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.
Sumac grows all over the world and is used as a spice, food, a tea and herbal medicine.
It grows in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
It also can be landscaped into many environments.
It has many uses. Check out this site!
Make a delicious, popular Middle Eastern spice using ground sumac berries. Why not forage or garden your own. Dry the berries then grind for a spice!
This wonderful spice mixture is called Za’atar.
Get the recipe here!
Three Leaf Sumac
Same family as cashews and mangoes!
Common Names: Three Leaf Sumac,
Basketbush, Sumac, Lemonade-bush
Foothills, canyons, slopes, usually dry rocky soil, usually on limestone outcrops.
Sunny locations, perhaps dappled shade. Not frost tender. Drought resistant, often used in landscaping.
The up to 6 foot high, rounded shrub, multi branched …when in new growth is supple and more upright when it grows.
When dried these stalks made good strong arrows for Pueblo peoples.
The leaves come in threes with small yellow flowers emerging before the leaves come out.
The fruit when it emerges is like a berry. Starting greenish tan and become orange-red to red in color, with sticky glandular hairs that give the fruit a fuzzy appearance.
The red fuzzy berries make a wonderful lemonade like beverage.
The berries are soaked in cold or hot (not boiling hot) to make a beverage. A little honey or sweetener can be nice since it is very sour. I liked it unsweetened myself. But, however you prepare it, it is cooling and refreshing on a hot day, like a lemonade or prickly pear fruit beverage.
Some people like to call this lemony, sumac drink Rhusade.
Or Rhusade is soothing and nourishing, as a hot beverage, on a winter day as a hot tea.
Per serving, steep a rounded tablespoon of the fresh or dried berries until it meets your fancy.
Don’t bring water to boiling as this brings out the tannins and makes it too astringent as a beverage.
The Rhus trilobata berries can also be added to salads, sandwiches, perhaps sauerkraut?
Throw in some juniper berries into your sauerkraut too. They are traditional.
Be inventive and avoid boiling the berries is my only suggestion.
In Michael Moore’s, Medicinal Plants of the Canyon West., he suggests and indicates 3 leaf Sumac’s uses:
Gather leaves when green.
Gather the berries when they are fully red in summer also when leaves are green or a bit red.
The leaves turn a splendid red in fall. The tree is deciduous.
The dried leaves last a year. The dried berries last 2-3 years.
The leaves can be used in powdered form and a quick salve made with castorlatum from castor oil. It has a petroleum jelly like consistency yet not petroleum based, a plus! Or if your coconut oil is still solid at room temperature try that… or the same with ghee.
Stir 1 part powdered leaves into 2 parts castorlatum gel. *
For a glycerine tincture, macerate 1 part by weight of powdered leaves in 5 parts by volume of a half water & half glycerine menstruum for the tincture. Leave for four weeks. Then shake and strain*
Moore states that the powdered leaves, quick salve and glycerine tinctures are excellent for mucosal-epithelial sores. Such as: lips, mouth membranes, genitals, and nostril membranes. The actions are to soothe and shrink inflamed tissues and to mildly disinfect.
Powdered leaves are very soothing to mouth sores on nursing infants.
*Preparation method is important here, such as with quick salve method and glycerine tincture. Heating and alcohol tincture could pull out too many tannins.
Sumac is originally an Arabic word.
And Rhus, the Genus name, is derived from a Greek word meaning to flow. So named due to its properties in stopping flow of blood, this case with hemorrhages. It is hemostatic. Proper methods and use are critical.
3 Leaf Sumac looks similar to POISON OAK!
Poison Oak is not actually an oak species. It is in the Sumac family too… Anacardiaceae
The leaves of both are lobed.
The next picture is of Poison Oak.
It also turns red in the fall.
Whereas, 3 Leaf Sumac has a velvety texture on the TOPSIDE as well as underneath.
Poison Oak is fuzzy UNDERNEATH the leaf only, shiny on top..
Also, poison oak has non fuzzy whitish-green berries.
Poison oak can cause severe contact dermatitis and further injury if trees are burned and smoke is inhaled.
Three Leaf Sumac
Berries not ripe yet
Research your local species of Sumac. The berries are the easiest way to determine if it is safe. The safe species have red fuzzy berries like the Rhus trilobata here.
3 Leaf Sumac berries makes a wonderful lemony drink!
When I lived on the East Coast I enjoyed making a lemony tea from the Staghorn Sumac. I was in my early twenties then and felt a little bit leery about Sumac. I grew up with caution about Poison Sumac that grew in the swamps. And New England has its fair share of swampy areas in the woods.
