Southwest Foraging

117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Oregano


By John Slattery

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$31.99 CAD



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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 10, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“No one has advanced wild foraging in the desert Southwest as much as John Slattery.” —Gary Paul Nabahn, director of the Center for Regional Food Studies, University of Arizona

The Southwest offers a veritable feast for foragers, and with John Slattery as your trusted guide you will learn how to safely find and identify an abundance of delicious wild plants. The plant profiles in Southwest Foraging include clear, color photographs, identification tips, guidance on how to ethically harvest, and suggestions for eating and preserving. A handy seasonal planner details which plants are available during every season. Thorough, comprehensive, and safe, this is a must-have for foragers in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, southern Utah, and southern Nevada.


Preface: Land of Abundant Beauty
My path to wild plant foods is perhaps different than most. The idea of there being desirable, useful, or easy-to-find wild plant foods was not part of my upbringing. However, I strongly gravitated toward the use of local plants as medicine while traveling for a year throughout Central and South America. Meeting with indigenous healers and herbalists throughout this journey, I began to appreciate the concept of developing relationships with plants—not just herbs as a capsule, tincture, or other product to be purchased off the shelf.

This was one experience among many that opened my eyes and heart to what was available. Although my interest in wild plant foods and wild plant medicines occurred simultaneously, foraging initially took a backseat to botanical medicine. At first, I saw the pursuit of wild foods as a survival technique, a way to live as people once lived long ago. With limited opportunities to explore this style of living, I wasn’t implementing many wild foods into my diet other than major foods such as mesquite meal, cholla buds, saguaro fruit, prickly pear fruit, and palo verde beans—certainly more exotic ingredients than the average person employs, but I wanted these foods to become an even bigger part of my life. I began adding them to my diet in novel and unconventional ways, parting with the traditions I had learned, and fueling my passion for wild foods with my creative impulse to cook—an impulse I’ve had since childhood. New creations were popping into my mind as they once did with cultivated foods. I was grinding barrel cactus seeds for flour to make bread or cooking its fruit into a chutney; combining flowering stems of wild plants to make sauerkraut; frying mesquite-breaded New Mexico locust blossoms with cinnamon in butter, topped with saguaro syrup. My perspective had shifted!

I was not alone in this new viewpoint. It seems there has been an increased interest in this direction for a certain segment of our population, and the enthusiasm continues to grow. Of course, it's far from accurate to characterize this trend as new. Mesquite pods, prickly pear pads and fruit, chia seeds, amaranth greens, and other superfoods have all been part of the local cuisine in the southwestern United States for thousands of years. The region, with its tremendously varied terrain, flora, and fauna, and its rich cultural tradition of interaction with the land, has the longest continual history of agriculture within our nation—4,000 years in Tucson, Arizona. And wild plant foods, prized for their dense nutrition and rich dietary attributes (not to mention their unique and delicious flavors) have long been widely known across the globe, cherished by foragers, and often cultivated wherever they have taken root. The people here gathering wild foods to complement their daily diets are both new converts and the most recent generation of a long ancestral chain.

If you have not foraged for your food, you have not yet fully lived on this Earth. Becoming fully engaged with one’s senses, engaging with other life-forms as one walks across the land for the purpose of sustenance, for satiating a taste, could quite possibly encapsulate what it means to be human. Foraging is our birthright, if not our responsibility, in a sense. How else can we better take account of our home, and our surroundings, as we engage with the life around us?

To those who have yet to become acquainted with our beautiful region, I invite you to discover the culinary riches that abound in the deserts, plains, forests, and mountains of the Southwest. To those who live within this area of abundant beauty, I urge you to explore more deeply—to join me on this natural path, to delight in gathering the wild foods that await.


  • “No one has advanced wild foraging in the desert Southwest as much as John Slattery. His plant knowledge, ethics, and practices are becoming more relevant, if not necessary, for our collective survival.” —Gary Paul Nabahn, director of the Center for Regional Food Studies, University of Arizona
    “A wonderful guide that will diversify our diets and lure us into the natural world.” —Brad Lancaster, cofounder of Desert Harvesters
    “A must-have on the subject! Eloquent and replete with scientific acumen and stunning photos, this guide is a treasure.” —Carolyn Niethammer, author of Cooking the Wild Southwest

    “Invaluable.” —Foodies West

    “Accessible volume for beginning botanists. . . . Entries are organized alphabetically by common name with full-color photos and “how-to” information for safely identifying and responsibly harvesting edible desert plants.” —Edible Phoenix

    “The Timber Press foraging series offers another set of books with high quality photography. . . . also available as handy Kindles.” —American Herb Association Quarterly

    Southwest Foraging implores us to eat what’s growing around us. It is an opportunity to experience the intensity of the Sonoran Desert with mind and mouth.” —Tucson Weekly

On Sale
Aug 10, 2016
Page Count
320 pages
Timber Press

John Slattery

John Slattery

About the Author

John Slattery is a bioregional herbalist, educator, and forager who is passionate about helping people develop deep and meaningful relationships with wild plants. Visit him at

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