I am not from the Southwest or any hot desert like climate but, from what I understand nopales are the equivalent to the dandelion of the Northeast. Both are hard to get rid of and are abundant in “non inhabited” areas of their respected areas. The prickly pear cactus is everywhere in the American desert, Mexico, the Caribbean and many other places. The prickly pear and Barbary fig are a common site in the desert and to those unaware, are incredible super foods. The leaf of the prickly pear is known as a nopal or in Spanish nopales. The Mexicans eat a lot of nopales and you can most likely get a side of it with steak at your local authentic Mexican restaurant (although I’m not with that eating meat groove) the Barbary fig is a very nutritious fruit that comes off the prickly pear cactus, this is indeed the prickly pear itself. The prickly pear fruit is full of seeds and is quite juicy. It is mildly sweet and has a waxy skin on the outside. They come either as a red fruit or light green fruit. The nopal has a tangy type of flavor, some might describe it as sour. It is also a bit slimy and sticky when cut open. When it cooks, the skin turns pales green and excretes a very flavorful juice that makes it perfect for cooking with other foods. I cook my nopales with mushrooms and Habanero peppers. The flavor is quite incredible and I suppose it’s also mexican. Mexican food is one of my favorites and without a doubt one of the healthiest. (Produce wise) tomatillos, nopales, epazote and linden tree tea are all commonly consumed by Mexicans and are some of the healthiest foods and herbs you can eat, honestly if Mexicans are going to share their health secrets with us then I don’t see what the big hooplah is about this immigration wave but let’s not digress from the subject at hand. That brings me to the dandelion. The dandelion greens are the most nutritious greens you can find at Whole Foods Market. Everyone is on this kale binge but no one realizes they are failing themselves. I like kale and what not but it’s probably my least favorite green besides spinach, spinach is satan himself(full of kidney stone forming oxalic acid). When it comes to selecting your greens you want to get them as wild and non hybridized as possible. It’s a no brainer which one is healthier, Mother Nature can’t be competed against, it’s foolish to believe otherwise! Sure dandelion greens are bitter, but when you cook them right, they’re something else. If you don’t mind the bitterness you can eat them in place of lettuce in a salad or sandwich. They can be juiced and of course steamed or sautéed with some seasonings. I would recommend a sesame oil for sautéing, if the flavor is too overpowering you can use grape seed oil. If you really think you’re about that healthy life you can combine them both for a truly alkaline treat. And if you didn’t know alkalinity is divinity. If you stay alkaline, you will be fine. I suppose I could lend a recipe to those of you reading out there. This would be my version of steak and nopales, but obviously there will be no meat. I would also suggest a quinoa or wild rice on the side and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) if you like the usual white rice with black beans.
You will need the following to make this alkaline version of steak and nopales
2 whole portabella mushrooms.
1 nopal cactus leaf sliced
1/2 chopped onion.
1/2 bell pepper sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground annatto
Salt to liking
1 teaspoon onion powder.
Dash of oregano, sweet basil, tarragon and dill
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 whole Habanero(optional) (do not open unless you love spicy hot food, Habanero is pretty hot)
Sesame or grape seed oil for sautéing.
Combine spices with oil in a frying pan, set to low heat and put the Habanero in. Wait for Habanero to start cooking and add the mushrooms, onions, peppers and nopales. Cook or about 15- 20 minutes. You can cook it longer if you like the mushrooms well cooked through. The nopales will turn a pale light green when they are cooked. They will also get soft and will drip lots of cactus juice. This juice will add a tang to the mushrooms. Poke the Habanero with a fork a few times and mix it around in the pan to add more Habanero flavor. If you were bold and decided to cut the Habanero, I’d suggest putting a little less than half in, anymore and you’re not going to taste anything else in my opinion. Your safest bet is to just keep it whole and poke it around a bit if you need more spice. If you really are going to go for the full alkaline experience, why not just throw some dandelions In the mix too. Serve it with some quinoa or wild rice and you’re set.
I hope you enjoy these so-called “weeds” as much as I do, because they’re going to keep you alive for a long time. And they be eaten raw or cooked. Both will suffice. Stay alkaline fam. Peace