Cholla cactus on the dry soil of the Joshua Tree National Park, USA
The Cactus Fruit That Tastes Just Like Asparagus
By Elaina Friedman
The cactus might be the most misunderstood member of the plant family due to its tough and thorny exterior. While some species of cacti are simply meant to be admired, others like the dragon fruit bear a host of fruitful properties beneath their layer of blood-drawing glochidia, but for a familiar vegetal flavor, turn your attention to this cactus.
The Tohono O'odham tribe of the Sonoran desert, which winds through parts of northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States, has been making use of the cholla cacti's tasty flowered buds for over a century. Tribe members remove the spikes from the calcium-rich yellow buds and cook the fruit until it yields a "tender treat reminiscent of an artichoke heart," which tastes a bit like asparagus with a hint of lemon.
Cholla's buckhorn, staghorn, and pencil varieties are the most popular for eating, but since its season is limited to April, foragers sometimes dry their cholla harvests and rehydrate them for use in off-seasons. Once you have your spike-free buds, you can chop them up and add them to omelets and burritos, toss them into salads whole, or treat them like asparagus by blanching or roasting them with your favorite spices.