Sunday, March 08, 2009
Prickly Pear in Your Back Yard!
Prickly Pear, Optunia species. Due to the massive wildfires that swept through San Diego and Southern California, there are projects to clear out some of the old, choked brush from the canyons in back of people's homes. They used to prohibit the clearing but, for obvious reasons, the City of San Diego now allows thinning. Ironically, the fires are natural for the area but human intervention eliminated the fires for extended periods, allowing massive brush build up and, consequently, massive fires when they did finally manage to strike.
This Prickly Pear cactus was growing wild in back of my neighbor's house and is in full, glorious bloom! You can see a small wasp wading through the pollen as well. Ironically, much of the wildflowers and cacti were largely hidden behind the brush and are now very visible in the cleared space. There was also a plant that looked and smelled like wild onions of some sort growing along the slope as well as other types of succulents (topics for another day).
Many people eat Prickly Pear Cacti, apparently not dissuaded by the spines, which they carefully remove with a knife and thick rubber gloves. If you are feeling adventurous, here are a few prickly pear recipes I found online compliments of Desert Lil's Delicacies.
Nopales on The Grill
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, they are ready for the grill. Cook each pad for approximately 10 to 12 minutes on each side. While grilling, brush each side of the cactus pad with olive oil or a flavored oil of your choice. Pepper or garlic-flavored oil are often used on grilled Nopales.
1 or 2 cactus pads
1/4 lb. of cheese (your choice)
salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, slice into bite-size pieces. Sauté the sliced pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl; add shredded cheese and the sautéed cactus pieces. Pour the egg mixture
2.2 lbs. Nopales (cactus pads)
1 onion, halved
4 cups water
2 Tbs. salt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 green chiles - serrano or jalapeno - chopped
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, chop into bite-size pieces. Place the chopped Nopales into a pan with the 4 cups of water, halved onion and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain Nopales and combine with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. This dish gets better if you let is sit a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 4 or more.