Eating wild

The wonderful flavors of the wild call out to us, inviting our participation in their native dance of delight.

by Jesse Wolf Hardin — 

Although the Southwest is home to a high number of quality whole-foods markets and fine restaurants, we may not always notice the diverse native foods growing at the base of our adobe walls. Even our yards and flowerbeds are often bursting with tasty salad greens, like dandelion and dock. On our way to purchase organic produce, we likely drive past healthy grains and yummy greens the native peoples so wisely consumed.

Common to this arid region are lush, wild celery greens that are delicious when steamed with onion; plantain leaves for frying; and quelites, which can be dried in the summer and reconstituted in soups and sauces, come winter. You can also find watercress in the streams, mulberries in the mountains, and high-protein amaranth, beeplant, nettles or yucca flowers for stir fries.

There are mustard, walnuts, piñons and juniper berries. It’s not hard to imagine wild oregano, clover or mint for pesto, wild grapes for crepes, prickly-pear jam, browned piñon cookies and yucca-fruit crisps. You will find stir-fried nettles in the spring, garlicky beeplant ravioli with local goat cheese in the fall, and in midsummer, a scrumptious wild mulberry pie.

The wonderful flavors of the wild call out to us, inviting our participation in their native dance of delight. We might consider this as we’re driving past what appear to be indiscernible patches of roadside greenery, or while walking by those curly-leafed plants lining the local canals.

Coming to know the native edible foods of the Southwest is to become more intimately familiar with the living land, its seasons, and its song. There is perhaps no tastier way for us to come to know ourselves, or to know that we belong.

 

Jesse Wolf Hardin is an author and host of wild foods workshops and wilderness retreats in the Gila Mountains. Animá Wilderness Learning Center, Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830. mail@animacenter.org or www.animacenter.org.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 3, June/July 2007.

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