Category Archives: Wildfoods Class

2016 SHA Module, Session 16: All About Acorns

shelled southern live oak acorns November 19   9:30 – 5p

Location: Tucson, AZ

Instructor: John Slattery

Our final module of the year offers a full day of working with acorns. Two species of acorn will be our main focus: southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bellota (Quercus emoryi), the former we’ll be viewing with ripe acorns. We may also view another non-native, cork oak (Quercus suber) from Spain. The former is found in abundance as a locally landscaped oak, and the bellota is our prominent wild acorn, locally. These delicious and tremendous local food resources will be looked at in depth during this class, and we will also go through all stages of processing from dry acorn to fully leached flour. Some food prep will be involved and pre-made samples will be available.

Although processing acorns does take some time, there are ways to manage it rather well. I will be sharing from my experiences as we go through the process of preparing our local acorns for consumption.

southern live oak acornThe mighty oak is renowned throughout the world as a symbol of strength, courage, integrity, vitality, and protection. There is no other food which has sustained the human race to such an extent as the acorn. And today most are barely aware that it can be eaten. How can such an abundant food go unnoticed for so many generations? The time of reawakening to the vitality and nutrition present in the oak’s acorns is upon us, and with much culinary delight!

We are entering the age of the acorn renaissance! I hope you can join me.

Our meeting place will be in central Tucson to discuss and view fruiting oak trees. After a couple of hours in the field, we’ll head to the Desert Tortoise Botanicals office for processing the acorns.


Price: $98.00


2016 SHA Module, Session 14: Field Study: Sonoran Coastal Thornscrub & Wild Food and Medicine of the Seri (Mexico)

Tiburon islandOctober 21-25, 2016

Estero Santa Rosa, Sonora, Mexico

Trip Fee: $450  (includes instruction, translation, and handout materials)

Instructor: John Slattery

This module features 4 nights camping on the beach at the Sea of Cortéz in Sonora, Mexico

As the nights grow longer and the days cooler the varied habitat at the edge of the Sea of Cortéz in northern Sonora is very pleasant. Just north of the small fishing village of Bahia de Kino (and the retirement/vacation community, Kino Nuevo) is the beautiful natural area known as Estero Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa Estuary). We’ll make our camp at the edge of the beach amongst coastal thornscrub vegetation adjacent to mangrove estuarine environment. Directly to the west of our camp sits the tall peaks of Isla Tiburón (“Shark Island”), the largest island in Mexico and the cherished homeland of the Seri, or Comcáac, people. Before us is a small bay with calm waters, and behind us to the east is the rugged terrain of the Sierra Seri where the desert bighorn sheep still roam.


We will be exploring the uniquely beautiful vegetation of this area during our 5 days of beach camping. Our studies will be within the context of a bioregional approach to herbalism including explorations into foraging for wild plant foods in the area. This being the homeland of the Seri, we will be discussing many of their traditional uses and applications of these plants. During at least 1 or 2 days of this trip we will be visited by a local family of herbalists who I’ve been working with for several years now. They have offered to share with us how they use these plants for healing. They also employ a variety of marine algae, crustaceans, and other creatures from the sea for medicine (as well as food, abundantly).

Although this is some of the driest desert (in terms of annual rainfall) in North America the moisture brought in from the sea this time of year can keep vegetation verdant and flowering despite long-term drought. Various cacti, desert shrubs, plants of the mangrove, salty beach plants, and annual flowering plants comprise our list of plants to study including, sahueso, pitaya, desert lavender, brittlebush, red mangrove, cosahui, uvaibena, ironwood, desert hibiscus, ocotillo, coastal sand verbena, elephant tree, torote, palo blanco, malva de los cerros, balloonvine, puncture vine, pitaya ágria, and so much more!

Maria Luisa with desert lavender

Each day will be comprised of walkabouts through the desert, in arroyos, along the coastline, and along the margins of the estuary. Here we will stop frequently to look at plants, identify them, discuss their virtues, and, on occasion, gather some for medicine making or, when available, as food. We will be visited at our camp by the local Seri herbalists (Molino Martinez family) and they’ll be taking us on walks as well.

