Eating Prickly Pear Cactus
To look at them growing in their natural habitat – and especially to touch them – you might never think of prickly pear cactus as a food source. In reality, both the pads (aka stems and leaves) and pears (fruit or tunas) of the prickly pear cactus are not only edible, they are delicious.
The fruit is sweet with large seeds inside (which are also edible by the way). It can be eaten as is – after removal of the spines and skin, of course – in fruit salads, or made into things like prickly pear candy or syrup.
For camping recipes, we’re focusing on eating the prickly pear pads (aka nopales or nopalitos). While you can harvest your own (be sure of the regulations on public lands) and prepare them yourself, it’s definitely a thorny proposition for the newbie. We recommend you buy the de-spined pads at a farmer’s market or grocery store – or buy napolitos in a jar at the Mexican grocery. (For the recipes presented here we used the canned variety for everything with good results. We just recommend draining and rinsing them well in clean cold water.)
Skillet Eggs with Nopalitos
It doesn’t get much easier than this for an authentic desert breakfast. And the nopales help stretch things if you’re running low on eggs.
- ⅔ cup nopalitos – drained, rinsed, and laid on paper towel to dry a bit
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbs. milk
- 2 Tbs. green onions – chopped
- 1 tsp. cooking oil (bacon grease if you have it)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Place cast iron skillet over medium heat and allow to come up to temperature.
- Beat eggs with milk in separate bowl and set aside.
- Add the cooking oil to skillet and carefully swirl to cover cooking surface.
- Add green onions and sauté for about a minute.
- Add drained and dried nopalitos. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add egg mixture and cook until tender – stirring as you would for regular scrambled eggs.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm tortillas and refried beans.
- Season with hot sauce as desired.