Monthly Archives: March 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

Plant Circle: Exploring the Heart Field – Friday, March 6 1pm

Friday, March 6, 2015Pulsatilla patens

Meeting Time: 1pm

Meeting Place: Catalina Hwy & Tanque Verde @ Cafe LeBuzz

We will carpool to our destination from there. The entire experience may last around 3 hours, give or take.

Join local herbalist John Slattery in a Plant Circle gathering to explore the potential healing of the heart field awareness. John will be guiding a group meditative experience together with one wild plant at our mountain destination. There is no experience required to participate. Be prepared to open your mind and heart to things which you may not consider possible. This group learning and healing experience is an exercise in cultivating our feeling sense while deepening our connection with Nature and all her life forms.

Donations kindly accepted.