In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
August, 2013
Regional Report

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Devil's claw develops a green pod that looks much like okra and can be cooked in the same manner.

Devil's Claw

The summer monsoon season is the perfect time to try your hand at traditional crops. Monsoons bring hot, humid weather with occasional downpours, usually in the afternoon or evening. Native peoples knew to sow fast-maturing, warm-season crops to take advantage of these precious summer rains. Typical crops included amaranth, tepary bean, corn, squash, melon, sorghum, and the intriguing devil's claw.

Devil's claw (Proboscidea sp.) garners a lot of second glances in the garden from those unfamiliar with this annual. Eye-catching, trumpet shaped flowers bloom in shades of white, pink, or orchid. Depending on species, the plant will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Some species are spreading and vining like a squash plant; some are a bit more upright and shrubby.

It is truly a multi-purpose plant, with several uses for fiber and food. It develops a green pod that looks much like okra and can be cooked in the same manner. However, it needs to be eaten when young and tender; it gets woody and unpalatable with age. Left hanging, the pods will eventually dry on the plant and split open, forming the curved "claws" of its common name. Black fibers are stripped from the claws to be used in basket making. Inside the claws are tiny seeds that add protein and oil to the diet. Watch out! The claws are sharp!

Even if you don't choose to eat the pods or seeds or use the fiber, devil's claw makes an interesting landscape plant. It is an annual and will die back when cold weather arrives. However, if you let pods dry on the plant and self-sow, you'll likely have devil's claw appearing in your landscape every monsoon season.

Devil's claw prefers unimproved soil and takes full sun. Presoak the seeds to hasten germination and sow them 1/2 inch deep.


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