Nopal, also called prickly pear cactus, is the sweet and tangy flesh of a specific breed of cactus originally from the desert lands of Mexico. In Mexico, the word nopal actually doesn’t come from Spanish, but from Nahuatl(pronounced na-wa-tle, the name of the people and language of indigenous forefathers from the region of Central Mexico). The nopal cactus has provided nutrition for the people of Mesoamerica for over 12,000 years and continues to be a staple in Mexican cuisine to this day.
The plant can live over 20 years and the sap can be used as a conditioner for your hair. They excrete an oily fluid during full moons. The flesh is often used as a hangover cure, providing hydration, soothing the stomach, and preventing stomach aches and headaches. The pink fruit that the plant bears is called “tuna” in Spanish and tastes like a combination of strawberry and watermelon.
Nopales are nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamins A, B, and B2 as well as 17 essential amino acids. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and the juice actually slows the absorption of nutrients which helps metabolism and makes you feel full longer! Nopales help lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, relieve constipation, control blood sugar, eliminate gastric ulcers, and prevent cancer. They also have been known to help cure insomnia and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Nopales are also rich in antioxidants which help to deter premature aging, encourage healthy cells, and detoxify the body.
Though we don’t grow the nopales ourselves, we get them from a friend in San Antonio who loves and cares for them better than anyone else! You will taste the love in your Fiesta salad.