Calcium-Rich Cholla Buds Help Us Re-Connect to Traditional Ways

Soak for 24 Hours, Then Use in Soups and Stir-Fries

One of the first things one learns when switching to a traditional diet is that eating an authentic, traditional diet involves a lot more thought and preparation than one is typically used to.  My guess is that most people decide what they are going to eat for their next meal either right before mealtime, or, at most, when they shop the day before. Not so when one eats a traditional diet.                                       

In our house, sauerkraut is prepared two to four weeks before it is consumed.   The fermentation process for beet kvass and other fermented drinks takes two to three days.  Rice is soaked for 24 hours before cooking, and the sourdough starter is kept continuously on the counter.   To some, this may seem onerous; to us and many other people in the world, this is the normal (and enjoyable) care and attention one must put into having a truly nourishing diet.

Cholla buds are a rewarding example of the need for planning when trying to execute a traditional diet.  They are the fruit buds of a cactus that is native to the Sonoran desert in the Southwest U.S.  The buds are typically picked in early spring, dried until they are hard as stones, then stored to be used throughout the year.  Nutritionally, they are rich in calcium and, as such, were a traditional food given to pregnant and nursing mothers as well as their growing children.   They also have phytochemicals that are as effective as some of our prescription diabetes drugs when consumed on a regular basis.

In our modern era of fast foods and rampant diabetes, perhaps these phenomena are related.   Fast foods represent the polar opposite of the care and foresight required in traditional diets. Foods like cholla buds need to be soaked in clean water at least 24 hours before cooking (sometimes we soak them 48 hours).  They then transform from stones to soft buds that taste a tiny bit like the prized morel mushrooms.  We use them in soups, stir-fries and stews. 

Offering this type of wild, sustainably harvested, traditional food is at the core of our mission.  Everyone should try cholla buds, not for the flavor, necessarily, but to help foster connection to a way of eating and a way of being that is profoundly needed in today’s world.   


In health,

Tom Cowan, M.D.

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