Southwest Foraging: 117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Oregano

Southwest Foraging: 117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Oregano

by John Slattery

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“No one has advanced wild foraging in the desert Southwest as much as John Slattery.” —Gary Paul Nabahn, director of the Center for Regional Food Studies, University of Arizona

The Southwest offers a veritable feast for foragers, and with John Slattery as your trusted guide you will learn how to safely find and identify an abundance of delicious wild plants. The plant profiles in Southwest Foraging include clear, color photographs, identification tips, guidance on how to ethically harvest, and suggestions for eating and preserving. A handy seasonal planner details which plants are available during every season. Thorough, comprehensive, and safe, this is a must-have for foragers in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, southern Utah, and southern Nevada.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604696509
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/10/2016
Series: Regional Foraging Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 424,232
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Slattery is a bioregional herbalist, educator, and forager who is passionate about helping people develop deep and meaningful relationships with wild plants. Visit him at

Read an Excerpt

Preface: Land of Abundant Beauty
My path to wild plant foods is perhaps different than most. The idea of there being desirable, useful, or easy-to-find wild plant foods was not part of my upbringing. However, I strongly gravitated toward the use of local plants as medicine while traveling for a year throughout Central and South America. Meeting with indigenous healers and herbalists throughout this journey, I began to appreciate the concept of developing relationships with plants—not just herbs as a capsule, tincture, or other product to be purchased off the shelf.

This was one experience among many that opened my eyes and heart to what was available. Although my interest in wild plant foods and wild plant medicines occurred simultaneously, foraging initially took a backseat to botanical medicine. At first, I saw the pursuit of wild foods as a survival technique, a way to live as people once lived long ago. With limited opportunities to explore this style of living, I wasn’t implementing many wild foods into my diet other than major foods such as mesquite meal, cholla buds, saguaro fruit, prickly pear fruit, and palo verde beans—certainly more exotic ingredients than the average person employs, but I wanted these foods to become an even bigger part of my life. I began adding them to my diet in novel and unconventional ways, parting with the traditions I had learned, and fueling my passion for wild foods with my creative impulse to cook—an impulse I’ve had since childhood. New creations were popping into my mind as they once did with cultivated foods. I was grinding barrel cactus seeds for flour to make bread or cooking its fruit into a chutney; combining flowering stems of wild plants to make sauerkraut; frying mesquite-breaded New Mexico locust blossoms with cinnamon in butter, topped with saguaro syrup. My perspective had shifted!

I was not alone in this new viewpoint. It seems there has been an increased interest in this direction for a certain segment of our population, and the enthusiasm continues to grow. Of course, it's far from accurate to characterize this trend as new. Mesquite pods, prickly pear pads and fruit, chia seeds, amaranth greens, and other superfoods have all been part of the local cuisine in the southwestern United States for thousands of years. The region, with its tremendously varied terrain, flora, and fauna, and its rich cultural tradition of interaction with the land, has the longest continual history of agriculture within our nation—4,000 years in Tucson, Arizona. And wild plant foods, prized for their dense nutrition and rich dietary attributes (not to mention their unique and delicious flavors) have long been widely known across the globe, cherished by foragers, and often cultivated wherever they have taken root. The people here gathering wild foods to complement their daily diets are both new converts and the most recent generation of a long ancestral chain.

If you have not foraged for your food, you have not yet fully lived on this Earth. Becoming fully engaged with one’s senses, engaging with other life-forms as one walks across the land for the purpose of sustenance, for satiating a taste, could quite possibly encapsulate what it means to be human. Foraging is our birthright, if not our responsibility, in a sense. How else can we better take account of our home, and our surroundings, as we engage with the life around us?

To those who have yet to become acquainted with our beautiful region, I invite you to discover the culinary riches that abound in the deserts, plains, forests, and mountains of the Southwest. To those who live within this area of abundant beauty, I urge you to explore more deeply—to join me on this natural path, to delight in gathering the wild foods that await.

Table of Contents

Preface: Land of Abundant Beauty 8

Foraging in the Southwest: A Wild Path of Discovery 11

Harvesting with the Seasons 24

Wild Edible Plants of the Southwest 48

Algerita 49

Alligator weed 51

American bulrush 53

Apple 55

Banana yucca 57

Barrel cactus 60

Beautyberry 63

Bellota 65

Biscuit root 69

Black nightshade 71

Blue dicks 73

Box elder 75

Bracken fern 78

Bull nettle 80

Capita 82

Cattail 84

Chia 87

Chickweed 90

Chiltepin 91

Chokecherry 93

Cholla 95

Cocklebur 98

Dandelion 100

Dayflower 102

Desert hackberry 104

Desert willow 106

Devil's claw 108

Dewberry 110

Dock 112

Elder 115

Epazote 119

Evening primrose 121

Farkleberry 123

Filaree 125

Firethorn 127

Fragrant flatsedge 129

Gooseberry 131

Graythorn 133

Greenbrier 135

Ground cherry 137

Hackberry 139

Harebell 141

Henbit 142

Himalayan blackberry 144

Horseweed 146

Indian tea 148

Ironwood 150

Jewel flower 153

Jojoba 155

Juniper 157

Lamb's quarters 159

Lemonade berry 161

London rocket 164

Mallow 166

Manzanita 168

Mariposa lily 170

Melonette 172

Mescál 174

Mesquite 177

Mexican palo verde 181

Milkvine 183

Miner's lettuce 185

Monkeyflower 187

Mormon tea 189

Mountain parsley 191

Mulberry 193

Nettle 195

New Mexico locust 197

Ocotillo 199

Oreganiilo 202

Palo verde 205

Pamita 207

Pápalo quelite 209

Pecan 210

Pellitory 212

Pennywort 214

Peppergrass 216

Pigweed 218

Pincushion cactus 222

Pine 224

Pony's foot 226

Prickly pear 228

Purslane 232

Red bay 234

Red date 236

Red raspberry 238

Rocky Mountain bee plant 240

Saguaro 242

Salsify 246

Saya 248

Serviceberry 250

Sheep sorrel 252

Siberian elm 254

Smartweed 256

Snakewood 258

Solomon's plume 260

Sotol 262

Sow thistle 264

Texas persimmon 266

Thimbleberry 268

Thistle 270

Turk's cap 272

Violet 274

Walnut 276

Watercress 278

Wax currant 280

Whitestem blazing star 282

Whortleberry 284

Wild grape 286

Wild onion 288

Wild oregano 290

Wild plum 292

Wild rose 294

Wild strawberry 296

Wild sunflower 298

Wolfberry 300

Wood sorrel 302

Metric Conversions 305

Useful Internet Resources 306

Further Reading 307

Acknowledgments 308

Photography Credits 309

Index 310

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