Foods of the Superstitions Old and New
Authors Don Wells and Jean Groen live in Apache Junction, AZ, at the base of the Superstition Mountains, hence the title of their combination plant book/cookbook: Foods of the Superstitions Old and New. Whenever I read how native people prepared desert plants for food, I'm impressed at their ingenuity. The work required to make a meal from cholla buds or mesquite bean pods is considerable! The book covers 22 plants, describing how they were used traditionally and how to prepare them for eating. You don't just stick a prickly pear pad into your mouth! There are both traditional and modern recipes incorporating the plants. This spiral-bound book would make a nifty stocking stuffer for the plant- or nature-lover on your list. It's available for $10 at retail outlets in the Phoenix area, and from the authors: FoodsoftheSup@msn.com
Favorite or New Plant
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a great landscape plant. It provides deep green foliage, wonderful aromas, and is great for a fresh herb in the kitchen. There are many sizes and shapes, including dwarf, prostrate, and upright. 'Prostratus' looks good trailing over ledges and rock walls. Upright rosemary can take severe pruning for a hedge-type look. If you have a sensitive palate, taste a few leaves before buying, as the flavors can vary. Native to the Mediterranean, it thrives in the low desert's similar growing conditions. One caveat: rosemary must have excellent drainage as it is susceptible to root rot.