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Does cactus count as a serving of vegetable?

May 4, 2010

I believe that the first time I ever ate cactus was back in 2005 when I went camping in Salton Sea, CA.  Salton Sea sits next to Palm Springs in the Mojave Desert region of Southern California.  My new friends in Oakland invited me to drive down & sleep overnight under the starry sky as tumbleweeds rolled by us.  In the middle of the desert, we found a humble convenience store that sold chicken & cactus pads without the spikes already.  We grilled these and made chocolate smores over a bonfire.  When I first tasted the cactus, I immediately fell in love with its surprisingly juicy, chewy yet soft texture & subtle citric taste.  When we went back to the Bay Area, I started ordering and buying cactus, which is readily available in many Mexican restaurants and grocery stores in Northern California.  Basically, that camping trip barbeque got me hooked on cactus!  So, I would love to integrate it into my 5er lifestyle.

But, I wonder: does cactus count as a serving of vegetable?

The cactus was already diced when I bought it from the Mexican grocery store.

My friend Jason referred me to an everydayhealth.com website regarding my question.  This is what it says:

There are 12 Calories in an average serving (0.5 cup), along with 0.1g Total Fat, 0.0g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 16mg Sodium, 2g Total Carbohydrates, 2g Dietary Fiber, 0.9g Sugar, and 0.0g Protein. It also provides 6% Vitamin A, 12% Vitamin C, 12% Calcium, and 2% Iron.

I thought of asking my friend Jason Harvey because he is the Founder and Executive Director of Oakland Food Connection (OFC), a food justice organization in East Oakland.  Aside from his role there, just interacting with him (from my community service stint at OFC in the past) and learning about his professional culinary background made me think that he would probably know.  And I thank him for always being a great resource to me and the rest of East Oakland, where he grew up.  Please check out OFC & their great work at foodcommunityculture.org. In the near future, I will fully introduce OFC in a separate feature.  For now, THANKS Jason!

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