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Old 02-09-2010, 11:05 PM
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scottinaz scottinaz is offline
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Post Desert Plants, What you CAN and CANNOT eat



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Chapter Nine--Desert Plants

By Marjorie Woodruff Ph.D.

Copyrighted: all rights reserved.

Plants as food

When water is limited, food is not important. If there is no water, one should not eat, as food requires water to digest. If there is sufficient water, food may become a concern. There are many desert plants which can be utilized for food, but locating edible plants is not as easy as would appear from the proliferation of books on wild plants.

Many plants and plant parts are only edible during certain times of year, or may be edible cooked and poisonous raw. Many edible plants, such as rhubarb, have poisonous parts. Plants do not provide one with any large amount of food value; salad would not maintain a hard working person over a period of time. Some desert plants, such as jojoba nuts, are edible in small quantities, but large quantities can cause illness or even prove toxic. One also should consider the possible loss of body water through sweat expended while hunting for edible plants. Often there are only minute differences in appearance between an edible and a toxic plant.

Remember that a plant which is eaten by animals is not necessarily safe for human consumption. There are no safe rules for determining poisonous plants. One should never eat any plant unless absolutely sure that it is an edible species. If there is any doubt, it is better to go hungry.

Easily found edible plants

The beans of the mesquite tree are edible. The bean pods can be cooked and eaten like green beans when they are first forming and soft. After they have dried, they can be ground and cooked like pinto beans. The bark of this tree is dark and rough. The leaves are tiny. This tree has thorns.

The palo verde tree has edible beans just after the blooms have died. These should be prepared like mesquite beans. The palo verde tree has a smooth green bark, thorns, and tiny leaves.

Ironwood and catclaw acacia have beans which can be cooked and eaten like mesquite beans. Ironwood has a purple flower in the spring, and acacia resembles mesquite, but its leaves are smaller.

Desert hackberry is a water indicator plant and has small edible berries. Leaves are small, heart-shaped and off center (one lobe larger than the other) with three main veins.

The jojoba has edible nuts which should not be consumed in large quantities. The jojoba is a shrubby plant with dry appearing, grey-green leaves which grow straight up and down rather than flat to the sun.

All cactus fruits are edible, though some are not tasty. Most of these fruits have small, almost invisible spines. The fruit should be peeled or burned to get rid of these spines.

Prickly pear pads are edible when young and tender. Peel or burn them to get rid of the spines.

The central heart of the agave, or century plant, can be baked and eaten, but it is a difficult proposition to obtain this heart and bake it.

The green flowering stalk of the yucca has some sugar and can be chewed.

In the higher or damper parts of the desert, one can find cattails, dandilions, or pinon nuts. The stalk of the cattail is edible, along with the green seed stalk.

There are other edible desert plants, but these are more difficult to recognize. Persons interested in an intensive study of edible plants may find many books or classes to aid them.

Poisonous plants

If in doubt, do not eat any plant. There are no hard and fast rules enabling one to recognize poisonous plants. It is said that cooking food destroys many toxins, and that if a mouthful of plant burns or irritates the mouth, it should not be swallowed. Neither of these always occur with a poisonous plant, and some plants are so toxic that a small mouthful will make one seriously ill, even if not swallowed.

All plants with milky sap should be avoided.

White berries should never be eaten. Red berries are poisonous about half the time.

Mushrooms should never be eaten unless one is an expert on these fungi.

Nightshade should be avoided. This plant has grayish leaves and purple or yellow flowers and small, gourd-like yellow berries. It resembles a potato.

Locoweed, milkvetch, or rattleweed, has many poisonous varieties, and it is best to avoid all. The plants are four to twelve inches tall with white or purple flowers. They resemble peas, and have long pods.

Jimsonweed or sacred datura, is a highly toxic plant. It is large and spreading, with large leaves and sizable white flowers which resemble a morning glory. The fruit is round and prickly.

Coral bean plants have bright red seeds and red flowers. The leaf is triangular, and the plant is a shrub. The poisonous seeds are in thick pods which split open.

Turpentine bush and milkweed have milky sap, cream or yellow flowers, and stems that appear like rushes.

Mistletoe is a poisonous plant. Desert mistletoe has small leaves and white berries and a thick, fleshy stem. This grows high in trees.


