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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016

18 edible monterey bay summer 2016 • Salads: try chopping in small chunks and tossing with shredded chicken, pepitas and cilantro. • Hydrating drinks: mix prickly pear juice and some bubbly water for the kids; add ice, lime juice and vodka for the adults. Cooking with nopal paddles Nopal cactus pads have a lemony flavor and like okra, contain a somewhat slimy liquid. To reduce this, try brining skinned pieces in salt water, 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water. is will pull some of the gooey stuff from the meat. Or simply boil for 3 minutes in salted water then remove from heat and let them steep for another 3 minutes, drain then cool. Here are some preparation ideas: • Fry them in duck or bacon fat with onions and garlic then scramble with eggs for a tasty breakfast burrito. • Make a quick pickle using apple cider vinegar; store in the refrigerator. • Coat with olive oil and salt and roast on the barbecue or in the oven. If desired, first score the skin with a knife, or cut the paddle into a fan of strips still connected at the base. (is will help the sticky juices cook off.) • Add chopped nopales (first roasted or boiled, if desired) to tacos, salads or stews. If you are new to nopales and want to submerge yourself in their culture, attend the 6th annual Festival del Nopal in Santa Cruz on Sunday, July 24 in the downtown farmers’ market parking lot on Lincoln Street. Proceeds will fund youth scholarships and local nonprofits. ere will be cooking contests, traditional music and many variations of both nopales and prickly pear dishes to try. I plan to attend to taste the less common prickly pear fruit and locate some cuttings to propagate on my farm! Jamie Collins is owner of Serendipity Farms and has been growing organic row crops at the mouth of Carmel Valley since 2001. She distributes her produce through a CSA, U-picks and farmers’ markets. RECIPES: See p.19, 20 and 22 for recipes. the cutting in a well-ventilated area until it forms a firm callus where you cut it, which will take about two weeks. If the pad isn’t completely healed over, it could rot once it is planted. Fill a planting container (with adequate drain holes) with equal parts garden soil and coarse sand. Place the pad upright, about 1 inch deep in the soil, and use a stick or rock to hold it upright until the roots grow. Don’t add water for about a month—the succulent pad has enough to sustain itself until its roots are established. Or you can simply stick a cutting in the ground in the spring or summer when the ground is dry and remember to water it in a month or so. Cacti are like weeds—they can grow in the most unforgiving locations with few inputs and can survive on the rain that Mother Nature provides. However, the more water they receive, the better they grow. If you want to increase the nopal pads, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer. But if flowers and pears are your preference, increase the potassium. Nopales like full sun, and often are planted on the perimeters of properties, making a thorny fence. ey also can help control erosion on hillsides. HEALTH BENEFITS Nopales pads and fruit are low in calories and high in fiber, vital phytochemicals and antioxidants. eir sticky juices contain polysaccharides that reduce LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels and aid in digestion. ey are also an immune booster and have anti-inflammatory properties, and are an excellent source of magnesium—a mineral in which many people are deficient. e pads also contain moderate amounts of vitamin A which protects against skin and lung cancers. e magenta fruit contains sublime amounts of vitamin C and has been a headache and hangover remedy for hundreds of years. My Mom’s Mole’s Ruiz says his father makes a shake containing nopal paddles to help regulate his blood sugar every morning; he does not feel so well when he misses it. Some things to make with fresh, velvety prickly pears: • Salad dressing: add the prickly pear juice to sherry vinegar, olive oil and shallots. • Fruit tarts: skin and slice into thin pieces, tossing with lime juice and sugar. vor and is thorn free; cristalina aka zarca, crisp yet juicy with flavor like a white peach; and the naranjona, which has spicy notes with a honey sweetness and tastes a bit like a ripe persimmon. Vicente Quintana of El Nopalito Produce sources nopales locally from farmers in Gonzales and Los Banos in summer and from Mexico the rest of the year. At the El Pajaro Kitchen Incubator in Watsonville, Quintana prepares three different sizes of ready-to-eat de-thorned paddles packed in 1-pound bags. His pre-prepped nopales can be found at some Latino markets, including El Pueblo Market, Hernandez Markets and Chavez Supermarket chains. Quintana also supplies his co-worker in the Pajaro kitchen, Cesario Ruiz who owns My Mom’s Mole brand. Ruiz makes a healthy super food salad consisting of nopales and kale that is flying off the shelves in Santa Cruz at Staff of Life, Westside New Leaf and Corralitos Meat Market. (See recipe, p. 19.) Ruiz says the coolness of the salad complements his rich, spicy mole. Mohammed Tabib at e Fish Hopper restaurant on Cannery Row uses nopales in a relish that he says is simple and delicious on top of fish or chicken. Using olive oil he coats and roasts the whole pads along with red and yellow bell peppers and ears of corn until they have grill marks on them. e grilled vegetables are diced and tossed with corn kernels, more olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Hallcrest Vineyards in Felton makes a 15- barrel batch of prickly pear hard cider each summer, sourcing organic prickly pear fruit from Prevedelli Farms in Corralitos. Proprietor John Schumacher chops the fruit and tosses it in with the apple juice and the perfect amount of ai chile peppers before fermenting. His Prickly Pear hard cider is on tap at local breweries; Schumacher is also considering bottling it for retail this season, so keep your eyes peeled for it at specialty brew shops this fall. Nicole Todd’s Santa Cruz Cider Co. has also been known to brew using prickly pears and usually serves the tangy drink at the annual Twisted Tasting event in Santa Cruz. GROW IT YOURSELF Nopales are easily propagated by cutting an existing cactus pad off a mature plant. Be sure to use a sharp, clean knife and cut a mature pad, one that is at least six months old. Keep


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016
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