Cactus Salad with Pomegranate and a Xoconostle dessert.


Our guest today is Carmen; she writes in her blog "Saborearte Entusiasma". When you visit her blog you will not only find recipes and the history behind the food, but you will  also enjoy her passion to rescue the dishes that had gradually  been disappearing from our tables. You will be surprised to see recipes for dishes that are uncommon in United States made with vegetables, fruits, plants and flowers used to cook since Pre-Hispanic times, enjoy the pictures of her visits at the local markets and also her witty writings. 
The way of speaking, their songs, symbols, rituals, the  environment, their food habits is all that what gives character and form a culture. The cactus is  a part of México, from their songs to their symbols, passing and stopping, obviously, in their food, the pride of our identity.
The  eagle on our national emblem rests precisely on a cactus. The Mendocino Codex, on page 1 shows the icon of the Foundation of Tenochtitlán. There is an eagle standing on a red nopal cactus, which, according to the monolith Teocalli’s interpretations of the sacred land, the red tunas symbolize the hearts of the Mexicans, and The Nopal immortality, because their leaves reproductive’s capacity and continued growth. Even the shield of México City has a framework of nopales.
Precisely the etymology of Tenochtitlan means: Place of wild  tunas;  wild thing, and nochtli, tuna, adding the particularity of abundance, tlan
A landscape with cactus is not the same everywhere, only in our country there are over 60  classified species, and each of these cacti enrich our  gastronomy. What's more, in addition to the health benefits of cactus, are its fruits, whether red, green or yellow juicy tunas,  and the Xoconoxtle (sour prickly pear).
Cochimilla Cochinilla2
Even the insect  cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), a cactus pest, is highly prized for its  naturally dye for food and cosmetics, besides giving a beautiful purple color to the textiles.This product was part of the goods that were sent to the East via the sea route of the Nao of China. Now, you can still find in the city of Oaxaca, the beautiful and so special embroidered purple huipiles.
Nopal con Mole
I don’t know other vegetables so accessible, so frequent, so combined and as versatile as the cactus. Can be used in many and various ways as imagination dictates, either in a simple salad, accompanied by grilled meats, tacos, moles, soups, breads, cakes, cookies, tamales, drinks, jams, fruit pastes, ice cream, uff! , the pulp is also used to mix dough for tortillas either corn or wheat flour. And since speaking of food is to speak of innovation, there is even sushi or pizza with nopal-cactus. I prefer a more traditional way. This is the one way I prefer it.
The mature cactus leaf serves as a vessel for cooking like a big pot. It is cooked slowly.This form of cooking is traditional in the state of Queretaro. These Cactus showing above are served with chorizo.
"Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose ship sank in 1528, recounts in his book how he was saved by the  Indians from northern México to die of hunger, and how  themselves  faced adverse soil and climate conditions, making optimum use of the cactus . We can sense his admiration when recounting who they  made big-eared tuna, how they made a natural or fermented drink from the fresh juice of the prickly pears  and how they made flour and cornmeal by grinding the sun dried peels and seeds provided them with food for a long time", prologue Marco Buenrostro, Cookbook of the nopal of Milpa Alta, DF and Colima.Collection: Indian cuisine and popular CONACULTA.
As for fruit, prickly pears, they are delicious and in some places in the north with the famous cactus colonche is an ancient fermented beverage rich Hispanic and fresh, the Náhuatls knew it as nochoctli (from nochtli in Náhuatl means octli tuna and wine, or wine tuna). On the other hand, the market stalls of San Luis Potosí you can see tall rows of stacked cheese tuna, which is another product to build and preserve the enormous production of tunas. Some candy stores of D.F. and the La Merced market can get the cheese (which is not exactly a cheese but a kind of paste), but will never be rich enough to buy it as the one in San Luis, fresh and packed in colorful cellophane colors.
I do not know if the “Higos Chumbos”, as they call them in Spain, but the Tunas are as  tasty  and succulent like the ones we grow here in México. What I do remember very well is that several friends of mine from Spain immigrant parents during the Spanish Civil War have told me that they were surprised to see that here Cactus was consumed in many ways, if they had known they would had used them to prevent that many of their  countrymen suffered of hunger.
And the recipe with cactus? From classical nopales salad with pico de gallo, to another version. What changes now is the choreography.
This salad is very simple, original and fresh.

September Cactus Salad
Serves 4 portions
4 Nopales previously cleaned
3 1/2 ounces  Shredded Oaxaca cheese or Muenster Cheese
The grains of a whole pomegranate
The kernels of one corn cob
2  Poblanos (Seeds removed)
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon of vinegar,
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1. The cactus is cut across as thin as possible and put in boiling water. There are countless ways to cook Nopales and remove the slime produce when you are cutting them and even to imprint an artificial green. I prefer the simplest. I put them in water to a boil, making sure that when the foam begins to rise turn off the heat, strain the Nopales, add clean  water to the pot and put again to cook  6 minutes in salted water. Then I let them cool.
2. The corn kernels are cooked in salted water and let it cool.
3. I put the poblano peppers  to a boil in two cups of water with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt to taste and a drizzle of olive oil. Once you have cooked and seasoned cut into slices and leave to cool, they do not need to drain, it is best to keep a little of the broth in which they were  boiled, as it serves as a light dressing to the salad.
4. Mix in a salad bowl shredded Oaxaca cheese, Poblano strips,  kernels of corn, cactus, drained and finally the pomegranate seeds. I served it using a ring mold and remove it in the plate.
Flor del Nopal

Wait, there is still dessert.

