What is Xoconostle and why is it superb for our gut?
Xoconostle is the fruit harvested from cactus plants native to Central Mexico, an arid desert region. Xoconostle, otherwise known as prickly pear or cactus fruit, grows at the end of nopales, or cactus paddles, sometimes in clusters of up to a dozen on one paddle or leaf. Xoconostle cactus fruit is pear-shaped, tapering to a point. The flesh of the fruit (ranging from bright green to pale pink) contains a similar texture to that of a guava. It contains hard seeds throughout the fruit which can be swallowed without being chewed, making this fruit quite high in both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber, found in the flesh of the fruit. The taste of the fruit is described as a sour tang, making it a great addition to salsas.
Xoconostle has an excellent nutrient profile that's rich in fiber (2.5 g per one serving, or one xoconostle), vitamins (Vitamin C- 22% of RDA, Calcium- 126% of RDA, Iron- 30% of RDA), and phytochemicals that act both as antioxidants and prebiotics for intestinal gut bacteria. The seeds are edible as well and have a higher fiber content and antioxidant properties than the fruit's flesh. These contribute to the use of xoconostle in certain cultural medicines (Native Americans), especially since it suppresses the growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other potentially pathogenic microbes in the gut.
Xoconostle contains compounds that are potentially anti-inflammatory, as well as phytochemicals that relieve oxidative stress and reduce bloating. It also promotes growth of healthy bacteria by providing prebiotics that promote healthy bacteria and suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Also, it is a great source of calcium; in fact, Xoconostle can provide 126% of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which acts as a prebiotic for gut bacteria and is absorbed in the gut. Both the leaves of the cactus plant and the fruit contain high amounts of a compound called mucilage, which helps to feed the protective mucus layer in the intestines, reducing risk of inflammation and occurrence of intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut.
Ways to eat it
The seeds in the red center are edible!
Use in soups and stews, or even make it into a sauce!
Even try adding the fruit to salads for more complexity.
Recipe: Xoconostle Salsa
Ingredients (Makes 4 Servings):
6 to 8 xoconostles
6 to 10 chiles morita, or 4 to 6 chipotles in adobo
1 small white or yellow onion, quartered
4 to 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and whole
Himalayan pink salt (to taste)
Heat a comal or skillet or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes. When it is hot, set the xoconostles on the comal to char a bit. Set the onions down so flat sides are touching the comal. Put the garlic cloves around the edges of the pan.
If there is any space left on the comal or pan, toast the dried chiles for about 90 seconds, turning them every 15 seconds or so so they do not burn. When the chiles are toasted, set them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them just to cover, about 2 cups. Cover the bowl and set aside.
Keep turning and charring the xoconostles, onions and garlic until you get some nice blackening. Remove from the heat. Put the xoconostles in a plastic bag to steam for 15 minutes.
Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and put in a blender. Remove the chilis from the water, chop and add to the blender. Save the soaking water.
Slice the xoconostles in half. Scoop out the seeds. Ideally, you set all the seeds in a strainer set over a small bowl to catch any juices. Use a spoon to scoop out the fruit. It helps to slice off the flat top of the xoconostle first. Discard the skin. Add all this to the blender.
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Fruits and Vegetables Serving Sizes Infographic. (n.d.). Www.Heart.Org. Retrieved May 4,
Shaw, H. (2020, November 6). Xoconostle Salsa. Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Verdura - Xoconostle. (n.d.). My Fitness Pal.
Xoconostle Cactus Fruit. (n.d.). Specialty Produce.