I have consumed more nopales this summer than I have in my entire life, primarily in smoothies like this one. It is a hydrating and nourishing vegetable. This vegetable portion of the cactus helps regulate blood pressure in addition to the nourishment it provides. Supplement companies are popping up with products centered around this food but we can easily create our own supplements with a vegetable juice extractor or simply by cooking up nopales strips (nopalitos) in our scrambled eggs or adding them to a salad.
Besides the nutritional value of nopales, this is an extremely budget-friendly food, priced between 30 and 50 cents a pound in the California market. You probably won’t find it certified organic but this is not a crop that gets sprayed. If you have ever had volunteer cactus show up on your property you know that this stuff is the worst kind of weed if you do not actually want it. (Ask my husband who says “Please don’t plant three acres of nopales….”) It hardly needs protection from pests.
Go to a Mexican grocery and look in the produce section. You will likely find the cactus paddles ready to be bagged. Most stores will also offer it fresh sliced for dishes like scrambled eggs. If you do not see it sliced, ask for help. They may keep it in the back.
The paddles will be mostly cleaned of their spines, but do handle them carefully. This summer I have been putting all of the through a juice extractor which separates any left-behind spines from the juice. I drink it fresh and freeze a bit so that I always have it on hand. The juice is a bit bitter and needs frozen fruit to balance it. All in all, our nopales project has been a huge success in terms of nutrition and the budget.