Desert Eats: Wild Edibles on The Colorado Plateau

Finding food in the Southwestern desert is no easy task. Animals are elusive and vegetation is scarce. Yet Native Americans managed to thrive in this seemingly desolate landscape for many thousands of years. How? Through a rich and extensive knowledge of  the area’s plants. In fact, on the Colorado Plateau there are dozens of edible plant species, and while some are difficult to find and identify, many are relatively common. Keep in mind that you should always be 100% of what a species before eating it. (The following species are for informational purposes only, and readers are encouraged to check out one of the many Moab restaurants before venturing into the wilderness out of hunger.)

Prickly Pear

These bright green, broad-leafed cacti are often collected in the spring before their pads grow spines (or glochids) The pads can be eaten raw or  boiled to clear the bitterness. The red fruiting body of the Prickly Pear is also edible, and has a sweet, slightly spicy taste.

Stinging Nettle

Although nettles are coated in a painful toxin, it’s easily removed through cooking, and stinging nettles are delicious as a sauteed side dish for your entree.

Pinon Pine Nuts

Pinon Pines grow in relative abundance on the Plateau, and their cones are loaded with nuts. Though they can be tricky to access through the cone and shell, Pine nuts are rich in calories and protein, and could be a lifesaver for anyone in a survival situation.

Miner’s Lettuce

This circular-leafed plant is not only easy to spot, but can be found in Canada, California, Arizona, and Utah. As its name implies, it’s a tasty edible that works well as a salad base.



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8 May 2013 | Media Arts Entertainment