Any supplies needed for medicine making, camping, or in general will be listed in the information sent once registration is complete.  All participants need a passport, or passport card. We will be bringing all our supplies for the 4 days with us to camp. The nearest town is about 30 minutes away.

Transportation: Transportation is each participant’s responsibility. Ridesharing can be organized upon registration. There are no permits required for where we are going (high tourism corridor), but Mexican law calls for purchasing auto insurance for Mexico. There are simple online services to purchase Mexico auto insurance; details will be given upon registration.

Questions, email:

$65 Discount if you register by August 21, 2016  Use Coupon code: ESTERO


Price: $450.00

2016 SHA Module, Session 12: Prickly Pear Food & Medicine

prickly pearSeptember 17     6a – 4p

Location: vicinity of Tucson, AZ

Instructor: John Slattery

Class Fee: $125

Prickly pear is a native cactus of the American deserts which can now be found all over the world. Perhaps the most emblematic wild plant food of the North American deserts, prickly pear is particularly abundant in the higher portions of the Sonoran Upland Division where cattle grazing has multiplied its abundance considerably. This terrain happens to be essentially encircling Tucson, AZ, the site of our day long exploration of the prickly pear as food and medicine.

This class will involve a morning visit to a wild population of fruiting prickly pear cactus with hands-on discovery of the flavors and tastes of prickly pear fruit. Plant identification, harvesting techniques, optimal harvesting times, and medicinal applications (first-aid and chronic ailments) will be explored here in-depth. We will conclude our class indoors in central Tucson to complete the processing of our fruit into juice and for later storage. Different processing and storage options will be discussed and demonstrated. We’ll also demonstrate (and taste!) some delicious prickly pear drinks, including ferments.

Each participant will walk away with a better understanding of when to harvest the fruit (not just when they’re red!), best practices for processing the fruit for juice, and an expanded awareness of its great variety of medicinal applications.

Questions: Contact


Price: $125.00

Refund Policy: Full refund by September 3, 2016. 50% refund after September 3, 2016 (unless you can fill your spot by a referral). Zero refund after September 13, 2016. Note: Any refunds applied over 60 days after registration will incur a 3% fee.

Processing Acorns for Food

bellotasFood Conspiracy Co-op
Thursday, February 17

Cost: $10

Processing Acorns for Food… & Various Recipes
with herbalist & forager, John Slattery

Acorns are believed to be the most substantive food the human race has consumed throughout our time on this Earth. If that’s so, what are we waiting for? Acorns are all around us, particularly in Tucson. Yes, they grow on trees. But what to do with them? That’s what you’ll learn in this class – a detailed approach to gathering, processing, and cooking with acorns. There are so many things to do with acorns – not just stew. For example, there are cookies, bread, pizza crust, pancakes, gnocchi, crepes, falafel, burgers, and much, much more.
Featuring slideshow presentation, hands-on demonstration, and samples to taste.
Bring a friend, a note pad, and your appetite!

Register now to reserve your spot!

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist
Tucson, AZ
© 2016

Foraging in the Sonoran Desert

Foraging in the Sonoran Desert


Saturday, October 17, 2015 8a – 4p
$75 per person

Location: near Tucson; to be announced upon registration
Exploring and observing our desert home for the great variety of tasty and nutritious wild plant foods it offers. Living in the Sonoran desert, particularly southeast Arizona, one must consider the mountains as well as the low desert. Together we will explore the local terrain in search of wild plant foods.
Join local herbalist & forager, John Slattery, on a wild foraging journey in our local desert and mountains. We will be exploring the great diversity of native wild foods which exist in our local habitat. Important out of season wild plant foods will be demonstrated with samples and field identification. Basic topics covered will include:
Proper Identification of Edible Species
Time of Year for Proper Harvest
Methods of Preparation
Location, Environment, and Habitat for each Plant

Numerous wild foods will be identified, and we will sample several locally available wild foods. Additionally, samples of a variety of “shrubs” made with wild prickly pear fruit juice and a homemade prickly pear vinegar will be shared as we discuss the possibilties of creating locally foraged, wild drinks.