In Summary

Since one can survive for many days without food, it is best to avoid plant life unless one has made a hobby of edible plants and can always identify the safe species.

http://members.cox.net/drslim/ch9.html
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Old 02-09-2010, 11:39 PM
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I hear some cactus make great Tequilia....
Old 02-10-2010, 12:12 AM
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scottinaz scottinaz is offline
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Originally Posted by greenhorn View Post
I hear some cactus make great Tequilia....
That would be Agave,

Old 02-10-2010, 01:01 AM
haha49 haha49 is offline
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The way I look at it is this... 1 person can eat anything.. just if they die or get sick thats a diffrent question

Not mine but good info
http://www.youtube.com/user/EatTheWeeds
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Old 02-28-2010, 03:40 PM
S.A.M. S.A.M. is offline
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Dried mesquite beans would be a lot of work getting enough seeds to prepare like pinto beans. With pinto beans you just pull apart the thin papery pod, but a mesquite pod is thick and tough. You can get a powder off of the seeds by pounding off the gummy stuff, which takes a lot of work to yield so little.
Old 03-01-2010, 04:03 PM
mrk442 mrk442 is offline
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You can eat the entire mesquite bean its just a bit tough try picking up a dried pod and chewing on it.. has a pleasant sweet taste.. Can be ground for flour but in a pinch just grab them and enjoy.. mostly you want the floury gummy stuff under the tougher outer layer.. The seeds will crack your teeth but are easy to avoid as they have a secondary tougher shell.

palo verde beans are very tasty when green just open the pods and eat like peas.. cooked or raw
Old 03-05-2010, 05:43 AM
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Yes, if you pound some mesquite pods, eventually it yields a fine powder. You can sift it out from the tough parts and have a quantity of that sweet powder.
Old 04-04-2010, 01:58 PM
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Default Desert Foods

Terrific information.

A lot can be learned from this info.

Thanx!
Old 05-08-2010, 03:34 AM
desertprovender desertprovender is offline
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Just some additions.

Yucca flower are edible, but they need to be boiled in water to get rid of the saponins. Tasty with a bit of vinegar. I've heard the seed pods are edible, but haven't confirmed this.

Young Devil's claw fruit is edible boiled. Somewhat similar to Okra. Seeds are edible as well. Not sure if they need roasting, but it couldn't hurt.

Seeds from the buffalo gourd are a source of oil and protein, but positive ID is critical, as there are toxic look-alikes

Technically, all parts of cholla species are edible, but the buds and fruit are the easiest to get at and the most palatable. Look for the less densely spined varieties

Rumex hymenosepalus can be found in silty washes. The leaves and stem are edible, but very sour and very high in oxalic acid. Definitely worth boiling in a change or two of water.
Old 05-08-2010, 09:53 PM
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Depends on what desert you are in. Mojave isn't the same as Colorado or the Great Basin or the Chihuahuan. Flats aren't the same as the mountains and you can find dramatic differences in a couple thousand feet of elevation or just by moving from a south facing slope to the north side. Chaparral and coastal scrub are different from any of these.

The natives were expert in surviving in their own climate. I could probably read a hundred books and spend years in the desert and not have their mastery. If I need food, I'll likely depend primarily on lizards. We have millions of them here and you can scare up a dozen of them just walking a mile down a trail.
Old 07-03-2012, 03:08 PM
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Does anyone know where I can find some Mesquite beans in El Paso County, Tx? My husband and I looked out east of El Paso in the desert last night, but didnt find any. Your help is appreciated. Thanks
Old 07-03-2012, 04:20 PM
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Another source I found that I keep in my ghb.

Sonoran Desert Food Plants
by Charles W. Kane

Includes pictures, propper names, other names, range and habitat, edible uses, medicinal uses, cautions, various notes and history of native uses or origin if imported of 50 common wild plants found in the Sonoran Desert.

Nice and compact, to the point. Notes on digestive tendancies as well as effects of external exopsure. Cooking methods are mentioned. Rough description of taste and texture cooked and/or raw.
Old 07-03-2012, 04:51 PM
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Got alot of these over here in the great basin desert
Old 07-03-2012, 04:52 PM
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http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaeagnus_angustifolia
Old 07-03-2012, 04:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by munchkin56 View Post
Does anyone know where I can find some Mesquite beans in El Paso County, Tx? My husband and I looked out east of El Paso in the desert last night, but didnt find any. Your help is appreciated. Thanks
Its funny my DH & I were talking about this, when we were kids the mesquite trees around here had lots of beans, now I rarely see them. Since mesquite is a weed & not a nursery grown tree what would cause such a change in one lifetime?
Old 02-05-2013, 10:42 AM
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...and found this post very helpful. Thanks!
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