One season, I and others, worked as Interpreters, in beige uniform, alongside coworkers of many different Native American backgrounds, including Wampanoag. I am grateful to my friends who taught me so much about Wampanoag customs and culture. Including the use of local plants, such as Staghorn Sumac berries. I even filled in a few times and gave guided nature trail talks, pointing out useful and edible plants. It is fun to piece together these experiences since the plant world is an everyday ally to me now.
A Wampanoag perspective on history and Thanksgiving.
Rhus typhina…Staghorn sumac
Further Herbal medicinal, food and other traditional, global uses of edible/medicinal Sumac, including Native American… just some of the info I found!
Learn to identify the safe Sumacs in your area. This means positively identifying possible poisinous look alikes, in the same family, such as Poison Sumac, Poison Oak, and Poison Ivy.
It brings that old song to mind….maybe I can find it on youtube.
Here it is!
Edible/Medicinal Sumac is: astringent, antipruritic, analgesic, contraceptive (for males,) deoderant, diuretic, emetic, hemostatic, odontalgic, oxytoxic
-tanning leather, dyeing wool, etc.
*-Dyeing hair black/dark…a decoction of boiled leaves (I want to try!….also Globe mallow decoction makes for a fine dark rinse for hair.)
-Added to meat helps deter stomach upset (bacteria on meat?)
-Leaves made into poultice with vinegar or honey stops the spread of gangrene
-Seeds pounded and mixed with honey help with hemorrhoids
-The gummy sap when applied to a tooth eases pain
-The leaf and root helps a woman expel the placenta (there is a description and method of preparation in book cited below.)
-helps stop internal bleeding
-helps with dropsy
-Helps with diseased gums
-Helps with freezing/frostbite or burns
-helpful with some venereal disease with application
-leaf added to tobacco mixes
-sumac helps with: dysentery, fevers, rhematism, dysuria, diahrrea, skin ulcers
-Seeds make oil for lighting or tallow like oil can be made into a candle.
-Decoction of bark and berries for sore throat
-aids in female urinary incontinence
-vermifuge in mixture with other herbs
-leaves rubbed on your skin make for a Bug and Snake repellant
-Root used as deoderant and buds used as perfume
Sumac species may vary in given properties and effects.
*NATURAL HAIR DYE FORMULA USING LEAVES, BARK ETC… equals 👧 😄❤
natural hair dyes including fun colors!
Will keep you posted, I am curious myself how to use 3 Leaf Sumac leaves as a darkening hair rinse.
I made a boiled decoction of fresh leaves, then added apple cider vinegar with success. My hair became a darker tinted shade. 👧
Perhaps dried, powdered leaves made into a paste would further darken my hair. But, I like it!
Haha my gardening hands! While I wait for my hair rinse to finish!
Above, Globe Mallow is used as a traditional dark coloring for hair.
I also want to try black walnut hulls and garden sage… known to darken hair and garden sage is good at covering grey.
The 3 Leaf Sumac branches are used to make basketry and dyes for decorations on baskets too.
Jemez Pueblo people still use Sumac branches in their basketry.
***Beware of POISON SUMAC, POISON IVY and POISON OAK!
This post is mainly a description of 3 leaf sumac…Rhus trilobata.
Only the red, fuzzy berries of Sumacs are edible. Some species may cause contact dermatitis and Poison Sumac should be avoided! It is not included in Sumac’s healing effects. And it is highly toxic!
Here is a botanical sketch of Poison Sumac.
Note the similarity to other Sumacs and also note the whitish berries. The berries are green in spring and not fuzzy. A strong distinguishing feature from the fuzzy red berries of the edible sumacs!
formerly classified as Rhus Genus
In addition to posted links:
Use of Plants. For the Past 500 Years.by Charlotte Erichsen-Brown, Breezy Creeks Press. Ontario. Canada, 1979.
Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. by Dunmire & Tierney, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1995.
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. by Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press. Santa Fe, NM, 1989.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. by Nicholas Culpeper, W. Foulsham & CO., London, England.
This post is about Piñon pine. How to make pine needle tea from this tree. And a whimsical weaving in of my story of place. Living in the High Desert of New Mexico in the foothills of the Ortiz Mountains. It is in long view of the Jemez and Santa fe Mountains. Dotted in the middle by the Cerrillos Hills. And visited by Spadefoot toads during the monsoons!
now some science…
Habitat: foothills and outer reaches of the Rocky Mountains, USA
Also: arid mesas in stands and/or with junipers
Mesas, plateaus, lower mountain slopes
Small, spreading, bushy tree
Thin with irregularly furrowed bark
Bark is scaly, and gray to reddish brown
Cones are 1.5″ to 2″
Covered in yellow-brown scales
Each scale holds 2 seeds which are about a half inch long
Pine trees bearing cones with pinon seeds, pine nuts, the following year!
