Courtesy of John and Victoria Dicus of the Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Farm in Nipomo, California
More recipes may be found at Rivenrock Gardens' Web site.
2 lbs cleaned Nopales
1 Onion -- sliced 1/8" thick
1/8 cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil
2 jalapeno chiles
2 Chili Serrano
1/2 bulb garlic
1 Cup cilantro
Salt to taste
Cactus Leaf Preparation
One should harvest the nopal cactus when the individual leaf is young and fresh. The leaves will generally be hand sized, they must have a glossy green sheen and be of minimum thickness, about 3/8" thick. When the leaf has grown too thick and has lost it's sheen it will be pithy inside. The leaves are best separated from the main plant with a knife by slicing through the leaf approximately 1" above the junction point from which it grows from the leaf below. The stub left on the older mature leaf below will grow a new leaf from it's surface, generally the next year.
The harvested leaf must now be rid of spines if any, glochids if any (the hair-like tiny spines that still get in the skin), or the green nubs that grow on the areoles of the spineless varieties. These green nubs will remove easily with a green scrubbing pad or cloth. The spines and glochids must be cut off with a knife by slicing through the skin under the areole from which the spines and glochids grow, this process is known as 'skinning'. Once the leaf is safe to handle it is generally sliced french-fry style, or diced into 3/8" dimensions. The leaves are then most often boiled for approximately 10 minutes, and then mixed into some other food that has been already cooked, the ingredients are then cooked some more to blend flavors and eaten.
Nopalitos Con Chile (Cactus Chile)
Clean and dice nopales. Chop onion into similar sized pieces and place in a large oiled skillet and begin to fry. Add garlic and chiles and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Serve over diced and toasted tortillas or bed of rice.
Victoria's French-Fried Cactus
This is one recipe in which we don't boil the plants first, in this one the fresh cactus are cut into french fry style strips 3/8" wide and rolled in a batter of milk and eggs then rolled through flour, cornmeal or a combination of both. Frying in a skillet or deep fryer will give a deep gold/green color. They are great fresh out of the oil.