Perhaps you have heard of Nopalea, a very expensive juice containing a proprietary blend of ingredients most noteworthy of which is the juice of the fruit of the nopal (Spanish name for prickly pear cactus). While there are many testimonials online about the effectiveness of this juice in relieving inflamation, pain, fatigue, allergies, and the list goes on, paying $30 to $40 dollars a bottle for which the main ingredient is water seems a bit excessive to me.
But doing further research on the prickly pear led to some interesting findings. It is low calorie, loaded with Vitamins C and A, contains magnesium and potassium, and betalains which are powerful antioxidants (also found in beets and red Swiss chard). In tests it has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, regulate blood glucose, prevent cancer, and provide relief from alcoholic hangovers.
I have been interested in desert native foods for a couple of years now after I learned that the Native American found in the area of Arizona where we visit my husband’s family at Christmas time once only rarely suffered from diabetes. Since switching from eating native foods grown in the region to a more Americanized diet the diabetes rate soared to 15 time that of the general population, with 50% acquiring the disease by age 35. Members of this same people who have returned to a diet of traditional foods have shown marked weight loss, some even reversing their diabetes status without the use of medication. (Source)
I don’t have diabetes or any pre-diabetic condition, but both of my parents have Type 2 diabetes so I know I need to watch my health or I run the risk of joining them at some point. My interest in prickly pear juice right now is that my son really likes juice, yet I know that it is not recommended for children to consume much at all as juvenile obesity is at an epidemic level in the US. I also don’t like the fact that juice coats the teeth with sugar, promoting caries. Getting my son to cooperate with a thorough tooth brushing is not the easiest of tasks! So I have decided it is time to give prickly pear juice sweetened with xylitol instead of sugar a try!
(Xylitol could be the topic of a whole other post. You can see what good old Wikipedia has to say by following the link.)
While prickly pear cactus does grow in our area, it is possible to buy the fruit already de-thorned in the grocery store, which is what I did. Should you decide to pick your own this website explains how to do so and then remove the thorns so they can be handled.
Start with 10 prickly pears. I found this gave me just under 2 quarts of juice. I could have added a bit more water to make a full 2 quarts and the flavor really wouldn’t have suffered.
The first step in the juicing process is to slice off both ends of the prickly pear.
Then slice through the skin from top to bottom along one side.
Next unroll the fruit out of the skin, which can then be discarded.
Cut the interior of the prickly pear into chunks…
…and throw all together into your pot.
Cover the fruit with water and turn on the heat to medium until it begins to boil and then reduce to simmer.
Let simmer about 15 or 20 minutes or until it reaches your preferred strength.
Sweeten as desired. I used Xylitol as it is a natural sweetener, but without many calories and the added benefit of being a dental plaque fighter. I also added some lemon juice to give it a bit more zing and to help it keep longer (not a real concern as I’m drinking it fairly quickly.)
Chill and serve. Don’t you just love the vibrant color? If I didn’t know better I would think it was artificial.
Surprisingly my son doesn’t want to drink it. I’m not sure why because it doesn’t have an overly “exotic” flavor and I thought he’s think the color was fun. I made it mainly as an attempt to get him away from drinking as much apple juice as he now does. Even though we water it down extensively he still is getting more than the 4 oz of juice he should be limited to each day. (We did fine as a water-only family until he had a bad cold and wouldn’t eat so I gave him as much juice as he wanted over those days. Bad decision.) I also liked that instead of bathing his teeth in sugar with each sip he would actually be protecting his teeth from caries due to the use of the Xylitol. Prickly pear fruit also comes in a light green color, so I think I will try this once more using that color of fruit and then mix it with the apple juice initially. Perhaps it is the extreme change in color that is turning him off. If that doesn’t work I won’t push it. Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes. But I will keep making this for myself as it is delicious, refreshing, and so healthy. And who knows, maybe one day he’ll decide he wants some too…
- Nopal Cactus-Juice (speedwater.wordpress.com)
Here’s where I’m linking up: