Wild Foods in the Sonoran Desert
July 27, 2019
July 27, 2019
The Sonoran Desert has always held a special place in my heart, as I learned to love it during visits with my grandparents. Now, I've been called to return and help in the care of my grandmother who has dementia. My mom has been her caregiver for the last 7 years and it is time for me to play a more active role. I will return again in December, and probably be making more regular trips to relieve my mom. God bless the caregivers!
It's hard to pick favorites in life, but saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) cactus fruits are my favorite wild food. They contain fat and sugar, which is a pretty awesome combination! These beauties are protected, so it is advised that you connect in with traditional harvesters to be given permission and learn how to harvest in a respectful and appropriate way.
In 2007 I joined Stella Tucker out at her traditional saguaro camp, and this video documents her families way of harvesting and processing the fruits. Fast forward to 2019 and I just met a new foraging friend, Mark Lewis. Mark told Stella he was meeting me and she was like, "Oh yeah, that white lady who came out here all those years ago. I remember her!" So fun for me to reconnect, in these roundabout ways, with those of us who practice our love for the land. May Stella and her family be blessed in perpetuity, and the Tohono O'odam people, and the saguaros ♥
The bulk of my wild food diet here in the Sonoran Desert right now has been prickly pear fruits (Opuntia spp). These magenta beauties have found their way into multiple rounds of barbeque sauce, margaritas, fruit leather, and so much more.
In typical forager form, I traveled with a vitamin in my luggage. When it's 116° who needs many clothes, lol. I had heard the mesquite were dropping here, so I went from kiawe in Hawaiʻi to grinding my own flour here in Arizona.
Palo verde (Parkinsonia florida) have also been on the menu. These cheery flowers are in full force here in the Valley now, a welcome addition garnishing our meals.
Foothills palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) fresh seeds have been a trail nibble as I just missed a more major harvest. Absolutely delicious, and easy to just pop open the pods and eat these nourishing and delicious seeds.
This new-to-me wild food was a gifted experience by Mark Lewis, my new foraging friend. Mammallaria albicans. It was Mark's "gateway wild food", as in the food that got him hooked on wild foods! He grew up in Baja, in his ancestral homelands of the PaiPai people. So much story, so much goodness.
And finally, desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) has been in glorious bloom. It really makes you wonder how...how can these plants and animals survive in 116° weather? But they do, and it is mind boggling and awe-inspiring. So much to learn, stories to share, but the simple act of participating in the dance of life with them is a great start.