A large crop of pine nuts/seeds occurs every 3-4 years
Gather ripe almost open cones in autumn…. the above cones are all burst open in early fall
Pinus edulis the Piñon pine is an evergreen and classified by its characteristic of having 2 leaves (needles) per bunch
Harvest new growth pine needles in spring and summer to make tea.
Piñon pine is a slow growing tree.
I harvest just 3 or 4 needles per tree until I have a tablespoon per serving.
The above article states the importance of pine tea as a remedy for scurvy. Native Americans introduced this beverage to non-Natives and helped them survive during pioneer and settler periods.
Pine tea is high in vitamins C and A and is still a popular traditional beverage.
This blog is a post about Pinus edulis or Piñon pine.
Please research the pine in your area for safety and edible use.
And always refer to a professional when foraging and using wild plants or trees for food or tea or medicnal use.
I have recently been living in a camper in the high desert about 30 miles away from Santa Fé, surrounded by juniper trees and the two leaf (needle) type of pine or piñon tree. Here is a picture where you can see the pairing of needles, two per bunch. Look in the upper left corner of the picture for the 2 needle groups.
Here is a good site about pinus edulis including habitat location in the U.S.
What is it like to live in the high desert of New Mexico?
I was intimidated by the impending heat of summer in a camper but we have found it is surprisingly seasonable.
Terri, the rainbow and the camper 🙂
Coyotes howl at night and we have to keep our older dog with failing eyesight from chasing down the pack.
There are hummingbirds and roadrunners. Mice and packrats need constant attention to keep them at bay.
During the heat of summer, comes the rainy season in the high desert. We call it the monsoon season.
Endearingly, in pools of water near the piñon and junipers, amphibians lie in the depths of mud and rainwater…the Western Spadefoot toads!
According to the site below, these amphibians metamorphose from tadpole to toad sometimes as fast as 12-19 days. Also dependent on the mud puddle not drying up.
Whereas eggs hatch in 2-3 days sometimes within 15 hours… our local State Park guide told us.
Check it out if you are ever in New Mexico!
Summer time of year, we are surrounded by the Western Spadefoot toads because of all the monsoon puddles.
Terri and I affectionately refer to this closeby, ever growing, monsoon lake puddle as Lake Spadefoot!
Here is “Lake Spadefoot!” And our visit was made more fun when the dogs went splashing in. The toads are nocturnal and I hope they were safely away!
Here is an interesting site about the Western Spadefoot Toad!
The Spadefoot toad’s name is:
Photo credit of this site:
According to the above wikipedia site, here are some interesting quoted facts about the Western Spadefoot Toad.
“The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata) is a species of American spadefoot toad found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Like other species of spadefoot toad, they get their name from a distinctive spade-like projections on their hind legs which enable them to dig in sandy soils. Some sources also refer to the species as the Mexican Spadefoot Toad, Desert Spadefoot Toad or Southern Spadefoot Toad.
The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad grows from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length, and has a round body, with relatively short legs. They are green, to grey, to brown, usually reflecting the soil color of their native habitat,often with black and orange colored speckling on their back, and a white underside. They have large eyes,with vertical pupils.
Like all species of spadefoot toad, the New Mexico Spadefoot Toad is nocturnal and secretive. If handled, these frogs might emit a peanutlike odor, which can cause tearing and nasal discharge if in close contact with the face. Spending most of its time buried in the ground, the spadefoot emerges during periods of summer rainfall to feed on insects and to breed. Breeding takes place in temporary pools left by the rain. Eggs laid in large masses, often hatch in as little as 48 hours. The tadpoles are forced to metamorphose quickly, before the water dries up.”
Scientific Site about the Western Spadefoot Toad
So when I think about my day and any foraged foods I have enjoyed. While I wonder if my pictures of the Pinus edulis are in focus enough… while I sift through my own texts and what information I can glean via the internet… (and there is a lot to sift through, in regard to pine tea!)…
I am comforted and humored at night, by the calls of the neighboring, puddle dwelling toads!
Did you ever use a musical instrument… where one piece of the wood is ridged and you rub a stick against the ridges? Well, that is as close as I can come to explaining what they sound like.
And, I always hear what must be hundreds in a chorus together.
This musical instrument reminds me of what they
You can check out this great musical instrument website that sells these sweet creations and also the
above photo courtesy of:
The Western spadefoot toad, it turns out, is the official amphibian for the State of New Mexico!
More about the
Zia people and the Zia symbol here.
Life in the High Desert is diverse and this diversity can change with the season. Like when the toads come out in the rains.
The piñon tree is a steady companion of the high desert of New Mexico. I have noticed it often grows at the base of an older or even dying/dead Juniper tree.
The pine pitch resin also makes an all purpose healing balm called trementina salve. check it out!
It is so interesting to notice patterns.
