Just the name is an adventure. Say it- Suh waro, with the feel of a hot day and a cold night running off the tongue like dry water. It is the icon of the Sonoran Desert, the land which this plant whisperer calls home. Did you know that these ancient sentinels of the magical desert can approach, or exceed 200 years in lifespan? Or that occasionally someone will get crushed by one of the falling arms which can weigh tons, thorns not included? They grow from the Colorado River in western Arizona, south beyond Rocky Point, through the state of Sonora in Mexico, east almost to Tombstone and north to what we Arizonans call the Mogollon Rim- where the oaks grow in the central part of the state. North of that, for any that haven't been there, we have actual forests in Arizona folks, thus ending the natural range of the King of Cacti.
But this is not the interesting stuff about Saguaro to my sun baked mind. When I was a kid, my dad made cactus candy out of good old Ferrocactus, or barrel cactus. De-spining the body of the creature was a trick. Then the bitter flesh had to be cooked and sugared to give it the signature desert rat preferred taste. It took some time, but it was fun.
Barrel cactus are more like the pawns in the cacti chess world (jumping cholla being the knights). Saguaros are the king. Their flowers marked the beginning of year for the indigenous O'odham people. But the fruit are the food and sacrament of real desert rats. Ripening to a magenta hue, the mourning, whitewing, and inca doves are the first to dig in.
Before the desert rains, the fruit begin to dry and fall on their own (sometimes with some hungry human assistance) and begin a downpour of the richest, sweetest food that any sentient creature could possibly find on this garden earth. Free for the taking, but getting up early before the withering heat is a must. If you can do this for a week or so, and if the rains delay, a mom and dad and couple of kids can pack away a 50 pound bag of dried, loving desert sustenance which you will have to hide so that it does not get eaten right away.
Seeing as how we are away from the desert this year and can not be there for the harvest, I will make an ode to the saguaro- king of my ancestral lands, I think of you with every California sunrise.
Ok, lets's see... thinking...
(sung to the tune of This Land Is your Land)
As I was walking
Out in my mountains
I heard a song sing
Coming from the desert
Was a whitewing dove
On the tall Saguar oh oh
Singing, this food was made for you and me
|Saguaro Yarn Painting by Raven|