Prickly Pear Grown for Food
Prickly pear or more popularly known as Opuntia Cactus was probably introduced in the Philippines during the Manila – Acapulco galleon trade by the late 16th century to 19th century from Mexico .
Local people quickly learned that prickly pear pads can be eaten and are used in various local dishes like tinolang cactus , cactus patty , nopales are added to eggs, or as a vegetable in soups, chilies or a filling in a tortilla and even as salsa base food for tortillas .
In the country of origin, Opuntia cactus is also made into jams, candies and medicine
Here are the basic ingredients : Salsa
1 to 2 pads of Opuntia cactus
1 to 2 small to medium sized sibuyas de bumbay / onion
1/4 cup cheese whiz
1 to 2 pieces of kesong puti – sliced or cubed
2 to 4 pieces of small or medium sized tomatoes ( sliced ) / with seeds removed
1 to 2 tablespoon of salt
1 to 2 teaspoon of pepper
grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoon of olive oil ( optional)
1 pack of commercial tortilla chips
How to prepare the opuntia cactus pads
select 1 to 2 pad of Opuntia cactus, then cut the pads. After cutting the pads, you may blanched the pad into a boiling water , then remove the outer skin and use a large knife to sever the stem. Beware, there are large and fine thorns so be sure to keep your hands protected. To prepare the pads remove the thorns and the “eyes” with a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife or this new gadget designed just for spine removal. Wash the pads well with cool water and peel or trim off any blemished or discolored areas. Slice the pads in long slices or in pieces or leave whole depending on the dish you will prepare.
Another type of preparation is to rotating the fruit/pads in the flame of a campfire or torch has been used to remove the glochids to partially charred the opuntia cactus pads. This type of preparation is like barbecue style .
Nopales is a vegetable that can be eaten grilled or boiled. Over cooking may give them a slightly “slimy” texture you may want to avoid.
The best preparation we have tried is to prepare the nopal leaves (remove spines) then grill over hot coals till tender and slightly browned. Then slice into nopalitos strips and toss with a squeeze of lime and a little bit of olive oil. They are delicious.
The fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus figs , Indian figs or tuna is edible, although it has to be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer is not properly removed, glochids can be ingested causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin.
The author together with Mr. Botchie Canicula was featured in Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho episode aired last January 10 ,2009 saturday