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The word “desert” conjures a wasteland, but the Sonoran is widely alive, home to more than 250 species of edible plants.
The Sonoran seems to satisfy and smash what a desert should be. A desert is defined by rainfall — as land that gets less than 10 inches per year. The Sonoran averages seven to eight. The word “desert” conjures a wasteland, like the sliding landscape of an hourglass, the Sahara, or Tatooine. But the Sonoran is widely alive, home to more than 250 species of edible plants.
According to urban forager and botanist Mark Lewis, the number actually exceeds 1,000.
You can find the wild and farmed ancient foods of the Sonoran Desert across greater Phoenix. Places serving these ingredients tend to exist on the margins for a lot of reasons. One is that the populations with knowledge of them have been marginalized. Another is that they don’t teach you how to harvest saguaro fruit in culinary school.
Yet another is education — local diners just don’t know about these ingredients, or where to try them.
To remedy that, read "A Curious Eater's Guide to 16 Ancient and Wild Foods of the Sonoran," or spool through this visual guide to the ancient foods of the Sonoran Desert.