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Save that snot!

26 May 2008

Is there anything nopales are NOT good for? High in fiber, vitamins (Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and K to be specific) and minerals (magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and copper), notal also helps regulate blood sugar levels, and is recommended for diabetics.

It grows just about everywhere throughout the Americas. As a cactus, it isn’t commercially grown much in the U.S., but is intensely cultivated in Mexico both for human and livestock consumption. And, given one other of nopal’s medicinal properties, is exported to Korea:

A few years ago some Koreans were experimenting with caning some fresh Nopal and shipping it to Korean after a day of eating Nopal with various amounts of vinegar and sugar they finally reached a formula they liked. They went out and had a big party to celebrate this momentous occasion. The next day everyone felt good and wondered why no hangover? Because of all the Nopal they ate? Yes.

Since that time Nopal has been sold as a hangover preventive in Korea. 2 tablets taken before going out and drinking a lot helps your digestive system cope with the overload of alcohol.

Before I moved to Mexico, about the only nopal I ever ate was the pickled nopalitos you sometimes saw in Tex Mex cuisine, and in some Houston supermarkets.  Since moving here it’s become a regular part of my diet (in part because it’s so damn cheap!).

It would be the perfect food… if it wasn’t for the nopal’s one negative.  And — for those without a few milenia of Mexican mamis behind them to show them how to cook the things — it’s a huge problem.  Babas… that nasty, bitter scum that you boil out, and has the consistency of snot.  Eeeeewwww!

On one of the message boards a few years ago, there was a long discussion of how to deal with the babas… one person insisting that the only way to deal with them was to add a pre-1959 U.S. one-cent coin to the pot.  What do those of us who sold their coin collections before they moved to Mexico do?

Karen Hursh Graber, of Mexico Connect has more sensible recommendations:

To boil nopales, wash them and cut them into small squares or strips, if they have not been purchased this way. Place them in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Some Mexican cooks say that by adding a few tomatillo husks, the sticky liquid (commonly called “babas”) will be more completely extracted from the vegetable. Others say that a pinch of baking soda accomplishes the same thing. I have tried both and found the baking soda to be more effective, but use only a pinch and add it at the very end. Using more may cause the water to foam up and run over.

Or… you can save the snot for archeologists.  Really!

Babas have been used for centuries as a cheap weatherproofing paint.  Although it stinks for a while, it lasts for years and there’s always plenty of babas around.  Mexican archeologists — having the huge task of preserving a seemingly inexhaustible supply of crumbling monuments they continue to dig up, not to mention all those colonial facades threatened by acid rain and air pollution — are experimenting with baba-sprayers in Mexico City, with so far promising results.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 May 2008 6:35 pm

    I have some photos online of collecting nopal cactus, taken in 2007 in Michoacan, Mexico, just outside of Cuitzeo.

  2. Chavela Zepeda permalink
    19 July 2008 1:37 pm

    I also like to add that by using a peace of copper will also help with the babas.

    I have pass it on to my Tibetan teachers and many others. They will be useing in their diet for medicine and well being.

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