Cholla Bud Season!

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Cholla buds!
  • Cholla buds!
Ever tried cholla buds? The tiny flower buds of cholla cactus taste like asparagus and are extremely nutritious. A two-tablespoon helping has as much calcium as a glass of milk, and the mucilage they contain is reported to help balance blood-sugar levels. Good stuff, and if you know what you’re doing, you can harvest enough for a meal in no time.

Pima County Parks and Recreation used to offer classes on harvesting cholla buds, but a spokeswoman says budget cuts forced them to ax the programs this year. That’s a shame. We attended one of the classes taught by famed ethnobotanist Martha Burgess last year, and it was incredible.

Still, there are resources to help you harvest your very own supply of this delicious desert food. There’s this awesome article we found online, and here’s a slideshow of the whole process as performed by a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose members have eaten this and other desert foods for millennia. Oh, and here's a recipe for cholla bud salad courtesy of none other than the luxurious Canyon Ranch.

You can also buy the dried version from Tohono O'odham Community Action for $20 a pound. But we suggest harvesting your own. We did last weekend, and the resulting stir-fry was delicious.

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