Say what…? That is ‘Sahuaro harvest’ in Tohono O’Odham.
I have a deep affection for the Sahuaro sisters around here, most of them are grandmothers. I realize that I am blessed to be in a very unique environment; Sahuaro forests like this one I live in are very rare on the planet, only existing in this high density in small areas of southern Arizona and northern Sonora. You can see above that my banner, what I consider to be ‘me’, is a picture of my shadow superimposed upon a Sahuaro and I write about them frequently.
I very much enjoying the unusually abundant Ha:San~Bak this year and that was amplified by the research I did this morning to write this. For the Tohono O’odham, the Sahuaro provides for the physical and spiritual sustenance of the people, in fact the calendar year began at the Sahuaro harvest. Extended families would make camp in the Sahuaro forests, possibly even right here on this land, and collect and process fruits for weeks following specific rituals that would ensure an abundant monsoon rain immediately following the harvest. The fruit, called Bahidaj, is highly nutritious and a serving of five fruits has about 167 calories, four 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and is high in soluble fiber and vitamin C. The syrup rendered was sealed in jars and the seeds were dried and ground over time and made into cakes.
For more information:
I also learned the story of the origination of Sahuaro and was surprised to find out that, even though they are so masculine in form when young, the first Sahuaro sprung from a young girl. It is a touching story, recorded in 1945 that you can read here:
The people would celebrate and gorge and have copious weight gain. Some of the juice, which would only last a few weeks, was fermented and used ceremonially with singing to call the rain down. (I make it into a margarita and celebrate too.) Unfortunately, the ceremonies were prohibited at the turn of the last century, and though no longer prohibited, traditions have been fading and are rarely practiced today. Some even propose that the suppression of the essential, ancient Sahuaro rituals has contributed significantly to their decline, along with human encroachment. When humans are able to see a thing as sacred they value, protect, and nurture it. Perhaps it is our inability to hold so many things as sacred that ultimately results in their demise. Thanking the Sahuaros for all that they do/be and may I hold them sacred for all of my days.