Everything Desert


My Desert Experiences Blog

Ask for an exciting customized class for your group

Posted on November 6, 2014 at 3:05 PM

I absolutely love to share my knowledge and experience of the incredible medicinal and edible properties of our desert plants. This 2014-2015 season I will not be posting an open schedule of classes , but will be offering to create customized classes by request.


Here's how it works:


◾you gather your interested group

◾contact me at [email protected]

◾you name the location or general vicinity

◾tell me what level or particular interest your group would like to explore

◾I will customize the walk, talk or class to fit the exact location and interest

◾the fee will be appropriate to the level of the class


◾Hiking groups, Medical groups, Herbalists, Survivalists, Scouts, School Groups, Friends groups, Community groups


◦Peruse my list of class descriptions below to get an idea of what I have offered in the past and we'll build on those depending on the level of intensity or lightness your group would like to explore

Harvesting Mesquite Beans

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Mesquite flour was a main staple of the desert Indians. The flour provides protein, carbohydrates and calcium and sustained them during the winter and early spring until other desert foods were ready to be harvested. The flour is very sweet, and when used in recipes it is wise to decrease the sweetner in the recipe. You can substiture 1/3 mesquite flour of the flour called for in recipe. It is gluten free so must be mixed with other flours for such goodies as muffins, cakes and breads.

All species of mesquite are edible and grind into good flour. The seeds inside the pod are indigestible, but when separated from the pod and soaked overnight in water, make a lemony drink. How do I know which beans to use in recipe? I taste it first. I love chewing on a mesquite bean as I am harvesting. It has a sweet tast with a hint of lemon.

If you're looking to plant your own mesquites and are an APS customer, you can get free trees with the APS shade tree program.

The beans are ready to harvest around late June when then turn light tan colored. You can hear a rattling sound, like a rattlesnake when they are ready and they then come off the trees easily. If you have to pull hard on the bean to be release from the tree, it is not quite ready to harvest. I gather only the ones from the trees. I leave the bean that have fallen on the ground for all the critters. I watch javelinas, deer, jackrabbits, cottontails and quail delight in the feast. It is very important to roast the beans before storing and making into flour because the bruchid beetles live in the pods (the tiny holes you see in the pods are the hatched beetles who have drilled their way out. You can roast them in the oven, spread them on a table in the June heat for a few days or my favorite way is to make my truck into a solar oven: I put the beans in paper bags, put them on my dash then mount my windshield cover (so the beans are sandwhiched in between the windshield and the cover) . I leave my truck parked in the full sun for 2 days. I once put an oven thermometer in the bag of beans and in 2 hours it read 175 degrees. That's enough to cook the inside of a rump roast to well done, so it must kill off the beetles as well.

I make flour by placing the beans in my blender, pulse a few times which separates the inedible seeds from the pod, sift out the seeds (use later to make a lemony drink), then blend the pod until it makes a flour. I have also roasted and stored my beans in large buckets to wait for the Phoenix Permaculter Guild to offer their milling day in October. They will mill the whole beans into a wonderful flour for a very low cost

For more information on milling opportunities vistit: Valley Permaculture Alliance.

If you're looking to plant your own mesquites and are an APS customer, you can get free trees with the APS shade tree program.

Prickly Pear Tuna Harvestiing

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 7:07 PM

It's that time, when the monsoons bless us with much anticipated moisture, a brake from the intense direct sun and the ripening of the luscious prickly pear fruit (tunas). The very early mornings on the desert in July is the time to walk about and harvest its bounty- just ask the quail. I first seek a sustainable stand of prickly pear and look for the tunas that are a deep mangenta. The glokins (those tiny prickers on the fruits that mysteriously get under your skin and pester you for a long time) are easily brushed off by using a branch of the desert broom. If you are not equipped with the natural broom, you can remove most of the glokins by gently rolling the tunas across gravel with a house broom.

Harvesting is easy with kitchen tongs, being careful not to puncture the skins. To finish the de-prickering, I put the tunas in a dedicated bucket, almost cover with water and agitate like a washing machine action. This action rubs the tunas against each other, knocking the rest of the glokins off and washes them as well.

I drain the water off then into the juicer they go. Out comes the most striking magenta liquid ever placed on this earth! An alternative to using a juicer is to halve the tuna, scoop out the meat and seeds, process in a blender, then strain the seeds through a fine sieve. Both methods accomplish acceptable resutls. Also I have heard of some people adding the whole tunas to a pot with a small amount of water and simmering and smashing down as they soften. Then straining through a sieve. Now you have the juice from which to make all kinds of yummy treats: syrups for pancakes, margaritas, martinis, and all kinds of drink concoctions, jelly, fruit roll ups, ice cream and ices. I freeze some of the juice in ice cube trays, then save in a freezer bag to add one each day throughout the year to my water or iced tea for its flavor and its medicinal aspect of blood sugar regulation.


**Important: juice the tunas the same day that you harvest them. They can begin fermentation rather quickly. Likewise, once juiced prepare your jellies or syrups to can or your roll-ups to dehydrate the same day. If you need to wait until another day to prepare your goodies, refridgerate the juice for 1-3 days or freeze to prepare later in the season


makes 4 half-pint jelly jars

2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 pkg. pectin

3 cups sugar

1 tbsp. butter

Mix cactus juice, lemon juice and pectin in large pan.  Bring to boiling.  Add sugar all at once with butter.  Bring to rolling boil and cook 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, skim, pur into joars, seal and water bath for 5 minutes