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Wild Foods of the Desert

Wild Foods of the Desert

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Wild Foods of the Desert

477 pagine
1 ora
Apr 11, 2010


Local eating at its most natural. This book was written in hopes of unveiling one of America's best kept secrets - delicacies of the desert. The high and low desert areas of the southwestern United States provide a cornucopia of solid foods ranging from succulent fruits to rich nuts; spicy seasonings to exotic meats, juicy berries to tangy vegetables.

Apr 11, 2010

Informazioni sull'autore

Darcy Williamson, an award-winning author, is a Rocky Mountain herbalist, naturalist. During her fifty-year career, she has written over twenty books and taught more than one hundred and thirty apprentices the knowledge and preparation of backyard herbal medicine.She owns two alternative lifestyle teaching and learning facilities, From the Forest in McCall, Idaho and Mavens' Haven in Lucile, Idaho.Aside from eBooks, she currently has three books published by Caxton Printers, Ltd., (Basque Cooking and Lore; River Tales of Idaho and The Rocky Mountain Wild Foods Cookbook) plus several independently published titles including Healing Plants of the Rocky Mountains, McCall's Historic Shore Lodge, and Medicinal Camino, Plant First Aid Along "The Way".

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Wild Foods of the Desert - Darcy Williamson



Darcy Williamson


Darcy Williamson on Smashwords

Wild Foods of the Desert

Copyright © 2010 by Darcy Williamson

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

ISBN 0984313621



1. Acorn - From Braised Venison Heart with Acorn Stuffing to Acorn Spice Cake

2. Agave - From Campsite Agave-Chorizo Soup to Tequila-Agave Slush

3. Arizona Walnut - From Wild Fowl Walnut Dressing to Arizona Walnut Coffee Soufflé

4. Barrel Cactus - From Barrel Bud Soup to Sweet Pickled Barrel Cactus

5. Cholla - From Lamb with Cholla Kabobs to Cream of Cholla Soup

6. Desert Hackberry - From Quartzsite Chili Beans to Spiced Hackberry Wine

7. Jojoba - From Desert Wanderer's Stew to Jojoba-Date Pudding

8. Juniper - From French Veal Stew to Juniper Marinade for Wild Game

9. Mesquite - From Dutch Oven Quail with Mesquite Dumplings to Apple Mesquite Fritter

10. Ocotillo - From Desert Fruit Soup to Ocotillo-Coconut Punch

11. Pinyon - From Savory Pinyon Stuffing for Sage Hen to Pinyon Oasis Pie

12. Prickly Pear - From Nopalitos - Chicken Chili to Prickly Pear Jam

13. Saguaro - From Sultan’s Soup to Sonora Daiquiri

14. Texas Mulberry - From Mulberry Spanish Cream to Texas Mulberry Muffins

15. Tumbleweed - From Tumbleweed-Sausage and Lentil Stew to Tumbleweed with Thyme

16. Yucca - From Yucca-Date-Nut Bread to Yucca Flower Preserves

17. Desert Fowl - From Breast of Dove with Pistachio Sauce to Sage Hen with Spicy Sausage


18. Desert Game - From Will Wilkinson Pecos River Camp Stew to Sweet 'n Sour Cottontail

Selected References



This book was written in hopes of unveiling one of America's best kept secrets - delicacies of the desert. The high and low desert areas of the southwestern United States provide a cornucopia of solid foods ranging from succulent fruits to rich nuts; spicy seasonings to exotic meats, juicy berries to tangy vegetables.

For the hunter, backpacker or camper, these foods offer a welcomed addition to the camp menu. Once the outdoors-man becomes familiar with desert foods and their seasonal availability he can plan his provisions accordingly. The backpacker can lighten his load in anticipation of supplementing his diet with foods gathered along the trail. Each following chapter contains a section for the outdoors-man, providing simple methods of preparing wild desert plants and game out-of-doors.

