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Week 44: Cactus Leaves

2 Nov

Cacti are pretty cool plants. Not only do they look cool, but eating them provides you with calcium, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K. Unfortunately, my cactus adventure was anything but cool. Let me share the story, in a bit more (gooey) detail.

We saw a pile of cactus leaves at Wholes Foods and our conversation went a bit like this:

Me: “Oh my God! Look!! Cactus leaves!!”

Andrew: “Oh, yeah, great. Cactuses. Do we need tomatoes?”

Me: “Andrew! It’s a cactus leaf! How awesome is that?? Have you ever eaten a cactus?!? I never have! I wonder how you cook them?!? Let me google!”

Andrew: “What should we have with the swordfish? Should we get tomatoes?”

Me: “It doesn’t look that hard!! Let’s make cactus leaves for dinner!! Wouldn’t that be so fun!!?!?”

Andrew: “Oh God.” (rolls eyes) “Yeah, I guess. Alright. Let’s do it. How do you cook them?”

(That is actually a great depiction of most of our conversations where my excitement level is WAY too high.)

So anyway, we got a cactus leaf and decided to eat it with the swordfish. (And we did in fact get tomatoes.)

So the cactus leaf looked pretty cool:

We did have a bit of an issue with the needles – they really do hurt (even through the plastic produce bag) and the poor cashier at Whole Foods can attest to that. We found an article on Livestrong that detailed how to cook the leaves, so we decided to cut it in half, pile vegetables on top, and bake it. But step one was to get off all those prickly needles and any brown spots, which was an enormous pain (I say that as the 1% cactus-needle-cutter-offer. Andrew, the 99%, agrees). We were going to eat the cactus and veggie mix with cajun-seasoned potatoes (sweet for me, white for Andrew), and the aformentioned swordfish. It was a pretty attractive preparation, if I do say so myself:

So then we set it in the oven for 20 minutes and sat around congratulating ourselves on how creative and awesome and clever we are to cook a cactus (leaf). Then we heaped our plates high (please ignore that enormous piece of bread. I have a problem).

And then we feasted! Swordfish, delicious. Potatoes, spicy. Veggies, crispy. We each cut off a piece of cactus, paired it with one of the vegetables, and gave it a try. It tasted just fine. Very asparagus-ish. A fairly bland and typical-tasting green vegetable. And then it happened. A clear, mucus-y liquid began to spread across my plate. Cactus leaves leak. They leak a disgusting, thick, clear, gooey, vile liquid. I took another bite, but my food sopping around in that mucus was way too much for me. That was the last bite I took before I threw the leaking, oozing cactus off my plate and shoved it down the garbage disposal. Andrew gave it a few more tries, but the mucus overcame him too.

It’s a sad story because the cactus tasted pretty good. The de-needling was a pain, but I could have lived with it if the leaves hadn’t leaked that vile liquid. Perhaps other preparation methods eliminate the mucus, but I doubt I’ll risk it. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.

Week 41: Nasturtium

14 Oct

At a work event recently our table was chatting about food and cooking, so of course I mentioned this blog and all the fun foods I’ve been trying. The professor sitting next to me pointed out that the flower on our plates was edible, so of course my tablemates decided I should eat the flower.

Since I trusted this professor I figured it was safe to eat, so after a little wavering, I just decided to bite the whole top off. It was surprisingly good. Some things I’ve read online say that nasturtiums taste peppery, but I didn’t think that at all. I thought it was very crisp and fresh and had a mild flavor, but I only ate the top, not the stem or leaves, so maybe that’s where the peppery taste comes in.

Renee’s Garden talks a bit about how to use nasturtiums in recipes, which I could see being really tasty:

I prefer to toss them among sweeter greens like butterhead or crunchy Batavian lettuce, rather than with other bitter greens. They add a refreshing bite to a classic potato salad with hard-boiled eggs and a mayonnaise dressing, and pair well with seafood. A handful of the bright colored flower petals are delicious chopped into a shrimp or crab salad sandwich filling, and the whole flowers and leaves make a great garnish for a platter of grilled salmon.

I hadn’t thought this blog would lead me to eating flowers, but, hey, it was pretty good and I’m still alive a week later. I think that’s a success.

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