Please bring proper walking shoes, needed protection from the sun, adequate water for a full day of sun exposure, plate/bowl, cup & utensil (for sampling) and a packed lunch. Our meeting place will be announced closer to the scheduled date of class. Limited to 12 participants. Contact John at with any questions regarding the class.

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist
Tucson, AZ
© 2015


Field Study: La Sierra Blanca

Verbascum thapsus - MulleinThursday, August 20


Class Fee: $98

Field Study: La Sierra Blanca

Discussion, Application, Gathering and Processing of Wild Herbal Medicines of the high mountains, canyons, and rivers of the White Mountains of Arizona

with John Slattery

This full day of field study with herbalist and forager, John Slattery, is a unique opportunity to experience hands-on learning with the plants and a group of interested and committed students. John has been developing relationship with the plants of this area for the past 11 years. We will be viewing and discussing 12 to 15 different plants, in depth, throughout the day with opportunities to gather some plants for food or medicine. Some field medicine making instructions will be provided.

Each participant should bring a packed lunch, 2-4L of drinking water (including something to conveniently carry it on walks), comfortable footwear for walking, a daypack/bag, rain gear, suitable sun protection, notebook, pen, and camera (optional). Further supplies potentially needed (optional) will be discussed upon registration.   

Carpooling may be available upon arrival at our meet-up location in Alpine, AZ.



Price: $98.00

Raw Emory Oak Acorns

Creating Delicious Meals with Foraged Plants from the Sonoran Desert with herbalist & forager, John Slattery

Food Conspiracy Co-op
Thursday, June 11

Although we no longer grind our mesquite beans in metates worn into the Earth, or pit bake our cholla buds, mescal, or harvested mariposa lilies, we can still find unique, intriguing, delicious, and nutritious ways to incorporate foraged plant foods into our day-to-day meals. From vinegars, ferments, and syrups, to pancakes, nut breads, and atoles, John will share with you some of his experience and insights into preparing our local wild plant foods. In this hands-on class, you will learn to prepare acorn meal, saguaro seeds, and other foods of the Sonoran desert to create delicious, gourmet meals at home. Allow your imagination to wander over the local desert and mountain terrain in search of gustatory delights!

Register here:

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist
Tucson, AZ
© 2015

An Introduction to Edible Plants of the Sonoran Desert with herbalist & forager, John Slattery

Food Conspiracy Co-op
Thursday, May  21

The Sonoran desert holds a vast array of edible plants. There are nearly 400 edible plants found in the low desert alone. When we add the high elevations of the sky islands the diversity of wild food plants is staggering. Join John for a discussion (with slideshow), and sampling, of our great variety of wild edible plants. The nutrition, and unique tastes are two simple reasons to take to foraging for your food. The experience of relating with the wyld Earth to gather one’s food is a revolutionary act in itself.

Register for the class here:

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist
Tucson, AZ
© 2015

Herbal Traditions of Mexico: Pitaya Harvest

Pitaya Harvest

Coastal Thornscrub region at the Sea of Cortéz

led by herbalist, John Slattery

July 15 – July 18, 2015

Workshop fee – $425

A tremendously unique opportunity to forage for the highly treasured Pitaya cactus fruit (ool imám) with the People of the Land & Sea, the Comcáac, or Seri tribe of northwest Sonora, Mexico. This journey into the hot summer desert should prove rewarding for the ripe, sweet Pitaya fruits which await us. At a traditional summer Pitaya harvesting encampment we will forage for and prepare Pitaya fruit along with Mesquite pods to prepare unique traditional delicacies. You will learn the traditional methods for acquiring this fruit, traditional methods of processing and preparation into various foods. We will be making a preparation called mermelada, or jam, at our encampment.

The Pitaya cactus has a longer fruiting season than other local columnar cacti species and provides a tremendous amount of food for both animals and humans. Given our exceptionally dry winter it bodes well for an excellent Pitaya fruit harvest this year. For several centuries (if not millennia) the Comcáac have been utilizing and celebrating this native food of the Sonoran desert. The Comcáac mark the beginning of their calendar year by the fruiting of this cactus. Numerous parts of the cactus have been integrated into their daily lives for various purposes over many hundreds of years.

