The leaves were usually harvested in January and February when other fresh foods were unavailable.
The flower stalks were harvested in spring and summer before they produced blossoms. Both the leaves and stalks were roasted in a large pit for about two days and eaten or pounded into cakes to be dried for later consumption. The leaf mass "heart" was eaten like a giant artichoke and tasted like molasses.
The flowers were boiled to remove bitterness and were eaten immediately or sun-dried. Seeds were gathered and ground into flour.
The Apaches extracted the juice from young flower stalks to make pulque, an intoxicating drink. Distilled pulque is used to make tequila.
Long fibers were used to make rope, nets to carry things in, bow strings, brushes, sandals, cradles, skirts, mats, basket foundations, and snares. Pulling the spine and fiber from the leaf created a needle and thread.
The thorns were used in producing baskets.
The burned stalks provided a dye for tattoos.
Compresses were made of wet pounded pulp for local infections or bound on the chest to relieve congestion.
Juice of the root was applied to fresh wounds.
Did You Know?
Tonto National Monument is home to a crested saguaro. Biologists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of lightning or freeze damage. About one in 150,000 saguaros develop this unusual growth.