The unopened flower buds of the cholla cactus are a real favorite, and one annual harvest I collect every year no matter how busy life gets. It is a very narrow harvesting window, usually in April, depending on the year and elevation. Simply bush off the spines with a bouquet of creosote or bursage, pluck with tongs and boil in water for 5 minutes. They taste tart with a slightest hint of internal texture like nopalitos. But that doesn’t convey how delicious they are.
Plentiful in the desert, harvesting does not hinder its reproduction, which is usually from “cuttings”. But this is the first year my backyard had enough to harvest! Grown with no irrigation at all, it is totally sustainable, low maintenance agriculture. Plus beautiful in the yard!
There are countless ways to enjoy cholla buds, but yesterday I snuck them in Chinese curry pastries, a treat I remember from childhood, from the tiny Chinese bakery that was near my house.
I started with ground beef, onion and garlic. Of course, mixed veggies could be used instead.
Then I added beautiful Tucson CSA carrots and Chinese curry powder. I’m sure any curry powder would work perfectly.
The delicious, sweet immature seeds taste like young green peas…and also take as much work to shell as green peas.
The filling complete, I folded a spoonful into premade puff pastry.
Gilding with beaten egg is essential to make them look like how I remember them at Lai Wah bakery.
After a few minutes in the oven, it smelled unbelievable.
I can hardly wait to make them for my sister and brother.