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Saguaro Fruit Recipes

Saguaro Fruit Recipes

| Betsy Armstrong

As part of their Native Seeds/SEARCH experience, the 2013 farm apprentices have been learning about the bounty of the Sonoran Desert.  In early July, Francesca, Matt and Travis took part in a Saguaro cactus fruit harvesting trip, the efforts of which are being enjoyed as part of smoothies, on top of breakfast yogurt and as an afternoon snack in between weeding sessions. Here apprentice Danielle shares a few of their favorite recipes.

Saguaro fruit is high in soluble fiber, vitamin C, protein and fat, and may help to reduce blood cholesterol. The smoothie can be enjoyed on its own, over cereal, pancakes, ice cream, or made into a beautiful-looking dessert.

Saguaro cactus grows only in the Sonoran desert, and its’ fruit has traditionally been harvested by the Tohono O’odham in the lead up to the monsoon season for centuries. In the Tohono O’odham language, the saguaro cactus is known as ha:san, and the fruits as bahidaj. The fruits can be made into syrup (sitol), jam (hihij kusul) and the ceremonial wine (nawait) which was drunk as part of the jujkida ritual to call in the monsoons. For the Tohono O’odham, it is traditional to say a blessing when harvesting the Saguaro fruit, to thank the cactus and to ask for future good harvests and rains. When picking the bahidaj, a long stick known as a ku’ipad is used to knock fruits off the cactus and the ground is also scanned. Once harvested, the pulp is scooped out of the skins, which are placed with their red sides facing the sky, which is said to call the rains. The following is a translation of a Tohono O’odham saguaro blessing song found in the book From I'itoi's Garden: Tohono O’odham Food Traditions, published by Tohono O’odham Community Action:

They are ripening red

Standing so visible in the distance

Cloud rises over me

And moistens the earth



Click on photos for more detail.

Saguaro Fruit Smoothie: 
(pictured above)

1 cup of dried saguaro fruit and juice, scooped out of the pod

½ cup of plain pro-biotic, organic yogurt

¼ cup of hemp or coconut milk

4 pre-soaked Arizona mission figs

¼ cup of chia seed

1 piece of organic seasonal fresh fruit (banana or mango work especially well), chopped

1 tablespoon honey


Blend together everything in a blender or food processor. Enjoy!

Saguaro Fruit Cheesecake:

Alternatively, you can use the smoothie to make a decadent desert:


1 cup of Saguaro smoothie

1 cup of cream cheese

1 tsp of vanilla

2 tbsp sugar, honey or agave syrup (if using sugar, dissolve in a little water)

2 pistachio nuts, chopped


1) Blend together cream cheese, vanilla and sugar/honey/agave syrup.

2) Layer smoothie and cream cheese alternately mixture inside a cocktail glass or small jam jar, until used up.

3) Sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts on top, and any extra saguaro fruit and juice, for decoration.


Useful References

More information about cultural significance of saguaro fruit, including recipes, can be found in the following books available in our NS/S retail shop and on-line store:

Cooking the Wild Southwest by Carolyn Niethammer 

 Wild Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert by Wendy C. Hodgson

 Gathering the Desert by Gary Paul Nabhan

 The Desert Smells Like Rain by Gary Paul Nabhan