Edible, medicinal desert plants walking tour at arboretum

Edible and medicinal desert plants walking tours are 8-9:30 a.m. Saturdays, Aug. 4 and Sept. 1, at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior.

Learn about edible, medicinal and useful desert plants on a leisurely walking tour guided by Jim Shepherd. (Submitted photo)

Prickly pear cactus fruits yield more than just a colorful margarita mixer. They’re nutritious and have a unique taste, according to a release.

Both the pads and fruit of these cacti are a Sonoran desert staple so popular they are exported worldwide. Learn about edible, medicinal and useful desert plants on a leisurely walking tour guided by Jim Shepherd.

This guided tour explores the Curandero Trail, which has steep sections that are not suitable for visitors who use wheelchairs or walkers.

The tours are included in the $12.50 daily admission ($5 for ages 5-12); free to arboretum annual members and Arizona State Parks pass-holders. The arboretum is at 37615 Arboretum Way, Superior. The website is arboretum.ag.arizona.edu.

During the walk, Mr. Shepherd narrates a synopsis of arboretum history and explains ways prickly pear cacti, ratany, agaves and jojobas have fed, healed and clothed Sonoran desert peoples for more than 1,000 years. Expect to taste a few desert edibles too; he usually shares prickly pear jelly, nopalitos, mesquite flour and agave nectar, according to the release.

David Morris, an ethno-botanist and member of the Choctaw Nation,  is another featured guide for this walk, and has done extensive research into plants that heal and nourish, according to the release.

Mr. Morris is a fan of jojoba seeds. These acorn-size seeds can take on a mild hazelnut flavor after being lightly roasted.

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is also known by the nicknames goat nut, deer nut and coffeebush, the latter from its reputation as a coffee substitute when mature seeds are roasted. Waxy oil pressed from the nuts is widely used in shampoos and skin lotions, and tea brewed from jojoba leaves can sooth inflamed mucous membranes, according to the release.

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