In the middle of the desert, you see shining cities, beautiful cacti and abundant choices for food. Phoenix, Tucson and Scottsdale are some of the biggest foodie draws in the west. I am Kathleen Raskin, and here at Kathy Jo’s Kitchen, I know exactly what you need to know about the Grand Canyon state and their eating habits. There are many celebrities who have gotten their start, take a day and drive the Apache Trail Scenic Drive into the Superstition Mountains. Enjoy the history behind the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine on the way to visiting Tortilla Flat. Eating locally is a tasty proposition. Chiles, dates, and citrus all grow in abundance.
Now there are some more interesting foods that you may not have heard about made from not quite normal ingredients. Mesquite, the most common shrub or small tree in the Desert Southwest, forms fruit of bean-like pods in the fall that have long been a nutritious food source to humans, wildlife and livestock. Mesquite beans are usually harvested after they turn hard and golden. Both the pods and the seeds (which are very tough) are ground into meal. The pods of mesquite beans are very sweet and the sweetness comes from fructose which doesn’t require insulin to be metabolized.
Saguaro Cactus Fruit Jam
The saguaro cactus is one of the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert. These plants are large, tree-like columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, although some never grow arms.
Roughly 6 cups saguaro cactus pulp
Gather saguaro cactus fruit.
Put the pulp in a pot and add water until half of the pulp is covered.
Soak for 1.5 hours stirring occasionally.
Put the pot over low heat and cook for 40 mins or so.
Separate the pulp from the liquid, saving the pulp. Boil the liquid very slowly, stirring constantly, until it turns into a syrup.
Mash the pulp and put through a strainer to remove the seeds.
Combine the remaining pulp with the syrup until the mixture is the consistency of jam. When it looks like jam, it is jam.
Serve over warm fry bread, another Arizona favorite.
You see the stereotypical image of someone huddling against a rock away from a rattling snake tail. The amazing thing, is that this is a delicious delicacy. It does not taste like chicken, which is even better. It has a much gamier flavor, much more reminiscent of pheasant, frog legs, alligator or even elk. There are two ways to cook rattlesnake meat: De-boned, or with the bones still intact. If you cook it with the bones intact you will have to deal with them while eating it. There are many ways to eat it. Try it baked, southern fired, chili or other dishes where the meat is blended into the dish.
This is Kathleen Raskin, posting from Kathey Jo’s Kitchen straight to yours. Bon apétit!