‘Why would anyone eat cactus’ – said The Boyfriend’s Facebook status the other day.
‘Nmuphhhh, quite tasty, nmupphhh’, cholesterol’ I muttered – through a mouthful of it.
Welcome to Day One of the Health-e-Helen new health foods challenge – today, I’m eating cactus leaves.
Not any old cactus. I’m not going to be arrested at the Garden Centre for surreptitiously munching the exhibits or anything. Specifically I’ve been eating the pads of the prickly pear cactus. Known as Nopal or Nopalites, these are renowned in Mexico for their antioxidant levels, fibre content, possible ability to lower cholesterol – and the fact that they might just fill you up. You may have seen diet supplements containing an ingredient called Nopal claiming to suppress appetite; they’re made from this. In terms of nutrition, you’ll get a little shot of calcium, magnesium and potassium for your 16 calories per 100gm and so I quite liked the sound of them.
In Mexico, you pick the paddle like leaves off the plant then scrape off the spines. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do this (making The Boyfriend a bit happier. He had been a tad concerned one of us was going to lose an eye just for the sake of a blog post). Mine came spinefree in a handy jar c/o mexgrocer.co.uk.
After a quick rinse under the tap as they’re stored in salt water I started off eating a slice raw – it was okay, it tasted like jalapenos would if they didn’t have heat in them (if you can imagine that) – quite sweet, quite subtle. Some people say it’s like green beans if you cook them until they’re soft which isn’t totally far from the truth. However, I then decided to stir fry a few strips. This added an extra smokey dimension which I quite liked.
You can add them to chilli, soups, salsas or eggs, but as it was lunchtime, I popped the strips on top of my normal daily salad containing lettuce, tomato, sundried tomato, avocado (I then topped it with some buffalo mozzarella). It was a success. It added a different texture to the experience and the smoky taste was a winner especially with the sundried tomato.
So, did it fill me up more than normal. Have I discovered the key to weight loss success?. Erm,sadly not. I still raided the protein shake supplies come 4pm. Still at £3.29 a jar it’s a darn sight cheaper than the capsules – and has more nutrients so definitely worth a try even if it won’t leave you super slim by magic. Viva Mexico!