The following recipe is a perfect way to try your hand at cooking with cactus, and its completely meat-free.
Prickly, spiny, spiky, and all around scary-looking, cacti are one of nature’s freakiest plants. As a western Canadian, my memories of cacti can be summed up with Saturday morning cartoons: some sorry sap rests his bottom on a cactus, only to realize … ouch!
However, cacti are becoming more common in Canada, and at an unlikely place: the grocery store. That’s right, cactus—well, a specific type of edible cactus—can be a tasty addition to a variety of dishes. Its crisp texture and fresh taste is similar to okra, green beans, and asparagus, which makes it an easy substitute for any of these ingredients.
When choosing edible cacti at your local supermarket or health food store, be sure to pick leaves (also called pads) that are small, firm with no wrinkling, and pale green in colour. Also, be sure to remove cactus spines and eyes before cooking with them. A vegetable peeler and sharp parking knife are the best tools for this task.
The following recipe is a perfect way to try your hand at cooking with cactus, and it’s completely meat-free, which is perfect because today is Meatless Monday. Give it a shot, and let us know what you think about edible cactus!
Sweet and Sour Tofu with Cactus
From Pamela Durkin’s “Cook on the Wild Side”
1 Tbsp (15 mL) coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced diagonally
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cactus leaves (with spines and eyes removed), thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 tsp (2 to 5 mL) grated ginger
3/4 lb (350 g) medium-firm tofu, cut into chunks
1 cup (250 mL) canned pineapple chunks (reserve juice)
1/4 cup (60 mL) reserved pineapple juice
2 Tbsp (30 mL) low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp (15 mL) apple cider vinegar
Dash of black pepper
To prepare cactus leaves, wearing gloves, hold leaf on cutting board and, using a sharp knife, scrape the spines (or thorns or eyes), running knife from back to front until completely clean. Repeat on other side and then trim off the edges and rinse.
Heat oil in wok or large skillet. Add onion and carrots and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add minced garlic, cactus leaves, and ginger, and stir-fry for 2 minutes more. Add tofu and continue to stir-fry until tofu is lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and cook, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly.
Serve over rice or similar grain.
Each serving contains: 179 calories; 11 g protein; 9 g total fat (1 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 17 g total carbohydrates (9 g sugars, 4 g fibre); 303 mg sodium