Cacti are definitely having a moment. This high desert plant is popular in tiny planters and large landscaping designs (and website backgrounds!). But did you know the nopales cactus (Latin name Opuntia ficus-indica) is edible? The paddles can be used from everything to boiling water (you just have to scoop out some of the meat and then use the paddle like a bowl), to recipes like these nopales cactus tacos, The bright fuchsia fruit, called prickly pear, makes a refreshing snack as well as a sweet, light, fruity flavoring (and color). When you’re finished cooking up your noples tacos, enjoy this recipe from Epicurious for prickly pear margaritas/cactus fruit cocktails for a meal using two parts of the same plant!
Nopales paddles can be foraged, but remember that although the succulent is edible, it’s still very much a cactus, with very real thorns! Gloves are necessary and a great deal of care much be taken when harvesting and when removing the thorns from the paddles and the prickly pear fruit. The paddles can also be purchased at many grocery stores on the West Coast and in Mexican markets.
This vegetarian taco recipe is easily modified to be vegan.