Tree Chollas are blooming and setting fruit all around. I have put out a few cuttings around my front perimeter, they do make a ferocious fence.
A beautiful one, too. My food forest has few Tree Chollas because they need full sun not available with an evergreen canopy. I have a bit of room along the west edge next to the street for them and that is what cuttings are for.
This group is not quite the 10 feet that Tree Chollas can attain, but they are taller than my 5’4″.
The fruit is green still but can be boiled as a vegetable, usually in soups. It thickens the broth like okra. The round pads can be eaten also. To store, split pads lengthwise and dry. The fruit can be removed after ripening and dried, but will dry on the plant and Tree Chollas have fruit on them all year.
Another use for the fruit is as a mordant for dyes. Chop the fruit and boil. Strain and use the liquid as a mordant.
Seeds are also edible and frequently roasted, ground, and added to dishes to thicken them.
I did not see medicinal uses for Tree Cholla listed; however, it is mucilagenous and is beneficial in the same ways that Chia and Flax seeds are. Even the mallows like my Copper Globemallow has benefits from the mucilage.
Mucilaginous plants support our extensive mucosal cells that are our first defense in immunity against all the bad bacteria, virus, etc. that enter our bodies. These cells line our mouth, eyes, nose, throat, intestines, kidneys, reproductive organs, and lungs. In eating Copper Globemallow (also mucilaginous) during the forest fire, I was using its mucilage to protect my lungs and eyes from smoke. Mucilage nets toxins and escorts them out of the body.
In other words, it helps everything function properly and remove toxins. One other thing to think about for those who have a lot of allergies, mucilage can reduce allergic reactions by restoring the proper level of coating in your system. They are considered to be “heal and mend” components in your body.
Mucilage is made from protein, polysaccharides (sugars) and uranides. Plants use it to hold water and nutrients around seeds for germination (Chia and Flax for example) and in their leaves for survival in hot, dry environments (Aloe Vera, Prickly Pear, Tree Cholla, Copper Globemallow).
A less known use (even though more common) is exudation of mucilage from root tips to both facilitate roots pushing through soil, and to hold water to roots for uptake into plants. Having studied the plant-soil interface in school, I am surprised it has not occurred to me to try adding a little mucilage to water for my plants that are less adapted to local conditions. I did a Web quick search and did not find anything on this possibility.
I have a huge number of mucilagenous plants on my property. Today I am going to run errands but tomorrow I will start experimenting with adding a bit of mucilage to water for some of my plants. Mucilage from root systems does deteriorate, so I don’t know how much or how often I will need mucilage to hold water around the roots of my plants. That is why it is an experiment! I do know that mucilage can be dried and powdered for later use.
As humans, when we ingest mucilaginous plants, our systems increase our internal levels of mucous. I wonder if that is true with plants? I will take notes and let you know. Plants have some internal level of mucilage too. Fun if I had lab equipment to check….
Chollas led me off the path a little this morning in a possibly beneficial way. I am sure my cuttings will take hold and put a 6′ to 10′ foot thorny barrier between my home and the street to discourage human predators just like small mammals hide in them to discourage big predators. As a benefit in my food forest, that is plenty. The small fruit taste is reminiscent of papaya. Beautiful, large, hot pink blooms, and edible pads. I do, indeed, hope they do well on the edge of my evergreen food forest.