332 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
Release Date:01 Dec 2015

Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert

The University of Arizona Press

Winner of the Society for Economic Botany’s Mary W. Klinger Book Award

The seemingly inhospitable Sonoran Desert has provided sustenance to indigenous peoples for centuries. Although it is to all appearances a land bereft of useful plants, fully one-fifth of the desert's flora are edible.

This volume presents information on nearly 540 edible plants used by people of more than fifty traditional cultures of the Sonoran Desert and peripheral areas. Drawing on thirty years of research, Wendy C. Hodgson has synthesized the widely scattered literature and added her own experiences to create an exhaustive catalog of desert plants and their many and varied uses.

Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert includes not only plants such as gourds and legumes but also unexpected food sources such as palms, lilies, and cattails, all of which provided nutrition to desert peoples. Each species entry lists recorded names and describes indigenous uses, which often include nonfood therapeutic and commodity applications. The agave, for example, is cited for its use as food and for alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, syrup, fiber, cordage, clothing, sandals, nets, blankets, lances, fire hearths, musical instruments, hedgerows, soap, and medicine, and for ceremonial purposes. The agave entry includes information on harvesting, roasting, and consumption—and on distinguishing between edible and inedible varieties.

No other source provides such a vast amount of information on traditional plant uses for this region. Accessible to general readers, this book is an invaluable compendium for anyone interested in the desert’s hidden bounty.

Finally! A book that all desert food lovers can enjoy . . . Decidedly the best ethnobotanical resource for the desert Southwest in print . . . The richness and diversity of the desert is wonderful and limitless and nowhere, with the exception of the desert itself, is it more apparent than in this book.”—Seedhead News

“Blood, sweat, tears, and ethnobotanical passion for plants are what Wendy C. Hodgson’s extensively researched book represents. . . . Packed with fascinating stories that highlight plant-to-people connections.”—Plant Systematics and Evolution

“An excellent study of interest to archaeologists, ethnographers or ethnobotanists working in the American Southwest and northwestern Mexico and to anyone else interested in the peoples who gathered the desert.”—Society for American Archaeology
“An excellent primer for budding Sonoran ethnobotanists.”—Edible Phoenix
Wendy C. Hodgson is a research botanist and herbarium curator at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
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