From semi-arid to desert, Arizona can be a harsh land for those attempting to survive off of nature alone. Knowing how to identify edible plants can save you in a dangerous situation, particularly in the desert, where continued hydration is the number one concern. More than a survival technique, however, knowing edible plants is an enjoyable pastime and knowledge that can come in handy outside of survival situations. While there are many safe ways to eat plants from the wild, everyone should approach the outdoors with an understanding of the risks. Never eat any plant unless you are absolutely sure of your identification.
The pointy stalks that grow from the center of this desert shrub are recognizable to most people. Large white flowers grow out of the central stalk, which emerges like a spike from the plant's center. This central stalk can be up to five feet tall. The flowers of the yucca can be eaten, as well as the young stalks found between the full sword-like leaves.
These big cacti look exactly like their name suggests. Spines are radial and reddish-brown, as opposed to the deep green of the plant's flesh. The top of this cactus typically has several broad yellow flowers. The top can be cut off, exposing the inner pulp and a reservoir of liquid. This inner pulp can be mashed and eaten. Because of the relative rarity of large cacti specimens, barrel cacti should only be eaten when in a survival situation.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The prickly pear cactus is made up of multiple broad pads of green flesh that grow in varying sizes on each other. The spines are long and very sharp, with three spines to a cluster. A yellow, red, pink or purple flower can be found on top of the broader pads. Once the spines are removed, the flesh of the prickly pear cactus can be cooked or eaten raw.
Article Written By Louie Doverspike
Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.