Xoconostles en Almibar
Xoconostles in Syrup
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 stick cinnamon
6 Xoconostle fruits
As I said the etymology of the word: Tunas sour of xocotl, citrus fruit, and nochtli, prickly pear or nopal fruit.
Xoconosltles1 Xoconostles2
Cut the  Xoconostles  in half, peel and  remove the seeds . Place in a pot with the water and sugar and cook in a low heat.  until the water has reduce to 1 cup. After 20 minutes add the cinnamon stick. Check the syrup, if the fruit is not already cooked and the taste is  too acidic add more sugar to taste and add a little more water if it has already evaporated. Do not overcook, their texture should be firm and delicate.

This post is featured at Simple Lives Thursdays and Full Plate Thursday.

Happy Independence Day! ¡Viva México!

This was a Guest post by Carmen from "Saborearte Entusiasma".


  1. Aye Mely, mely. What delish food. Nopales is my favorite. Nopales with mole sauce, chile's, and fresh tortillas. I have nopales growing in my yard and we cut them down and I get to clean them;)) and of course cook them. We also have the fruit. You are making me hungry and we have been moderating and sticking to only veggies for a little while. I'm running out to the backyard to see if there are any nopalitos. It wasn't a very good year for them this time around. Good to see you and I'm glad I got a night when I can comment a little on my bloggie buddies blogs. I have to go now. Thank you for the wonderful post. Take care and I hope you are doing well.

  2. Gracias por la clase de historia me encanto, y por las deliciosas recetas. No soy muy fan del Nopal, lo consumo solo en un jugo que preparo todas las mañanas junto con piña, si no fuera por sus propiedades curativas lo dejaria de lado totalmente, pero me gustaria probar el postre hecho con los Xoconostles se ve rico, me gustan los sabores agridulces.


  3. Very nice post Mely. This is a good one to start El Mes De La Patria.

  4. This was such a fantastic informative, so delicious! I'm looking forward to your series of guest posts if this is any indication of the fantastic month to come :D

  5. Mely,
    what a great idea for a post.
    Mi apa loves nopales says they are good for his diabetes. those Xoconostles in Syrup look so good.

  6. Wow Mely!!!! qué bien está esta entrada, linda invitada y buenísima traductora :D
    Me ha encantado tu idea de tener invitados en este mes... excelente !!!
    un besote

  7. I must try the recipe for September Cactus Salad, I have three cactus plants from Sicily (which are not good for nopales, great though for prickly pears) and also one mammoth cactus brought in from Mexico which gives generous harvests of prickly pears and fronds. I have a couple recipes for nopales given to me by an elderly Mexican neighbor but can always use more. Thanks for the photos and recipes!!!
    P.S. A Mexican lady friend also has told me that nopales is good for diabetes...

  8. @ Gian Banchero

    Thanks for your comment,

    And you are right, Cactus has being known for its many beneficial uses in diabetes and cholesterol as well as obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, skin ailments, and viral infections, just to name a few.

    The good thing about the cactus is that you can eat, the plant, the fruit and the flowers.

    Have a great day!


  9. Beautiful as usual, Mely! Very informative--Love that first pic :)



  10. Me encanta este post Mely! felicitaciones a Carmen por todo, las fotos están lndisimas esas flores..
    Un besote
    pd: te escribi a tu correo..;)

  11. Hi Mely,
    I have really enjoyed your post about the Cactus. The next time I see it in the market I will have a totally different feeling about and may even try a recipe with it. Hope you are having a great week end and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  12. Mely, I really enjoyed all of the photos and information shared in this post. I know that I must have told you before; but, I will tell you again....I love your blog so much. Nopales are a "must try" for me now and that salad looks like the perfect way to start. Thanks so much for sharing! I hope your week is fantastic! Blessings, Candace

  13. Ya estoy de regreso Mely, gracias por tan buena traducción. El nopal es como el maguey una planta bendita, tantas cosas que nos da.
    Te mando mi cariño y agradecimiento.

  14. wow, thats a very interesting post, all new things for me and am very curious about the taste of nopales and prickly pears :)

  15. I always show the kids I take hiking the cochineal bugs and the color they produce. The kids are always amazed.

  16. Mely please disregard my question about charring the Poblanos. I just read the recipe more carefully and I answered my own question. So sorry about it, it's been horribly hot in San Diego and we lost power for about 12 hours yesterday. We are still recovering!

    At any rate, thanks again for the wonderful work you do!

    Sophia in Powered Back San Diego!

  17. Mely

    Me encantan los nopales en muchas de sus presentaciones, al igual que las tunas, que aún es época así que tengo en mente hacer nieve de tuna.

    Lo que jamás he probado son los Xoconostles = S

  18. Hola Mely:Me encantan sus recetas de nopales deliciosas,comiendo nopales asados en el comal me alivio de mi diabets hace tres a~os, no mas meds.mi esposo los cuida mucho los ponemos adentro de la casa en invierno la temperatura de Kansas es extrema.La felicito por su blog excelente.Happy New Year para Ud y los suyos.MariaT

  19. Hello Maria T.

    I also love the grilled Nopales. Me encantan los Nopales asados. Este mes voy a poner una entrada de como los preparo.

    Gracias por tus palabras tan amables.

    Feliz año 2012


  20. You have great writing skills! Never stop rescuing those great recipes. Mmmmm, rico!

  21. I loved your post and the details you put in it.. but I'm totally speechless!!!! on this recipe! I never knew there was food like this. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for visiting and stop by soon.



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