494: Kelly Athena on Wild Desert Cuisine.
Foraging and harvesting edible plants.
In This Podcast:
Explore the abundance of the desert with Cactus Kelly Athena. Normally a teacher and wild desert cuisine harvester, Kelly will open your eyes to ways you could be eating the native plants in your area or harvesting them and selling to local chefs and restaurants. After this episode, you’ll be harvesting your neighborhood trees to try desert edamame, mesquite flour, nopales, and prickly pear! Also, she explains the environmental and social benefits of hyperlocal cuisine.
Kelly grew up loving nature in Northern California and moved to Phoenix in 1986. She holds a Master’s Degree in Music and Photography, and is a Master Gardener of Maricopa County. She was named Arizona Photographer of the year in 2000, and especially enjoys photographing nature. Five years ago, she began hosting plant walks to help people learn to identify and sustainably harvest wild plants. Then she was dubbed “Cactus Kelly.” Kelly is especially interested in desert bean trees such as the Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Ironwood trees as well as edible cacti and weeds. She harvests wild desert cuisine for restaurants and chefs in the area, makes prickly pear juice and powder, and teaches desert foraging in schools and at the Desert Botanical Garden.
Listen in and learn about:
- Learning about native plants and their uses at age 10
- Harvesting local bean trees and prickly pear to sell to chefs
- How and when to harvest and eat Palo Verde and difference between yellow and blue Palo Verde pods
- Things you can make using Palo Verde beans
- How she began selling to chefs
- Some of her favorite teaching moments
- The best place to harvest wild edible plants
- Prickly Pears and how they yield both fruit and vegetables
- How to safely process prickly pear fruit
- Mentors and people that inspire Kelly
- Health benefits of eating desert plants
- How we could use desert plants and improve climate change
- Changing our mentality from ornamental plants to food plants
- Eating hyper-locally and shopping Farmers Markets
As well as:
Her failure – Failing to plan for the whole process, be prepared for your harvest.
Her success – Connecting people to nature and choosing gratitude.
Her drive – Wanting people to connect with nature and real food.
Her advice – Be compassionate and curious and find plant people like that who can teach you to harvest the abundance around you.
Kelly’s Book recommendations*:
Food Plants for the Sonoran Desert by Wendy Hodgson
Maximum Self Esteem: The Handbook for Reclaiming Your Sense of Self-Worth by Jerry Minchinton
How to reach Kelly:
Facebook: Arizona Foraging with Cactus Kelly
Instagram: Kelly Athena
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, we will earn a nominal commission at no cost to you. We offer links to items recommended by our podcast guest as a service to our audience and these items are not selected because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
If you would like to support our podcast and let us know you appreciate the work that we do, please consider a monthly or one-time donation!