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Cactus pear

The cactus pear is a succulent shrub or tree ranging on average from 1.5-3 m in height. The branches (cladodes or “paddles”) are flattened and are grey-green in colour. The flowers are yellow and the fruits range in colour from yellow to red and purple and contain small seeds that are usually consumed along with the flesh of the fruit. The plant reproduces via seed but is also vegetatively propagated relatively easily from detached branches.

Where it is found

The centre of origin and domestication is Mexico but the plant is now found in the wild in several countries including the USA, across the Mediterranean, Angola, Australia, Kenya, and South Africa.

How to eat it

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions

Ingredients: 1 lb nopalitos (cactus pear branches that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped); 1 tablespoon olive oil; 2 large cloves garlic, minced; half a red onion, roughly chopped; 1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped; 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped; quarter of a teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste; salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, then add the nopalitos and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomato and cumin and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with corn tortillas. Serves 4.

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