The xoconostle (from Nahuatl xoconōchtli – ‘Xococ’ = ‘sour’ and ‘nochtli’ = tuna or prickly pear fruit) is native to central México and the arid semi-desert areas such as: Coahuila, Zacatecas, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Queretaro, State of Mexico and Hidalgo. It is the fruit of a type of Opuntia cactus. There are more than 15 varieties of this fruit. Opuntia joconostle, O.chávena, O.lasiacantha Pfeiffer, O.matudae and O.delafuentiana are noted … Continue reading Xoconostle

The Medicinal Qualities of Opuntia Cladodes

The Opuntia species of cactus (also called Nopal cactus) has been used for food and medicinal purposes in México since before the time of the Aztecs. The fruits (knowns as tunas in México) and the “leaves” (botanically known as cladodes) are eaten on a daily basis. The cladodes in particular are a tasty and nutritious green vegetable (once the spines have been removed).  As a vegetable it … Continue reading The Medicinal Qualities of Opuntia Cladodes

Tunas. The fruit of the nopal.

The fruits of the cactus are also known as prickly pears (or sometimes Indian figs) and come in a range of colours from green to yellow and the whole spectrum of pinks and reds. They too both have medicinal and culinary uses. Cactus fruit contains substantial amounts of ascorbic acid, vitamin E, carotenoids, fibres, amino acids and antioxidant compounds (phenols, flavonoids, betaxanthin and betacyanin). These phytonutrients … Continue reading Tunas. The fruit of the nopal.

Huitzilopochtli, Tenochtitlan and the Opuntia Cactus

The Mesoamerican deity Huitzilopochtli  was the patron god of the Mexican people and is the primary God of War (and the Sun) in the Aztec pantheon. The legend goes that after he was betrayed by a nephew he killed him and removed his heart. This heart was left on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco and, like many creation legends involving plants, from the rocks upon … Continue reading Huitzilopochtli, Tenochtitlan and the Opuntia Cactus

The Nopal as Food

The Opuntia species of cactus, also commonly called the Prickly Pear, is another seemingly hostile plant (along with the maguey) that despite its thorny exterior is a source of both food and medicine. Both its leaves (botanically known as cladodes) and fruits, called “tunas” are eaten on a daily basis in Mexico. As a cactus it must be treated carefully during preparation. They all carry spines … Continue reading The Nopal as Food