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Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus : Nopales -- a celebration. (puntia ficus-indica )

People think I'm mad because I eat cactus.

I'm not some health nut or someone ruled by food shibboleths.

I just love eating cactus paddles.

I grow a spineless form of Opuntia ficus-indica which is the only prickly pear approved for growing  in Queensland.

A Nopales Farm in Mexico

And no one does! There's no market or industry -- not even a secret cactus munching society-- dedicated to the plant.

But in MEXICO! We're talking about a national obsession. 

Nopales Dishes on Display

I'm a rank novice when it comes to Nopales -- prickly pear paddles. There are so many recipes that celebrate the utility of the vegetable in the kitchen.

Given its awesome nutritional profile why not join the Mexicans in adding it to your menu?

As I said I'm a novice when it comes to preparing the paddles.

I had some for dinner scrambled with eggs(pictured at right).

But in Mexico there are so many more recipes.

Unfortunately for us, most of the talk about ,and the many uses of Nopales, is articulated in Spanish.

OK if you are Latin fluent but that's not me.

I've invested in the Googling but 'Nopales+ Prickly pear'  in English gets a very slim recipe result.

But in Spanish, even YouTube is chock full of DIY videos showing the hows and whys.

Whats' wrong with those North Americans?

They've embraced chillies, tacos and beans...why not PP paddles?

Since I wanted to celebrate Nopales I will get around to filming a  video about how I grow and harvest it.

But in the meantime I give you this video about Nopales.

Of course it is in Spanish...but the verve and passion for the paddle is explored through the people who prep and harvest it...and the huge array of  recipes they use to cook it.

Browse the vid. Jump around. You'll be surprised.

I was amazed!

Looks like I really gotta do my cactus homework.

Unlike the Latins I harvest my paddles when very young. There's no tough skin so I can get away with not boiling them.

Since they are spineless and young, I also don't need to trim them.  When the paddles are old,  I do remove the bumps where the spine would be because they are tough. In Mexico they do rely on some very big paddles as indicated in the video.

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As you may know I'm a huge fan of Prickly Pear.

Here at home -- in 'Downtown Mexico City' -- I grow a lot of Opuntia ficus indica -- my much loved spineless PP.

I eat the paddles, as you know. They have some of the therapeutic attributes of the  aloes, which is nice to know. But, of late, I've been exploring what I can do with the bits of PP I don't want.

Given that any piece of the plant that falls on the ground can root you need to protect yourself -- COVID like -- from an infestation. They make amazing Triffids

My workaround is to break up the paddle and drown them in water. 

If you also add some cow manure -- or similar -- you are in the mode of weed tea production.  That's what I do with the cuts.

However as the paddles 'rot' they exude slime into the surrounding water and this makes for a very useful exudate that will adhere to your mulch.

I'm still experimenting with the possibilities of this gooey cream, but Luther Burbank argued that tipped into ponds the slime would cover the surface and prevent mosquitoes breeding for a year. I'm interested in it as a floating fertiliser for my Vetiver.

I'm also wondering what frog activity thinks of the goo.

So I'm 'science labbing' out back with buckets of chopped paddles in water.

Aloe vera makes a great fertiliser if fermented and we are basically talking about similar botanical attributes when it comes to these succulents. Hypothetically, the pear -- either as exudate or chopped spent & waterlogged pieces -- should hold water in the soil as holding water is what the paddles do so well.

Whether that moisture is accessible by vegetables grown, is another issue. So since I cannot find much literature, I'll just keep experimenting.

The photo shows the biologiocal activity of the chopped paddles after just 2 days in water emersion. Note the active bubbling and the slime. Obviously it appreciates an anaerobic environment.

You could drink this fluid. If that was your fancy. Like you could Aloe Vera juice.

DO NOT add cow manure if you are drinking cactus.

Prickly pear also makes for easy care shade -- no fallen leaves -- and serves as a useful frame to grow climbers on. Shaping can be done with the fingers. 

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.


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