The fruit of Pitaya is said to be the tastiest cactus fruit in all the Americas. Although this fruit is

Sahueso (Pachycereus pringlei) fruit

Sahueso (Pachycereus pringlei) fruit

nearly impossible to find in the US this unique journey will bring you into the heartland of the Seri people for a traditional pitaya (Stenocereus thurberi) harvesting camp. Join us for a celebration of the Seri new year as the pitaya fruit ripen across the desert. Come listen to the songs of the desert as the Seri people have learned them, living in union with this beautiful desert at the sea for millennia. In addition, we’ll have the opportunity to taste saguaro, sahueso, and senita fruits straight from the cactus. These fruits have nourished many peoples across the deserts of Mexico over millennia. 


Our 3 nights stay at indoor accommodations (with a/c) in nearby Kino Nuevo, Sonora at the Prescott College Center is immediately adjacent to the gorgeous white sand beach. Step out our front door for a swim in the beautiful, refreshing bath water of the late afternoon. Accommodations offer shared rooms with individual beds or cots. Showers, wifi, telephone service, secure parking, full kitchen, and laundry facilities are all available.


The trip includes 6 meals provided by our endearing hosts including a stopover at Doña Olga’s home in Imuris, Sonora upon arrival and on our return. Remaining meals will be eaten in local restaurants or made at our group kitchen. Please indicate any dietary needs upon registration. Vegetarian, and gluten and dairy-free options will be available.

Because it is nearly mesquite season as well, we may be processing local Western honey mesquite pods for flour. Last year we prepared pitaya empanadas with hand-ground mesquite which we roasted on the grill over hot coals.

Hortensia hand grinding toasted mesquite pods

Hortensia hand grinding toasted mesquite pods

Travel in Mexico

Transportation is each participants responsibility. No special permits or visas are necessary to drive to our destination. Only vehicle insurance and a valid passport are necessary. Driving to our harvest camp includes off-road driving on poorly maintained roads. Although low clearance vehicles can easily pass, beware that obstacles exist and minor damage to one’s vehicle is possible. Travel throughout this region of Mexico is perfectly safe. John has been running these trips with groups since 2007 and has received nothing but a warm welcome from the people of Sonora. This route is commonly travelled by tourists of both Mexico and the USA.

Translation provided by John Slattery, the head tour guide and trip facilitator, as well as other native Spanish speakers within the group.

A full list of What to Bring and an Outline of the trip’s Itinerary will be sent out upon registration.

For more information email:

Space is Limited


Trip Deposit $200

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist   © 2015

Tucson, AZ

Saguaro Harvest Gathering

Lower Sonoran Desert – Riparian Area

near Kearny, AZ

Friday, June 26 – Monday, June 29, 2015

25 hour workshop & retreat

Workshop fee – $365

Gathering saguaro fruit from high atop these stately grandfather and grandmother columnar cacti is one of the most joyous acts known to bird or animal (yes, we are animals, too). Despite the extreme dryness and heat this luscious, juicy and incredibly sweet and delectable treasure appears atop these giants of the desert. We will prepare syrup (bahiduj sitol), and create unique preparations including fermentations, ice cream, saguaro seed bread, and so much more! These fruits are truly one of the most divine tastes in existence, the ‘gold of the Sonoran desert.’

Have you ever tasted one? If not, you should consider joining me for this Harvest Gathering and Retreat at the heart of saguaro harvest season amidst an abundant cactus forest on private land near the small town of Kearny, AZ along the Gila River. Situated atop a small hill overlooking the Gila River this restored 1930s ranch house offers modern amenities and a swimming pool to refresh oneself in the afternoon heat.

Included in the workshop fee are the 3 nights stay at this gorgeous ranch house, 4 meals created in-house by a talented local chef, and all instruction and guidance through the entire process of saguaro harvesting by herbalist and wild food forager, John Slattery. Each participant will go home with freshly dried saguaro fruit, and perhaps a bit of syrup.


Price: $365.00

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist

Tucson, AZ

© 2015