami we actually do have the ability to grow nopales so if you see it at your local market don't shy away from it. It takes no time to cook and it's a great way to start learning to introduce new foods, cultures, and cuisines into your life.
Yields 4 servings
3 nopales- diced
1 tomato- diced
1/2 yellow onion - small dice
1/3 cup mixed green and red bell pepper - diced
1 15 oz can no salt or low salt Pinto Beans - rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon cumin powder
Salt + pepper
1. Prepare all the vegetables.
2. In a saute pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Then add the bell peppers. Let this cook for 2 minutes.
3. Then add the beans, season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Stir to mix. Let this cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the nopales, season again with some salt and pepper. Let this cook on low for 5-7 minutes. The nopales and the dish will start to get gooey. It's going to happen, its the nature of the ingredient.
5. Then add the tomatoes, adjust your seasoning if necessary. Cover the dish and let this cook on low, don't let it boil, for about another 5-6 minutes.
6. Once cooked serve with some rice and enjoy!