Spotlight: Prickly Pear Cactus

The prickly pear cactus is just one of the 3,000+ species of plants found in Buena Fortuna. An indigenous plant to Mexico and the Southwestern United States, locals here have enjoyed the nutritional and medicinal uses of the cactus for centuries.

The prickly pear cactus can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of ways. The cactus pads (the wide, flat leaves), called nopales in Mexico, can be cooked and enjoyed in a vegetable dish, or eaten raw in a salad. The nopales are high in vitamin C and rich in antioxidants. They are commonly used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, high blood pressure, as an anti-inflammatory, and a multitude of other ailments (I’m told that it’s a great hangover cure). The fruit of that cactus can be enjoyed raw, as a jam, or as a juice (prickly pear margaritas, anyone?).

Both the fruit and the nopales can be enjoyed raw, but only after removing the thorns. If you grow your own, be sure to use gloves or towels to pick any part of the cactus and remove all thorns before consumption. I’m no culinary expert or natural-medicine pro, so do a quick Google search for a how-to on thorn removal, and for some tasty nopal recipes.