Saguaro Fruit Season

What’s red and black, chewy and crunchy, the sweetest natural candy outside a bees nest? The pith of saguaro fruit, split open and cooked in the sun, makes a natural fruit taffy, far more wonderful that I had imagined. Now I know how the natives survived the silly season; they knew the saguaro fruit was ripening.

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We found this young arm with two split open fruits on an early morning bike ride of the loop road in Saguaro National Park East unit. As you see in the second photo, ants and one huge horsefly were already working away at the wonderful stuff, but the doves, bats, and almost every other flying thing of the desert, hadn’t found this bounty. The only reason the doves and bats, in particular, don’t get all the saguaro fruit, is that there is so much of it. We’ve been watching the early ripening fruits for two weeks on our rides, but the seeds and pith, the sweet stuff was all gone. What’s left is a three or four petaled blazing red fruit shell, folded back against the spines, looking like a second blossom. The real blossom is white and begins blooming in April. The Tohono O’odham use the pith and seeds for all kinds of stuff, including a fermented drink for celebration of the arrival of the bounty of summer and the monsoon rains. We would be happy to just eat the stuff; it’s better than any candy. Don’t be afraid of the desert summer; ruby red rewards await!

Oh, we shooed the fly away, but ate the ants. (double click the photo to see a larger version)

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