Friday, September 18, 2009

Maybe there's a reason to like cholla!

I've found that cholla make interesting photographic subjects, but have also have had to remove plenty from my legs while hiking, especially while off-trail. Ordinary hard-rubber men's combs seem to be the best implement for that purpose, although an afro pick might allow for more leverage.

Beyond their good looks, they're an annoyance, but an edible one, according to the Desert Leaf. Their September issue featured a recipe for cholla buds, supposedly similar to asparagus.

As readers have probably inferred from previous posts, I'm not only a conservationist, but also a native foods enthusiast. When we consider water usage and riparian restoration, the two positions become very complementary. Consider that the Hohokam at Casa Grande ate a lot of mesquite, look around the next time you're at the Casa Grande Ruin at the absence of live, healthy mesquites, and then recall that New Deal-era "progressive" farm policy is to blame. A few legal reforms would re-open foraging as a source of basic income for the poor of the state, too. Ever see how much mesquite flour costs at retail?

But back to the topic: we all know that saguaro and prickly pear fruit, prickly pear pad, and mesquite are edible. And both arugula and London rocket grow here as invasive weeds. But who'd have thought to eat cholla? Like the first person to eat cheese, probably somebody brave and hungry.

Daniel Baker of the Saguaro-Juniper Corporation (a northern Cochise County conservation group), has provided reasonably good notes on using cholla and a number of other Arizona desert plants as food.

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