Not only is the cactus an important cultural and historical symbol in Mexico, it might surprise you to learn that cactus is a staple in Mexican cuisine. You will find cactus everywhere from fine dining to street food and certainly in every home kitchen. Cactus is in juices, tacos, fajitas, eggs or as a side dish to name a few. Here at Gran Luchito our aim is to bring you the authentic taste of Mexico, and we are very excited to add Sliced Green Cactus to our range. In this article we share some interesting facts about Mexican cactus and one of our favourite recipes using cactus.
1. You will find a cactus on the Mexican flag
First on our list of interesting facts about Mexican cactus is the Mexican flag. The coat of arms on the Mexican flag features a Mexican eagle holding a rattlesnake and is perched on a cactus. It recounts the founding of what is now Mexico City. The legend is that the gods told the Aztecs to establish their city where they saw an eagle on a cactus eating a serpent. This crest has been an important political and cultural symbol for centuries and has come to represent the triumph of good over evil.
2. The most common variety of edible cactus is Nopales
Nopales (pronounced no-PAHles) are fleshy, arboreal cactus plants which grow between one and five metres high. They have oblong green stalks or branches (pencas) that are a flat with thorns. Nopal cactus are found from sea level to about 3,000 meters above sea level and can be wild or cultivated.
These plants are perennial and bloom mainly from December to June.
3. The colourful flowers and fruit are known as Prickly Pear
The flat green pads of the cactus are the nopales. In the upper part of the stalks, you will find red, purple, and yellow flowers along with the prickly pear which are a delicious fruit with crunchy seeds.
4. Cactus features in one of Mexico’s best known expressions
Next on our list of interesting facts about Mexican cactus, there is an old expression “más mexicano que los nopales” which translates to “more Mexican than nopales”. It is often said to refer to something that is very representative of Mexico or its traditions and reflects how pervasive cacti are in Mexican culture and tradition.
5. Mexican Cactus domesticated over 9 thousand years ago
Domesticated over 9 thousand years ago and along with maguey, corn and beans, cactus was consumed as a main food of the Chichimeca groups. They called it nohpalli, a Nahuatl voice that became nopal upon the arrival of the Spaniards.
6. Cactus offers health benefits
Next on our list of interesting facts about Mexican cactus are the health benefits it offers. Cactus is very rich in water, fibre, calcium, and potassium. Due to the high amount of fibre, cactus decreases cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood glucose levels. Doctors recommend cactus to people with type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity. Cactus gives the feeling of satiety, contributes to good digestion and helps you to avoid constipation problems. For this reason, you will find it in natural medicine and weight-loss diets.
7. Cactus is very versatile in cooking
You will find a number of different ways to cook with cactus. You can grill, roast, or even stew cactus to accompany other vegetables/meat. Additionally cactus is delicious in salads. You can even use nopal flour to bake healthy biscuits which are very high in fibre.
8. Our favourite way to eat cactus is in a Quesadilla!
You will often find cactus in Mexican street food. We recommend you take your Quesadilla up an authentic notch by adding our Sliced Green Cactus. Marinated in delicious Mexican spices the cactus adds a tangy note to the Quesadilla.
We hope you enjoyed learning our interesting facts about Mexican cactus. Please let us know what you think by leaving your review below. We would also love to see what you get up to in the kitchen! Don’t forget to tag #granluchito and happy cooking from all of us.