Nopalitos -  A Natural, Healing Food


The Tohono O'odham and Pima's traditional diet before world war two was made up of foraged wild wild foods, which consisted of mesquite pods, cactus fruit and chiles. They also cultivated indigenous crops, such as corn, beans and squash. When they switched to typical American processed diets, the O'odham and Pima developed nutrition-related health problems(diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure,etc.). When the O'odham reversed this trend and returned to their traditional diet, the health benefits of indigenous crops became quickly apparent. They found that a diet high in desert plants can slow down and even reverse diabetes and high cholesterol !

Fiber, the desert plant's way of absorbing and conserving water, is what makes desert plants a good option. High-fiber foods slow the digestion and absorption of sugars in the body, and therefore help to regulate blood glucose levels. Plant-based diets also help reduce cholesterol, a serious concern for non-insulin-dependent diabetics, who are generally overweight and at higher risk for coronary heart disease.

The prickly pear cactus, known as nopal, belongs to the genus, Opuntia, the most abundant plants of the desert. The green stems and fruits of Nopales have been a source of nourishment for Native Americans  well before the colonial period, deep within Pre-Columbian times.  Nopales can be flavored with green chilies and a touch of vinegar, rolled in a flour tortilla. A refreshing salad is commonly made from nopales, tomatoes, and onions topped with a vinegar and mustard dressing. Other recipes include nopalitos con queso (a mixture of nopales, onions, and chilies, stir fried and sprinkled with cheese) and revoltijos (potatoes, shrimp, and nopal strips cooked in mole rojo; a red chili sauce).


Nopalitos Recipes


Nopalitos with Eggs

1 cup cooked and sliced Nopalitos
3 tablespoons diced onion
6 tablespoons oil
6 eggs
1/4 tsp oregano
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the Nopalitos. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour over the Nopalitos, then add a teaspoon of water to avoid sticking. Stir for a minute while cooking to avoid burning, then add the oregano and salt. Cook evenly for 5 minutes. Serve with tortillas and salsa.


Nopalitos Salsa

16 oz. cooked Nopalitos, diced and drained
8 oz. canned or fresh roasted chiles, diced
2 lb. fresh or 16 oz canned tomatillos, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 to 4 canned chipotle peppers, finely diced
3 T white vinegar
1 T salt
1 cup finely chopped white onion

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Serve as a garnish or fold in sour cream to taste then fill a tortilla and roll up.


Nopalitos and Pork ,chicken,fish

1 cup of cooked Nopalitos
Pork loin or 3–4 chops, deboned (try with chicken or fish as well)
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
14 oz. can of pureed or stewed tomato
1/2 cup fresh or canned corn
2 bay leaves
1 T oregano
Chile powder to taste

Heat a greased skillet on medium temperature, then add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender. Add pork. When the pork turns white, add the Nopalitos, corn and tomato. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bay leaves, oregano and chile powder. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice or with tortillas.






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