Nopal, or prickly pear, has many uses, the most common being culinary. Mexican and South American cooking frequently calls for this versatile vegetable, and it is gaining popularity for its practicality and health benefits. Nopal is high in soluble fiber and low in calories at just five per ½ cup.
?Look for firm paddles about 8 inches in length, roughly the size of a hand, and approximately 3/8-inch thick with a bright glossy green color and no wrinkles. Nopales (pronounced noh-PAH-lays) are freshest in early to mid spring, but are available year-round in some grocery and specialty markets. If harvesting nopal from a plant, wear heavy gloves and cut the paddle off the stem about 1 inch above its base. A new leaf will grow from the just-cut paddle base remaining on the plant the following season. Carefully cut the spines off the pad with a paring knife.??
?Using the vegetable peeler or knife, cut the “eyes” off the paddle’s skin where the spines were cut off so that the surface is smooth. Trim the hard edge around the perimeter of the vegetable and also cut off any dry or tough areas. Rinse the paddle under cool running water.??
Slice nopal paddles into strips, dice into cubes, or leave them whole. Use sliced or diced “napolitos” raw in salads, sauteed in tacos or omelets, or boiled in soups and stews and candies and jelly. Whole nopal paddles stand up well to grilling. With a soft texture, a crisp bite and aflavor reminiscent of green beans or asparagus, nopal is a practical and healthy alternative to the usual green vegetables.?
Read more: How to Prepare Nopal | eHow.com