The buds from a cholla cactus are very unique. In the spring before they bloom, indigenous people from the Sonoran Desert gather them, dry them and remove the glochids (spines). They are high in calcium and have an earthy flavor; many say they have a hint of asparagus. I like to make this dish every time I get hold of these buds, which can be purchased online.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring water to a boil. Season the water with about 4 tablespoons of salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and place in an ice bath until cool. Drain the pasta well.
In a medium bowl, mix the pasta with the Cholla Bud Pesto. Mix in the tomatoes and garnish with the avocado and cilantro.
Cholla Bud Pesto:
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
Using a food processor, add the cooked cholla buds and pulse until the buds are chopped. Do not puree. Add the pine nuts, garlic, queso fresco, salt and pepper. Keep pulsing the processor. Add the oil last and set aside.
You can use leftover pesto to crust a bison tenderloin, spread on a sandwich or top a canape.