Seasonal ones but also more cyclical ones and patterns over larger periods of time such as with the growth of these beautiful Piñon trees.
Living back in New Mexico has been fun to see what foraged plants I found while on the road also thrive here.
This is a welcome pattern I am glad to see here. This includes purslane, common mallow, wild lettuce and others. There is so much to learn and it has taken me several months to come back to write about Piñon pine.
What lessons are there for me about pine?
Pine tea is aromatic and lemony. It has an expansive opening feeling for the lungs and has a healing lemony feel to it when drinking it.
Piñon pine are hearty. Slow growing. Evergreen. They provide some of the only shade in the High desert. They grow nuts and their needles can be made into tea.
But, also because they are slow growing I want to respect their bounty. I do not want to harvest more than what the tree can tolerate for needles.
The tree is also home and food to birds and other wildlife.
What have I pined for? What took me so long to write about pine? Did I need to come home again to regain that grounding? I think so.
Pinus edulis has been a teacher to me. I have spent 3/4 of a year thinking and researching…abandoning the post I was trying to write. Only to begin again. I had to forget the stockpile of sites and conflicting information I had found about pine tea. I needed to return to a space. A place where I could admire the tree on my return to New Mexico. Identifying it from a distance by its dark bark when mature. Enjoying seeing its beginning growth underneath a juniper. Becoming visually more aware. Beginning again from less of a burdened perspective of research. And coming more from a place of neighbor. The trees in my vicinity.
Appreciating the 5 or 6 trees I visited today to make 2 cups of tea… It slows me down and helps me fill with intention. Not a neediness or greed… how much can I harvest or get… (or even a horde of information) but, what is needed. What is enough. What is timely. What did today ask me to do?
An appreciation that a shared cup of pine needle tea can fortify. That I have what I need. A teacher.
An ally. A Piñon tree. And a friend to share the tea.
How to Make Pine Needle Tea from Piñon pine.
1.Harvest enough needles from the bright green new growth equal to one tablespoon per cup. Do not over-harvest from one tree
2. Chop or cut with scissors… the needles into smaller bits.
3. Crush the needles between 2 spoons to help release aromatic oils
4. Add to water for tea
5. Bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Then strain into cups.
This is a picture from last November. The color is a reddish brown. It is from the Pinus edulis tree also.
Today’s brew was less red. Just slightly tinged with color. But it was good and aromatic and vitalizing. I boiled it less long today so recommend 2-3 minutes as stated above. But remember, it can be nice to have a more gentle tea like I made today!
Here are some fun and interesting sites I have found and wanted to share! Check it out!
The following site is delightful. It shows a Chippewa/Ojibway tradition of making dolls out of tufts of pine needle bunches. Each pine needle bunch forms a doll and the skill and fun is to make the dolls dance, jiggle, jump and perform against a small flat board.
And for those of you looking for more specific medicinal and edible use of pine, here is some quoted material from this site just below.
The above site has a good synopsis of useful information directly quoted below:
Edibile Uses of Piñon Pine:
“Edible Uses Edible Parts: Inner bark; Seed; Seedpod. Edible Uses: Condiment; Gum; Tea.
Seed – raw or cooked[82, 177]. Seeds…delicious raw or cooked[2, K]. The seed can be ground into a meal and used in stews, making bread, cakes etc and in making nut butter. The seed is up to 25mm long. Rich in oil, protein and thiamine. The seed contains about 15% protein. An important item of food for the local Indians, it is also sold in local markets of Colorado and New Mexico[61, 82]. About 450,000 kilos of the seeds are sold in American markets each year. The leaves can be brewed into a tea[183, 257]. Immature female cones – roasted. The soft centre forms a sweet syrupy food. Inner bark – cooked. A sweet flavour, it is cut into strips and cooked like spaghetti. Inner bark can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making bread etc. The pitch from the trunk can be hardened and used as a chewing gum. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood.”
I have underlined and highlighted some of this text for emphasis.
Also according to the PFAF site:
Medicinal Uses are numerous and include:
Plants For A Future
(and wildlettucegal.wordpress.com) can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiseptic; Depurative; Diuretic; Emetic; Expectorant; Pectoral; Plaster; Rubefacient; VD; Vermifuge.
The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices on cuts, boils, burns and various skin problems[4, 257]. The heated pitch has been applied to the face to remove facial hair. The gum is used as a plaster on cuts and sores. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an emetic to cleanse the stomach. The leaves have been chewed in the treatment of venereal diseases. The leaves have been burnt and the smoke inhaled as a treatment for colds. The inner bark is expectorant.”
Additional Source for this blog post, in addition to posted URL sites includes the text:
Edible Wild Plants. A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods.
By, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing.com, 1982.
Thankyou for joining me on this foraging adventure!
Amidst the Pines…Nearby cactus with fruit!