Edible cactus, traditionally used as vegetables and eaten with tortillas, is called Nopales in Mexico. They are also edible when raw as you dice them up; they resemble a green pepper. In Mexico, it is common to make juice, jams, and even tea. You can also eat the prickly pear fruit, a small, rounded, and often colorful part of the nopal plant. Before a detox event in Mexico, my colleague prepared several nopales dishes for lunch.
We chop them up and sautée with some spices and herbs and add to a range of dishes, fill them into tacos, or prepare them as a side dish with tomatoes. Nopales are also edible when raw. Mexican nopales are famous for their health benefits with high antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content. Nopales or nopalitos are from nopal cactus pad-like shapes and are traditionally consumed as a dietary vegetable.
Like most fruits and vegetables, you can buy nopal cactus readily at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and it’s on the menu at restaurants across the Southern USA and Mexico. In addition, the prickly pear fruit juice is a popular beverage for health-conscious consumers. Cactus plants also play a role in traditional medicine for the treatment of diabetes. For example, a study tested the effects of nopal on 14 people with type 2 diabetes.