If you aren't familiar with ocotillo plants, they look like bunches of spiny stalks emerging from the ground in clusters. In the spring the tips come alive with bright orange flowers. Watching them on a breezy day, they look to me like fiery tongues lapping at the sky.
The bark of the ocotillo is the most often used part of the plant for medicinal purposes. Read this post by herbalist, Darcey Blue of Shamana Flora for a wonderful description of the plant itself as well as how to harvest and process it. I was inspired by her to explore the flower of this hardy desert plant. She describes so beautifully her relationship to this plant:
"Ocotillo also speaks to me of being grounded, ecstatically, knowing fully ones purpose and connected with ones passion, and having the ability to protect and maintain healthy boundaries, while at the same time showing up joyfully and powerfully for living in the present moment and expressing oneself creatively and the ability to be open and responsive (as opposed to reactive) to the environment, to life and to connection with others just on the merits of its appearance and its particular characteristics and how it grows. " ~Darcey Blue
After I had a good amount of flowers I took them home to dry. If it isn't a windy day, you can dry them in the sun. You can also use a food dehydrator to dry the flowers. Once they are dried they will store for months in a cool, dry place. The flowers are most commonly used in herbal teas but since my harvest time coincided with citrus gleaning season, I had a lot of lemons to use so I decided to make a lemonade.
Ocotillo Flower Pink Lemonade
The ocotillo flowers provide a beautiful rose color to this lemonade, creating a completely natural pink lemoade. Their flavor is reminiscent of rose hips, adding a flowery tartness to the flavor.
1/2 cup ocotillo flowers
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup cane sugar
Bring the water to a boil and add the ocotillo flowers. Turn off the heat and let steep 10-15 minutes. Strain the flowers and add the sugar, stirring to combine. Let the mixture cool completely before adding the lemon juice. Serve over ice.