But, desert foods shouldn't be limited to use in the field! Their unique flavors and textures lend themselves to gourmet cooking as well. Wild foods from the desert can open a whole new dimension in food preparation and entertaining. Juniper berries, Pinyon nuts, acorn meal, pickled nopalitos and prickly pear jelly are a few of the wild desert foods which hold prominent positions on the shelves of specialty and gourmet shops. These same high priced delicacies are abundant in their natural habitat. The following chapters provide hundreds of rarely seen recipes offering the homemaker and gourmet cook a galaxy of fresh ideas for using desert foods.

It is important that the desert harvester realize that a few food plants may not be dug or removed from the desert floor without a permit or written permission from the landowner. Any protected plants are described as such in the following chapters. These plants do provide edible buds, flowers, and fruits which may be gathered without a permit.


ACORN: The fruit of various oak trees including Quercus gambelii and other related species.

Oaks, which range from shrubs to large trees, have single leaves which grow alternately on the limbs. In winter the twigs ordinarily bear clusters of small buds at their tips. In spring the oak sends forth pollen producing flowers in the form of drooping catkins.

Oaks are divided into two subgroups – red (or black) oaks and white oaks. Red oak leaves have bristles and its bark is usually dark and furrowed. Acorns of the red oaks do not mature until the finish of the second season. The shells of the acorn’s inner surface are coated with wooly fibers. White oaks typically have leaves with rounded lobes. The bark is grey and scaly. Acorns of the white oaks mature in one season. Their shell's inner surface is smooth.

Acorns consist of a smooth oval or round, thin-shelled nut. The cap is topped by a woody stem that attaches the acorn to the tree. All acorns are edible. The meats of the white acorn, however, have less tannin than the reds and are therefore sweeter in flavor. Acorns are rich in protein and fat.

Though acorns from the white oak group can be roasted and eaten as nuts, they are better if they are leached of their water-soluble tannin to remove any bitterness. The most valuable oaks, as a survival food source, is the Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) since its acorns are noted for their sweetness and can be eaten directly from the tree. Oaks are so ubiquitous; I have limited the mapped range to that of the Gambel Oak.

Gather acorns in July and August. Birds, deer and squirrels are eager to harvest the nuts also, so you may be in for some competition. As a means of survival, a search made near the base of oak trees often turns up a squirrel's cache. It's a dirty trick to rob a squirrel of its harvest and should only be done out of survival necessity. Gathered acorns should be shelled as soon as possible since many are infested with worm-like larvae that can spoil your stored harvest.

Acorns are eaten whole, pounded, or ground into meal, and added to soups, stews, breads, and griddle cakes. A good combination in baking is acorn meal mixed with an equal part of all purpose or whole wheat flour. Baked goods made with acorn meal are richly dark and have a pleasant nutty flavor.


Acorn meal – shell acorns, and then pound or grind them into meal. If leaching is necessary, place meal in a cloth bag (a pillow case works well), tie end closed and submerge the bag in a creek or stream for one to three days. Knead the bag several times each day. The moving water will wash out the tannin and leave the meal sweet. Remove the bag from the water and allow the meal to dry in the sun. The meal may be pressed into cakes before drying to make transport or storage easier. Since the meal cakes upon drying, it will need to be pounded or ground before using.

If whole leached acorns are desired, place shelled nuts in a cloth bag and submerge in a stream for four to five days. Dry acorns in the sun.

As I have mentioned before, Gambel acorns may be eaten without leaching. They are exceptionally tasty when shelled, placed in a skillet, roasted over a slow fire, and then sprinkled with salt.


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground acorn meal

2 tsp. baking powder

3 Tbsp. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup shortening or butter

½ cup milk (reconstituted, powdered or evaporated works well)

1 egg, beaten

Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Cut in shortening or butter using two knives or fingers. Beat together milk and egg; then add to flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are just dampened. Then stir briskly until mixture forms soft dough that clings to the sides of the bowl. Drop from a teaspoon onto greased skillet. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake slowly over hot coals for 20 to 30 minutes or until biscuits are done.

