Edible Cactus Flowers

Humans have been eating flowers for millennia, in many different cultures, and in some truly tasty dishes.    Desert peoples are no exception.    They found many ways to use the desert plants around them, including cactus and their flowers – and fruits too.

Yes, Flowers are Edible

At first, the concept of eating flowers may seem somewhat unusual, but it is as American as apple pie – with a glass of elderberry wine.    Elderberry wine can be made from either the flowers or the fruits.    Never had elderberry wine?    Dandelion wine either?    Have you ever had broccoli or cauliflower?    You’ve eaten flowers!

Don’t Lose the Fruits

Cactus flowers are edible – but so are the fruits!    SO – rather than lose the tasty cactus fruits, I wait until the flower is almost done blooming. Since many cacti bloom only for a single day the wait is not long. Once bloom is nearly done, I go out with a razor blade (or kitchen shears) and carefully cut the petals off. So maybe I should say – edible cactus petals rather than cactus “flowers.”


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Use Cactus Petals

Cacti are colorful in otherwise green salads. Especially the colorful staghorn cholla flowers. Note that the harvest and processing of cholla buds are a whole topic in their own right, and a great deal of labor.    Not our topic today.

Cholla flowers. Image courtesy J. Clark

Cactus petals are also crunchy in green salads. Like a sliver of celery.

These flower petals are chopped and added to dips. Because some cactus petals are, like celery, tending to fiberous. Cutting into smaller bits adds crunch without strings.


Sneak some in into your next stir fry. Cactus petals are delightful in stir fry. They easily look like bits of onion if you have a suspicious spouse.

Lighter colored flowers blend in stir fry very well.

Be Careful

Note that the cactus plants themselves can be poisonous.    That said, in a quick survey of area botanists, plant nerds, and foragers – and no one could think of any poisonous cactus flower petals.  All these plant folks  advocated moderation at first. Several reminded me to remind you to avoid the central portion of the flower – full of pollen, in case of hidden allergies. But note that pine pollen and cat-tail pollen have been harvested and used by indigenous peoples for eons, so perhaps cactus pollen could be useful too.

If you have some low saguaro blooms, go ahead and harvest the petals in early morning.

More about Edible Flowers on Savor Safely.

More about general flower flavors – previous post.

What do you think?!

Please leave your comments and ideas in the comment section (way way down) below.

Speaking of Edible Flowers

soule-kino-southwestOur ancestors used to eat flowers all the time – before there were supermarkets and tidy clean food. I share some edible flowers in this out-of-print, award winning Southwestern book – Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $20!  This link is to our book sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

P. S. Yes you could eat the flowers of Christmas cactus. I have sampled them and they are tasty.
Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit.    You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.


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