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                        PLANT OF THE MONTH


Texas Prickly Pear or Nopal

Recently, the Texas Country Reporter aired a segment that was taped here at Rancho Lomitas.  Since that time, Benito has received numerous requests for information regarding some of the plants mentioned during the segment.  Most of the requests have been for information about the Texas prickly pear or nopal, as it is called in Spanish.  You can usually find nopalitos (tender young nopal) in both the produce section and the Mexican food section of local grocery stores.  Nopalitos are usually sold fresh in small plastic bags although occasionally whole single leaves are available.  Canned nopalitos can be found in the Mexican food section.  The cactus grows wild in most parts of Texas as well as in other states and in Mexico.  You can mix the tender nopalitos in salads or serve them as a side dish.  They can be eaten fresh, boiled, sautéed, roasted, and fried.  Recipes abound for using nopalitos and tunas (the fruit of the prickly pear).  Some of our favorite cookbooks featuring recipes using nopalitos as well as interesting facts about the prickly pear are The Art of Cooking with Cactus presented by the Texas Cactus Council, Cactus Cook Book compiled by Joyce L. Tate and published by the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, The Prickly Pear Cookbook by Carolyn Neithammer, and Mesquite Country published by the Hidalgo County Historical Museum.  If you want to find out more information about prickly pear and the research being done in connection with prickly pear and diabetes, there is a wealth of information available on the internet.  Just search for "prickly pear" or nopalitos and diabetes.   You will find many studies done with nopalitos related to both diabetes and cholesterol and also many recipes on how to prepare delicious meals using nopalitos.


Amargoso or Allthorn Goat-Bush

Another plant Benito covered in the segment aired on the Texas Country Reporter was amargoso or allthorn goat-bush as it is known by its English common name.   In Mexico, amargosa is called besberinda.  Amargoso was used and continues to be used as a treatment for amoebic dysentery.  Amargoso is not available in stores, but it grows wild in much of Texas.  Someone from the Soil Conservation Service in your area should be able to tell you if it grows in your area and assist you to identify the plant.  You can also search for information about amargoso on the internet.  The scientific name is Castela texana.  You can make a tea from the twigs and leaves using about one hand full of twigs and leaves to 3 cups of water.  (Don't use the berries as the tea may be too bitter to drink.)  Bring the twigs, leaves, and water to a boil and simmer about 10 minutes.  Let the tea cool and drink it fast since it has a very bitter taste.  This should be repeated 3 times a day for 3 days.  It will paralyze the amoebas and allow them to pass from your system.


A Word of Caution

You should never eat or drink anything harvested from the wild unless you are certain of the identification of the plant.  Many wild plants, including the stems, leaves, and berries, are poisonous and some can cause paralysis or death. 

You should also consult with your doctor prior to using alternative treatments for any disease or illness.   


A Word of Thanks

Benito would like to thank everyone who has contacted him with questions, comments, and support.  A special thanks to the Texas Country Reporter for a wonderful segment. 


































































































































Hope all goes well