ACORN GRIDDLE CAKES (12 to 15 cakes)

2/3 cup finely ground acorn meal

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 egg, well beaten

¾ cup milk (reconstituted, powdered or evaporated works well)

3 Tbsp. bacon drippings, butter or shortening, melted

Combine dry ingredients. Mix together egg and milk, and then beat into dry ingredients, forming a smooth batter. Add bacon drippings, butter or shortening. Mix well. Drop batter onto hot greased griddle. Bake, turning cakes when they are browned on the underside, puffed and slightly set on top.


3 quail, 2 grouse or 1 sage hen

4 pieces bacon, halved

1 quart water

1 onion, diced

2 tsp. salt

2 bay leaves

1 egg, beaten

2 potatoes, diced

1 can whole kernel corn, un-drained

¼ cup ground acorn meal

½ cup cold water


½ cup ground acorn meal

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. milk

2 Tbsp. oil

½ tsp. pepper

Cut birds into pieces. In Dutch oven or large kettle, cook bacon. Add birds and brown in drippings. Add water, onion, salt, bay and pepper. Cover and simmer 1 ½ hours. Add potatoes and corn and cook 30 minutes longer. Combine ¼ cup acorn meal with ½ cup water and stir into simmering stew

In bowl or pan combine dumpling ingredients and beat until smooth. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto simmering stew. Cover tightly and steam for 12 to 15 minutes.

ACORN SOUP (4 to 6 servings)

½ cup ground acorn meal

3 quarts boiling water

8 chicken bouillon cubes

1 medium onion chopped

4 medium carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp. pepper

Combine ingredients in a kettle or Dutch oven and cook 35 minutes.


1 venison heart

1 tsp. salt

1 cup soft bread crumbs

¼ tsp. pepper

½ cup whole acorns, chopped

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup milk

1 /2 small onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. butter or bacon drippings

½ cup water

To clean heart, split open half way down one side. Cut away arteries, top veins, and stringy fibers and dividing membranes. Wash well in water and drain.

Sprinkle inside of heart with salt. Combine crumbs with seasonings then add acorns, beaten egg, milk, onion, and drippings. Mix lightly and stuff into heart. Tie or sew heart opening. Place heart on square of heavy-duty aluminum foil, sprinkle with water and fold foil around heart, sealing edges well. Bake over hot coals for 2 hours or, place heart in Dutch oven, add ½ cup water, cover and simmer slowly for 2 ½ hours. Add more water if necessary.


Whole leached acorns or acorn meal - shell nuts and place in saucepan with water to cover. Bring to boiling. Change the water when it turns yellowish-brown (usually takes three to five changes). Dry acorns in slow over with door cracked. Acorns may now be eaten whole; ground into coarse bits as a substitute for nuts; or ground into a fine meal. If you don’t have a flour mill for grinding, use your blender.


½ cup water

1 can (12 oz.) beer

3 Tbsp. safflower or peanut oil

3 Tbsp. honey

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ cups finely ground acorn meal

2 pkg. active dry yeast

½ tsp. salt

Combine water, beer, honey and oil in saucepan and heat to 120º F. Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, acorn meal and salt in large mixing bowl. Add beer mixture and beat 5 minutes with an electric mixer. Add remaining flour and mix well. Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (approximately 10 minutes). Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk.

Punch dough down, divide in half and shape each into a loaf, place each in greased loaf pans, cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375º F. for 30 to 35 minutes.

ACORN BREAD (2 loaves)

6 Tbsp. cornmeal

½ cup cold water

1 cup boiling water

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. butter

1 pkg. active dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm water

1 cup mashed potatoes

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups finely ground acorn meal

1 Tbsp. saguaro seeds (optional)

Mix cornmeal with cold water; add boiling water and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt and butter and cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Add remaining ingredients to corn mixture

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