Edible - Medicinal Desert Plants Walking Tour 1:30pm February 13 and 28, also March 12 and 27
Prickly pear cactus fruits yield than just a colorful margarita mixer -- they're nutritious and have a unique taste. Both the pads and fruit of these cacti are a Sonoran Desert staple so popular they have been exported worldwide.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the place to learn about desert plants and their useful properties -- our guide is Jim Shepherd ' for the walk Saturday February 13; when it repeats Sunday February 28 our guide is Choctaw Nation ethno-botanist David Morris. On alternate dates this walk is also guided by authors Kathy and Tom McDonald, co-owners of Smiling Dog Landscape company in Gold Canyon .
As with most other weekend guided tours here, the edible-medicinal plants walk is included with daily Arboretum admission of $10 for adults and $5 for ages 5-12. And please keep in mind that information shared on this tour does not constitute medical or dietary advice; opinions and views expressed by volunteers are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum or its management
“You'll learn about the edible and medicinal properties of many of our native plants here in the Sonoran Desert and learn how you might incorporate them into your backyard landscape," says Kathy McDonald.
Inspired by the trail and guided tours that interpret uses of edible-medicinal desert plant here at BTA, ethno-botany enthusiasts Kathy and Tom developed their own Curandero Trail around the 2.5 acre perimeter of their Gold Canyon home and business, Smiling Dog Landscapes, and guide tours of their trail during Fall and Winter months. There's no fee to attend, but spaces are limited and pre-registration required; call 480.288.8749 or email email@example.com
"You may already be familiar with prickly pear, roasted jojoba seeds, the refreshing tea you can brew from ocotillo blooms; perhaps you've even had a saguaro fruit smoothie. We'll talk about these and other desert edibles, and on the walk you'll also encounter the ingredients that go into my recipe for an allergy tincture using Mormon tea, creosote, brittlebush, triangle-leaf bursage and white ratany."
Visitors can explore our Curandero Trail and learn more about useful desert plants on your own, too -- signs along the trail explain many of the plants, and in both English and Spanish.
An ethno-botanist and member of the Choctaw Nation, David Morris is another featured guide for this walk, and has has done extensive research into plants that heal and nourish.
Ethno-Botanist Dave Morris is a fan of jojoba seeds, shown in the photos at left. These acorn-size seeds can take on a mild hazlenut flavor after being lightly roasted. Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is also known by the nicknames "goat nut," deer nut and coffeebush -- the latter from its reputation as an acceptable coffee substitute when mature seeds are roasted. Waxy oil pressed from the nuts is widely used in shampoos and skin lotions; tea brewed from jojoba leaves can sooth inflamed mucous membranes.
Ask Dave Morris about his favorite desert plant and he cites the agave. "Fleshy leaves of the agave were the source of fiber (sisal) for the early desert natives. The fibers would be used for cordage, rope, baskets, mats and sandals. The heart of the agave was roasted and eaten and the leaf tea is thought to relieve arthritic pain," said Morris. Learn more about this plant, about creosote and others which continue to nourish, heal and clothe people of the Sonoran desert. Here's another, too: Native Americans in the desert refer to the mesquite tree as the "tree of life". The pods can be ground up and they provided the main source of flour until the introduction of European heat, rye and barley. The barkof the esquite can be boiled to produce a germ-killing wash for minor cuts and scrapes. The Piipash (Maricopa) obtain a black paint from mesquite bark that is used to add designs to their traditional pottery."
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is affiliated with the UA's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in addition to being an Arizona State Park. UA students, faculty and staff may bring your CatCard or University I.D. to save an addition dollar off admission!
Read about other weekend guided tours and events