How to Eat a Cholla

You've seen prickly pear jam at the supermarket, but did you know many varieties of cholla cactus are edible straight from the ground? According to the James Beard Foundation's Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, the Tohono O'odham Indians regularly consumed cholla buds — a smart move considering a palm-size dollop contains as much calcium as a glass of milk. All you need to prepare your cholla in the wild is a lighter and a pocket comb. Grasp the comb and rake in a downward motion along the shaft of the plant. The fruit should pop right off and be trapped in the teeth of the comb. Skewer your cholla onto a small branch and use the lighter to spark a pile of brush. Cook until the spines char and break off. Once the fruit is clear of spikes, simply peel the skin and roast until warm. Voilà! Cactus appetizers. For a Martha Stewart touch, pluck additional needles and use them as cocktail toothpicks.


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