Nopales - edible cactus

Nopales are a common farm crop around Lerdo.  When the paddles reach the proper size, they are cut and transported to local markets.  At the market, the thorns are cut and scraped away before the paddles are offered for sale.

No store would let me take pictures of the prep work, so we did what many families do -- we harvested our own from wild plants.

This cactus "tree" is said to be more than 50 years old.  It grows on the vacant lot next to Las Casas.

Today Coco is cutting only the young, tender paddles for eating.  Last year we harvested some of the older paddles from this plant to make the white-wash primer for the stucco on Doņa Martha's house.

Back at the family home, Coco carefully cuts off the large thorns.

Then he scrapes the paddles to remove all the fine stickers.

The kids are very interested.  That cold beer goes well in the 95š heat.

With her youngest granddaughters watching, Doņa Martha begins by slicing the nopales into thin strips.  They will be boiled with salt and half of a large onion for an hour, then drained and washed.  These steps are pictured in detail in the Gorditas story.

Today's main dish is a variation on asado de cerdo.  Daughter Martha takes over to prepare the meat -- espinazo -- the backbone of the pig.  

Then she de-seeds the chiles to make the chile colorado sauce.  This sauce is a slight variation on the usual red sauce with the addition of six tomatillos.  

After the chiles and tomatillos have simmer until soft, they are added to the blender with half of a large onion and two cloves of garlic.

The washed and drained nopales and the chile colorado sauce are added to the stewed meat and left to simmer slowly for another half hour.

In the gorditas story we saw how eggs could be mixed with the nopales to make a filling for the gorditas.  This same mixture is often served as a meatless dish during Lent.  I like it for breakfast. It also goes well as the filling for a soft taco.

Here some of the nopales are mixed with cilantro, onion and tomato, and then chilled to make a salad.  This also is a good filling for a soft taco.

Another taste treat is a large piece of a nopal cooked on a charcoal  grill and wrapped in a fresh tortilla.

If you wish to write to Doņa Martha, you may send an e-mail to
Cooking Directory