Growing & Harvesting Wild Foods


There are over 400 food plants native to the Sonoran Desert. We plant many of these within our neighborhood forest to grow food for people, livestock, and wildlife.

This also builds community and forges new friendships because the more time you are in the neighborhood’s public rights-of-ways—the more likely you are going to see, meet, talk to, and get to know your neighbors.

Harvesting mesquite pods.
Taste before you pick because every tree has its own flavor of pods. If you like the flavor—keep picking. If you don’t like the flavor—go to a different tree. For best quality of pods harvest from the tree, not the ground; harvest ripe pods—they should snap in two if you try to bend them; and harvest BEFORE the rains (when ripe pods get wet invisible aflatoxins can grow on the pods).
Photo: Jaime Chandler
Velvet and screwbean mesquite pods in the bowl.
Velvet mesquite leaves in lower left corner. Mesquite flour to left of bowl. Mesquite honey to right of bowl.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Harvesting prickly pear fruit.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
The prickly pear fruit harvest bounty.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Canned prickly pear juice.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Prickly pear lemonade and mesquite cookie stand.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Harvesting street runoff-irrigated wolfberries. When blanched and dried, the sugar content of the wolfberries is concentrated. Fresh prunings of the wolfberry foliage can be given to chickens as they love the leaves.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Blanched and dried wolfberries.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Harvesting desert hackberries.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Harvesting staghorn cholla cactus flower buds.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Cholla bud pico de gallo salsa.
Photo: Brad Lancaster
Edible chuparosa blossoms and palo verde flowers atop a home-grown salad.
Photo: Brad Lancaster

For native wild food plant identification and recipes see:
Ethnobotanical (Human Uses of Plants) Resources

To be notified of our various events including wild food processing sign up here

And check out www.DesertHarvesters.org


Do you have photos of native foods harvests in our neighborhood and the resulting deliciousness that you’d like to share?

If so, email them to neighborhoodforesters@gmail.com and we’ll post them!