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By Frank Yaconis
The prickly pear cactus, also known as the Opuntia or in Spanish, the Nopales cactus, has gained enormous popularity in a juice called Nopalea that has tremendous medicinal and health benefits.
For centuries, the prickly pear cactus has flourished in the deserts of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. To make the juice, Nopalea juice is squeezed from the pulp of the Prickly Pear Cactus, also known as the Nopal plant, a native of Mexico. The pads of the plant were traditionally eaten as a vegetable.
The cactus sprouts gorgeous red, purple or yellow blossoms. It grows between one foot and 20 feet high. It is considered an antioxidant rich plant that has anti-inflammatory properties. It is part of a select species of plant life that contain a pigment called betalains, which contain these properties.
Betalains are believed to help detoxify the body. Ingesting juice from the cactus is believed to help lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels, as well.
Because of its link to reducing inflammation in the body, there are many studies to see if it can affect some of the serious conditions caused by inflammation such as arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and fibromyalgia.
In Mexico, the plant is used as food, but also for medicine. Did you know that it is said that Mexicans eat cactus as Americans eat cauliflower?
It is not only consumed as a juice, but also treated as a vegetable that tastes similar to green beans. There are many ways to eat the plant. You can eat the pads, which are called Nopalitos, (which means cactus stem), and you can eat the fruit of the cactus which is the pear in the name Prickly Pear Cactus. The beautiful pads are usually a green or purple. The gorgeous fruit or flowers can bloom yellow, red or purple.
Here is how to cook the succulent plant:
1.Pick plants with smaller pads on them that are smooth, dry and firm. (The pads are like the branches of the plant.)
2.Remove the spines of the cactus with a knife. If there are any big bumps, cut those off as well and remove the stem. Just like when you are dealing with Jalapeno peppers, you need to be cautious when removing the prickly needles so you dont poke yourself. Thick gloves help or you can try to find pads in the market, which already have the spines removed.
3.Wash. You can keep the pads in the refrigerator for about 10 days if they are in a bag and not exposed to air.
Here are a few recipes you can make using the prickly pear cactus.
* Prickly Pear Jelly can be made using two packages of pectin combined with 4 cups of the cactus juice and five cups of sugar. Use the directions on the pectin to make the jelly and follow all of the safety precautions in jarring the jelly.
* Nopales and Eggs is a simple dish served in restaurants everywhere. The pads must be lightly grilled or boiled. If they are overcooked, they become slimy. Add the grilled or boiled pads to eggs.
* Nopalito Strips. For this dish, the pads are grilled and then sliced. They are missed with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and lime juice and eaten as a vegetable side dish.
About the Author: Frank Yocanis has been researching and writing about the health benefits of the
for the past decade. He has even traveled to the Sonoran desert half a dozen times to study
in the plants homeland. He is excited to share how this antioxidant-rich drink can change your life.