Nopales (from the Nahuatl word nohpalli [noʔ'palːi] for the pads) are a vegetable made from the young cladode (pad) segments of prickly pear, carefully peeled to remove the spines. These fleshy pads are flat and about hand-sized. They can be purple or green. They are particularly common in their native Mexico, where the plant is eaten commonly and regularly forms part of a variety of Mexican cuisine dishes. Farmed nopales are most often of the species Opuntia ficus-indica, although the pads of almost all Opuntia species are edible.
Nopales are generally sold fresh in Mexico. In more recent years bottled, or canned versions are available mostly for export. Less often dried versions are available. Used to prepare nopalitos, they have a light, slightly tart flavor, like green beans, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture. In most recipes the mucilaginous liquid they contain is included in the cooking. They are at their most tender and juicy in the spring.
Nopales are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), carne con nopales (meat with nopal), tacos de nopales, or simply on their own or in salads with queso panela (panela cheese). Candied nopale is called acitróne. Nopales have also grown to be an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine and in Tejano culture (Texas).
Nutrient content 
Per US cup serving, nopal fruit provides 13% of the Daily Value for vitamin C and the minerals magnesium (11%) and calcium (14%), and is an excellent source of manganese (20%). Its calcium may not be biologically available because it is present as calcium oxalate, a non-absorbable complex in the intestine. According to folk medicine, dietary nopales may affect the glycemic index and be useful in diabetes management.
Economic value 
According to Reuters, some 10,000 farmers cultivate nopal in Mexico, producing around $150 million worth of it each year. Detection of the cactus-eating moth Cactoblastis cactorum in Mexico in 2006 caused anxiety among the country's phytosanitary authorities, as this insect can be potentially devastating for the cactus industry.
Edible Leaf Cycle 
- Aliza Green, Field Guide to Produce, Quirk Productions, 2004, pp. 214–215, ISBN 1-931686-07-6
- Laura Halpin Rinsky; Glenn Rinsky (2009). The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 2. ISBN 0-470-00955-1. OCLC 173182689.
- Thorny Mexican food staple gains fame as folk cure by Frank Jack Daniel, Reuters (Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:34 AM ET)
- Nutritiondata.com. "Nopales, Raw, Nutrition Facts, USDA SR-21". Conde Nast.
- Mcconn, Michele; Nakata, Paul (February 2004). "Oxalate Reduces Calcium Availability in the Pads of the Prickly Pear Cactus Through Formation of Calcium Oxalate Crystals". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52 (5): 1371–1374. doi:10.1021/jf035332c. PMID 14995148. Retrieved 2006-08-10.
- M Bacardi-Gascon, D Duenas-Mena and A Jimenez-Cruz (May 2007). "Lowering effect on postprandial glycemic response of nopales added to Mexican breakfasts". Diabetes Care 30 (5): 1264–1265. doi:10.2337/dc06-2506. PMID 17325260.
- Use Of The Latin Food Staple Nopales: The Prickly Pear Cactus
- Cactus-eating moth threatens favorite Mexican food (Mon Feb 19, 2007)