These days, I have been finding good-sized cucumbers on my vines in the backyard (photo below, left), along with tomatoes of various colours and sizes (photos below, centre and right):
They provide very decent harvests of both veggies every couple of days:
Salads have been great, as well as cooked salsa a la mexicana. I made a batch of this sauce, which was one of the earliest recipes posted in this blog; it is usually called simply “salsa” outside Mexico:
I had bought a pack of fresh cactus paddles (aka, nopales), to make a healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs to go with my salsa; from looking at the still untouched fresh cucumbers on the counter, I thought of an also healthy item, a green beverage that is very popular in Mexico, called jugo de nopal – paddle cactus juice:
Other than raw nopales, and green veggies such as cucumber, or dark leaves, some citrus juice (either lime or orange) is all that is needed. I had orange juice in the fridge (although freshly squeezed would have been even better), and after washing, peeling, and slicing the cucumbers, I proceeded to clean the paddles. I have a very early post detailing my first experience cleaning nopales, but I have become much more proficient since then (click here for printable full instructions); in a nutshell: Place a garbage bag on the working surface; wear thorn-proof gardening gloves to handle the paddles* (photo below, left); using a paring knife, remove the base end, and continue trimming the thorny edge all around the paddle (photo below, centre). Starting at the stem end, and moving towards the tip, remove the needles on one side of the paddle by placing a vegetable peeler, or the tip of a paring knife, parallel to the surface and scrapping just under the base of each needle (photo below, right):
Flip paddle and repeat on other side; continue cleaning all the paddles. Transfer clean paddles to a colander, then simply wrap the needles and trimmings with the garbage bag and dispose. Rinse paddles under running water, drain and pat dry with a clean towel. To slice, cut into long strips lengthwise, then across, into pieces about one inch long:
Paddle Cactus Breakfast- Desayuno con nopales
Paddle Cactus Juice – Jugo de Nopal
Ingredients (for approximately two cups)
1 paddle cactus (nopal); cleaned, washed, and sliced
1 cup cucumber; washed, peeled (optional), and sliced
1 cup orange juice
Place all ingredients in a blender jar (photo below, left); process until well blended (photo below, right):
Scrambled Eggs with Paddle Cactus –
Huevos revueltos con nopal
Ingredients (for one portion)
1 paddle cactus (nopal); cleaned, washed, and sliced
¼ cup onion; peeled, and chopped
2 eggs; lightly beaten
2 tsp oil
1 cup cooked salsa a la mexicana (try my homemade recipe, or from jar)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro; washed and chopper (optional)
Place cactus strips in a dry frying pan (no oil yet); cook over medium heat, for one minute, stirring; reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for ten more minutes. Uncover; juices from the cactus will have become slimy, this is normal. Increase heat a little, and continue cooking, stirring, until all the slime has evaporated:
Add oil and chopped onions, to sauté together with the cooked (slime-free) paddles (photo below, left). Once the onions become translucent, season with salt and pepper, to taste, then add lightly beaten eggs (photo below, right):
Cook to taste; I like my scrambled eggs well-set and fluffy, so I reduced the heat to low, and scraped the bottom gently to prevent cooked egg layers from burning, and allow uncooked liquid to reach the bottom.
To assemble the full breakfast, transfer eggs to a plate, add salsa on the side, topped with cilantro (if using); serve immediately with a glass of jugo de nopal :
Warm corn or wheat tortillas, or any toast go really well (optional).
Slight differences in appearance might be noticed amongst the pictures of jugo de nopal in this post, as seen below. The juice from “La Marimba” restaurant, in Mexico (left) has the darkest shade of green, and its top looks as frothy as air; this probably means that it contained some dark leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, and that cactus was the predominant ingredient, hence the extra-foamy top. My freshly prepared juice (centre) had cucumber and orange juice, roughly in equal proportions to the cactus, so the shade is a pale green and there is foam, but not as much; the flavour was slightly sweet from the orange, had a “green” flavour, and reminded me of cactus pear, the fruit of the paddle cactus plant, called tuna in Mexico. Finally, since I was sipping on my juice while cooking the eggs, I had to add some more orange juice at the end, for the final photo, resulting in a smooth-looking portion, with very little foam left (right):
As it may be seen, ingredients and proportions may be modified to cater to personal preferences and dietary restrictions. Other popular ingredients for this juice are fresh pineapple, celery and herbs, such as mint or parsley. There are a few scientific studies, and lots of anecdotal testimonies, reporting anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for paddle cactus, as well as the resounding success to regulate cholesterol levels and manage diabetes, in which case the juice is prepared primarily with nopales, greens and maybe lime juice, to minimize sugar content from fruit.
If using the recipes as posted, these are the approximate nutrition values:
*NOTE: Make sure the gloves are indeed thorn-proof; fabric gardening gloves, latex gloves, etc. will not protect from the prickly needles, and will just exacerbate the problem, when some of the small needles get stuck in them.
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #504, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.