Cholla Bud Celebration in the Southwest
It is tradition for Tohono O’odham and other desert peoples of the southwest to forage, process, store, and consume the wondrous desert cholla buds. Acknowledging and appreciating the Cholla as unique sentient beings vital for community, you may enjoy the bounty as much as the aphids, birds, deer, rodents, and other creatures of the desert do. House mountain embraces the tradition by ethically and harvesting and processing small batches, engaging in this magnificent annual experience Earth ‘Mother’ gives us, and assisting others in their harvests and happiness. In Tucson, AZ we harvested staghorn (Opuntia versicolor), buckhorn (O. acanthocarp), and pencil cholla (O. arbuscula) from late April into May. After brushing the spines off only the plumpest buds and twisting with wooden tongs to remove from branches, take home to further clean glochids and spines using a compost sifter and broom. The iron and calcium rich buds are great roasted, boiled, freshly fermented, or dried and reconstituted. After blanching whole buds for approximately 15 minutes, strain buds and allow time to cool. Eat boiled buds or place on drying racks in a well ventilated and low moisture area. Dried buds could potentially last a lifetime, which makes them an ideal food for survival. After socking overnight, they can be tossed in a stir-fry, salad, cooked into soups and stews, used as a substitute for asparagus, and blended into your own creation. Make a conscious effort to propagate as you would prickly pear, and further enjoy the plenty of foods the dessert blesses us.