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Kitchen Corner: Curious about Cactus?

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Kitchen Corner: Curious about Cactus?

Don’t wuss away from cactus. Scary-looking cactus leaves are as yummy and versatile as a green bean, but don’t hold back any punches when it comes to nutrition.

Are you afraid to pick up cactus? Don’t let those spines scare you. Underneath the tough-guy exterior lies crisp, succulent flesh that’s waiting to be your new summer favourite!

Cactus leaves, or nopales, can easily take the place of favourite veggies such as green beans or asparagus, and they are eaten in much the same way. You can also chow down on the fruit, stems, and flowers of the prickly pear cactus, although the leaves are most widely available.

To prepare your cactus, first, gather your courage. We’re kidding—it’s not terrifying, promise. Just be careful. Hold the leaf at its base, scrape off the spines and any bristly parts with a knife, wash under cold water, and then peel the rest of the skin with a standard peeler. You can then leave the pad whole to cook, or chop into cubes or strips.

Cactus can be enjoyed as part of salads, stir-fries, and soups or roasted, steamed, or boiled as a side dish.Although its uses are plentiful, and it could easily become a new food obsession, don’t overdo it at first as it can cause some unpleasant digestive complaints.

Often complimented for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory assets, cactus is very low in calories, with just 22 per 1 cup (250 mL) serving. It is also high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium and potassium. It can be useful in the treatment of diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, and cactus extract is also said to be useful in curing hangovers. What’s that saying about the dog that bit you? Or is it the spine that stabbed you?


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