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Preparing Cactus: From Nopal to Nopalitos

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* In the garden In the kitchen

Are your cactus ready to harvest? Mine are and since I've had a few requests for instructions on getting them ready to eat. I'd thought I'd do a little photo essay. When the cactus is a paddle, the Mexicans call it a nopal, or nopales for plural. Once it's cleaned and trimmed, the pieces are called nopalitos. First, grab a dish towel and hold one end of the paddle as you make a nice clean slice at the base: Chicks084_2 Carefully wrap the dishtowel around the thick base of the paddle, but first notice how butch my hands look in this photo: Chicks085 Slowly cut along the outside of the paddle. There are too many spines to bother with so just cut around the paddle: Chicks087 Slowly go from base to top and remove the spines. You'll be surprised how easily they come off but you won't get them all. No worries. Also a common question is how to skin the paddle, but you don't. In fact, do your best to just get the spines and as little of the paddle as possible: Chicks089 Now carefully go in all directions and get every last spine until there are none left: Chicks092_2 If you're grilling your paddle, make cuts as shown so the paddle will cook evenly: Chicks095 If you're boiling your cactus, cut it up into little squares. I'd prefer it of you take a little more care than I have in this photo: Chicks097 Rinse well and let drain: Chicks102 It's that easy. If you're boiling, I have a post here. Enjoy your nopales, but remember, like love, they can hurt!


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