The Cholla cactus used to be considered in the same genus as the Prickly Pear cactus but now is in its own genus.
There are different types of cholla but I harvested Cholla buds from the fuschia flowered cholla growing all around where I live.
It is commonly called cane cholla.
Cholla grows primarily in the Southwest U.S. it has been naturalized in parts of Australia, where it is known as Devil cane.
Cholla flower buds are high in soluble fiber and have more calcium in two tablespoons than a glass of milk. Many people are lactose intolerant or have digestive issues with dairy or allergies. So plant sources of calcium make a lot of sense!
Cholla flower buds are an excellent plant source of calcium.
And here is a bit more health focus about Cholla flower buds which are high in soluble fiber as well as calcium. Also a good amount of iron. Protein is 6 grams per serving!
Soluble fiber….what is it good for?
“… Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, blueberries.” ………
…….And Cholla Flower Buds!
Cholla flower buds are eaten for taste but also to stave off osteoporosis and help with diabetes and blood sugar management.
I admit there have been times I have looked out at vast fields of Cholla growing with wonderment. But, also a sense of overwhelm. The desert is gorgeous but tough to live in. Now I feel more connected to Cholla. Not only as a prolific and adapted cactus but as an amazing food source. With all your thorns and abilities to thrive in the high desert, I presently call home… you beautify my life with your flowers, thorns and silouhette against blue skies and storms, Cholla.
You nourish me.
You drew me near.
With respect and tongs 🙂
I need songs…
I gathered from your spiney stems.
6 Cholla flower buds to add green bounty to my beans.
In my tanktop and cutoff jeans.
Sweat pouring from my forehead. I took a break from domestic tasks, and various mind chatter.
You nourish me.
Cholla, called me near.
And the ants…
Ants thrive here too.
And were called by Cholla to survive, thrive.
I am just one human surrounded by dozens of Cholla and countless ants swarming for nectar.
Grateful for the green I have for my supper
More meanderings than poetry but I think you know what I mean.
Twice today, I have heard of the importance of singing to plants. And, for the tradition, of so many traditional peoples of the world, who sing to plants… when growing them, foraging, connecting with, and making plant medicine. 🍃🎵
Cholla flower buds are a traditional food of many Pueblo peoples.
Buckthorn Cholla grows near the Tohono O’odham people although most if not all cholla flower buds are said to be edible.
The Hopi people, the Tohono O’odham, still gather Ciolum, Cholla flower buds, for a delicious and health giving food source.
The next link features a woman singing to Ciolim. She talks about coyote. How coyote will be upset. Because she got up early to harvest the wonderful Ciolim.
Or maybe someone sleeps late. Coyote is happy to get the Ciolim early in the morning.
Ciolim helps balance blood sugar.
The woman in the video says that leaving traditional foods behind has caused health problems. Returning with respect to these foods can help restore health balance. And she is one of many, who each year, respect and forage Ciolim.
It is often boiled after removing spines by rubbing against metal screens or colanders. I burned the cactus spines and fine sharp hairs, called glochids, off with my small stove. Then I boiled the buds for 15 minutes. They do taste a bit like asparagus. They are Okra like. Though, I personally like them better.
Of course, fried… could be really yummy too. With a dipping sauce. Maybe some Sumac spice in the batter?
Local foods and spices. Fine dining foraging style!
Here is a recipe I found that is simple and looks good.
Be sure to de-spine the cactus. Both the longer spines and barely visible glochid spines. I burned mine off, then boiled the buds for 15 minutes.
-De-spine Cholla flower buds and/or new growth stem joints.
-Make a batter of Cornmeal, whole wheat flour or other flour, salt & pepper, spices
-Roll pieces in batter and fry in oil
There are still a lot of cholla buds near me. I would like to try this recipe.
Also, you can de-spine them, boil for 15 minutes then dry/dehydrate them for future use.
My father, when he came to visit me, cut a stem of Cholla and replanted it when he got home. They re-plant really easily. Just let the stem piece scar over for a few days. Then stick it in soil. It should take to re-planting easily.
Would you like to grow your own Cholla from seed? Check out this great site. And, you can buy a jar of Cholla buds too!
Also a wonderful site above of empowerment and community for the Tohono O’odham.
Also today I heard this podcast from Mountain Rose Herbs. Rosemary Gladstar talks about many wonderful things including connecting to plants through song.
And listen to her community herbal song ❤
Funny, I was so happy in my garden this morning, I was singing to my plants, before I learned of these songs and traditions today.
Here is some fencing we made by dragging branches of dead cholla over to protect our container garden.
A beautiful flute song.
A Hopi Corn Planting Song based on traditional music.
Played and recorded by Eddy Herier.
The dead cholla makes a beautiful wood skeleton which is often used as a walking cane or ceremonially, and religious use. Also in art.
Here is the remnant of some of that beautiful cholla skeketon.
Thankyou Cholla for making my skeleton strong.
Sources include posted sites and:
Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest. by Telena Dull,
University of Texas Press. Austin, 1987.