Cactus salad, a popular dish in Mexico, uses the fleshly leaves (also known as paddles) of the prickly pear or nopal cactus. Its flavor is somewhat similar to green beans or asparagus. Fresh cactus paddles can be found in Latin American markets or specialty product markets.
Cut cactus paddles into 3/4-inch pieces. Rinse 2 or 3 times under running water. Place cactus and water to cover in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain. Cool slightly.
Place cactus in large bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese, onion, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper; toss lightly. Add lime juice; toss to coat evenly. Cover.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.
How To Clean Cactus Paddles: Use rubber gloves or tongs when handling cactus paddles. Place cactus, flat-side down, on cutting board. Holding the base of the cactus paddle, use a sharp knife at a 45° angle to shave or scrape off spines and bumps (nodules). Repeat on other side of cactus until all spines are removed. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut a thin strip along the edge of the cactus paddle to remove the thick woody end of the base. Rinse well under running water; pat dry.
Substitution Tip: If fresh cactus paddles are unavailable, substitute 2 cups jarred tender cactus, drained, rinsed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Omit cooking step.