There are those who will automatically connect Mexicans with beans some so much so as to venture to stereotype. The truth unbeknownst to them however, there is a Mexican diet staple which far surpasses beans when it comes to being emblematic and symbolic. The nopal is a true symbol of our people. Depicted in artwork, named in songs , and referenced in sayings. For example: when a person tries to deny their Mexican heritage they are greeted with the following saying “Luego, luego se te ve el nopalote” which would translate to something like “Oh please you might as well have a big o’l cactus plant growing out of your head, because there’s no denying you’re 100% Mexican.”
But why does the nopal hold such a notable position in our culture? Although it does play a big role when it comes to : Mexican diet, agriculture, traditions, and the economy the most important reason is yet another. The nopal is important because of it’s role in Mexico’s history. It is forever linked to our people through being part of our folklore & mythology. Mexico’s legendary founding is a tale of how the heavens guided the Aztects to their future kingdom Tenochtitlan by sending them in search of a cactus plant with an eagled pearched on top eating a snake. The tale which is what is depreciated on our flag.
TORTILLAS MADE OUT OF NOPALES :http://store.nopaltilla.com/
WHAT’S A NOPAL ?
Nopales (from the Nahuatl word nōpalli for the pads, or nostle, from the Nahuatl word nōchtli for the fruit) are a vegetable made from the young cladophyll (pad) segments of prickly pear, carefully peeled to remove the spines. These fleshy pads are flat and about hand-sized. They can be purple or green. They are particularly common in their native Mexico, where the plant is eaten commonly and regularly forms part of a variety of Mexican cuisine dishes. Farmed nopales are most often of the species Opuntia ficus-indica, although the pads of almost all Opuntia species are edible.
Nopales are generally sold fresh in Mexico. In more recent years bottled, or canned versions are available mostly for export. Less often dried versions are available. Used to prepare nopalitos, they have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture. In most recipes the mucilaginous liquid they contain is included in the cooking. They are at their most tender and juicy in the spring.
Though Nopales are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), “carne con nopales” (meat with nopal), “tacos de nopales”, or simply on their own or in salads with Panela Cheese. Nopales have also grown to be an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine. –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nopal
Nopales are very rich in insoluble and especially soluble dietary fiber. They are also rich in vitamins (especially vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, but also riboflavin and vitamin B6) and minerals (especiallymagnesium, potassium, and manganese, but also iron and copper). Nopales have a high calcium content, but the nutrient is not biologically available because it is present as calcium oxalate, which is neither highly soluble nor easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Addition of nopales also reduces the glycemic effect of a mixed meal. Nopales are low carbohydrate and may help in the treatment of diabetes. –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nopal
Nopales are a recognized in culinary circles as a gourmet ingredient.